Refilling stations save public bottles from landfill

Water-bottle refilling stations are popping up around UM this year as part of the Green U program’s effort to cut back on the disposal of plastic bottles, which experts say take at least 450 years to decompose.

“It’s just a simple option that shows what GreenU is all about,” said Ian McKeown, sustainability director for Green U. “These stations make it easy to make the right choice.”

The EZH2OTM bottle-filling stations, which are produced by Elkay, were installed over the summer. Each station was attached to an existing water fountain and uses the same filtered water. They also include such features as touchless-operation sensors and a Green TickerTM that displays the amount plastic bottles saved from the landfill.

The water-bottle filling stations can be found in 11 locations across the Coral Gables campus, including all residential colleges, Dooley Memorial Building and the Wellness Center.

“I believe that the water bottle filling stations around campus are a perfect addition toward “greening” the U,” said senior Jae Shrader, who chairs the Energy and Conservation Organization, a branch of Student Government. “Besides making it easy to fill water bottles up completely, they encourage and positively reinforce sustainable behavior by displaying the amount of water bottles saved.”

John Van Leer, who teaches a course on sustainable living practices, believes that the refilling stations and reusing water bottles are an efficient way to recycle and avoid the landfills’ effect on global warming.

“As the sea level rises, as a consequence of global warming, we should recycle entire land fills like Mt. Trashmore before these materials and toxic substances wash into the expanding marine environment,” he said. “We could recover the materials to reuse them, as land based deposits of raw materials become exhausted.”

For all of its benefits, the refilling stations do not have many obvious disadvantages other than the expenditure of a small amount of energy.

“I can’t think of a downside to the new filling stations,” said William Drennan, director of the Ecosystem Science and Policy program. “There is a small amount of electricity used for the sensors, but I suspect it to be very small.”

McKeown hopes to have another 10 stations set up later this year. He said that the plan is to focus on “major academic areas” as station sites.

The Rosentiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science also set up water refill stations on its Virginia Key campus, though those are not part of Green U’s sustainability program.

Although the news of these stations is just beginning to spread, those at the university who have discovered them seem thrilled that they are in place.

“I love them,” junior Robert Gailey said. “I got thoroughly excited when I saw that we had them. I use them whenever I am on campus.”