UC becomes Australia’s first bottled water free uni

21 January 2011: The University of Canberra will discontinue the sale of bottled water on campus, the Vice-Chancellor announced today.

The University is the first in the country to go bottled water free and will immediately begin phasing out on-campus sales. Covering a campus population of almost 13,000 students and staff, the move is the largest of its kind in Australia. It was initiated by students and assisted by action group Do Something!, represented at the launch by founder Jon Dee.

New water bubblers and bottle refill stations, installed with funding from the ACT Chief Minister’s Department, will significantly increase the supply of fresh, healthy, free drinking water on campus.

Students and staff will also be offered a chilled water alternative to bottled water in the form of the Australia’s first WaterVend machines. WaterVend machines dispense filtered, ‘flash-chilled’ still, sparkling or flavoured tap water into the customer's own refillable container. The WaterVend provides a cheaper alternative to bottled water in campus food outlets and provides those outlets with a commercial income to offset the income lost from bottled water sales.

University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Parker said the decision was an important part of creating a sustainable campus.

“I’m proud the University of Canberra is taking the lead in the higher education sector by discontinuing the sale of bottled water,” Professor Parker.

“Tap water has a significantly lower environmental impact than bottled water. Only 43 percent of plastic bottles are recycled. We have plentiful supplies of fresh, healthy, free drinking water on campus, there is no need for our students or staff to buy bottled water and contribute to the environmental damage it causes.

“I congratulate our students for taking the lead on this initiative and I thank Do Something! and the ACT Government for their assistance. I applaud campus businesses, including our Students’ Association, for supporting the decision to put the health of our environment first.”

Approximately 140,000 bottles of water a year are currently consumed on campus.

Representative of the UC Environment and Sustainability Society, Greg Stewart, who initiated the move as part of a team based course project and has worked closely on the implementation, said he was delighted to see the idea become a reality.

“The environmental benefits of going bottled water free are huge,” he said.

“We’d hoped to start with a bottled water free day, but the University was really supportive of our idea and now we can make a real difference as a campus.”

Do Something! founder and 2010 NSW Australian of the Year, Jon Dee said: “This provides a positive role model that can be adapted by other universities. It's good for the environment, it's good for the health of the students and it will also save them money. It will also help universities as more students are starting to take a uni’s green credentials into account when they decide where to study

The University’s newest eatery Café Globo will immediately go bottled water free. All other outlets will follow, with sales of bottled water from campus shops, cafes and vending machines to cease by 22 March 2011, which is World Water Day.

Refillable SIGG water bottles will be sold on campus and low-cost refillable bottles will also be available.

To interview Professor Parker or Mr Stewart contact the University of Canberra media team.