The International Bottled Water Association(IBWA; says that a decision by the University of Vermont to ban the sale of bottled water, while at the same time mandating that vending machines contain 1/3 healthy beverages, sends a contradictory and confusing message to its students. The decision also restricts freedom of choice for students to choose one of the healthiest beverages available in vending machines.

“The university has failed to understand that bottled water is most often an alternative to other packaged drinks, which are often less healthy, and is not necessarily an alternative to tap water,” says Chris Hogan, IBWA Vice President of Communications.

“Research by owners of vending machines shows when bottled water is not available in a vending machine, people choose other packaged beverages, which may contain sugar, caffeine and other additives. They don’t necessarily go looking for a drinking water fountain,” says Mr. Hogan.

IBWA notes the irony that the university-wide ban coincides with a mandate that vending machines contain 1/3 healthy beverages, while obviously excluding bottled water as a healthy beverage.

“It’s a misguided attempt to deal with a waste issue, that would be better addressed through improved recycling rates of all packaged drinks,” says Mr. Hogan. “Bottled water containers are the most highly recycled containers in curbside programs, and the EPA has calculated that plastic bottled water containers make up just 0.03% of the U.S. wastestream. So, getting rid of bottled water on campus will not make a significant improvement to waste issues.”

“Instead, students will turn to other packaged drinks, which still require proper recycling collection facilities,” he adds. “I would encourage students, if they want to make a real difference for the environment, to focus their efforts of improving recycling rates of all beverages, not single out one the healthiest drinks on the shelf.

“Stocking the vending machines with teas and enhanced waters as an option to sugary drinks does nothing to help a student looking for pure clean safe water that does not have a the taste of chlorine.  Removing the students’ freedom to choose packaged water is a serious issue. Telling students that they can or cannot buy bottled water is a step backwards, especially with the growing rates of obesity and diabetes in the U.S.”

Mr. Hogan speculated whether UVM administrators would now face similar backlash from its students as the state of Vermont faced from its workers when it attempted a similar ban last year.  In June 2011, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) postponed a state bottled water ban after workers voiced concerns over access to drinking water.

"Many, many state employees have brought forward logistical and other concerns that I think we carefully need to consider before we trigger on this policy," says Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding (D).

"There were enough situations raised (by employees) that we, in good conscience, couldn't ignore them," says Spaulding. "We're at a point where our state workforce, over the last few years, has been under a great deal of stress, with fewer employees doing the same amount of work, and taking pay cuts. It's important, as an employer, to do what you can to support the morale of your team."