Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass won’t ban plastic water bottles due to Coca-Cola contract

By Anna Jolliffe

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The University of Massachusetts won’t be joining a list of school banning water bottles from their respective universities.

Recently, schools such as University of Vermont and Loyola University Chicago have begun the practice of banning the sale of plastic water bottles on campus. These universities are enforcing this new prohibition in an attempt to reduce their carbon footprint.

UMass cannot change its bottle policy because of its contract with the Coca-Cola Co., according to Campus Sustainability Manager Ezra Small.

In exchange for promoting the beverage company, the Coca-Cola Co. donates money to the University that is allocated to departments such as athletics and performing arts, Small said.

“It’s a bit of a rock and hard place, because the University acknowledges that we need to reduce water bottle consumption, but if we start to reduce water bottle sales, Coke may threaten to reduce sponsorship dollars back to the University, which benefits thousands of students,” Small said.

If UMass students want to see a change in the way that the University sells bottled water, Small said “student activism needs to be the driver,” and that “if the students don’t do anything, it’s not gonna happen.”

Some of the student body is conflicted about whether they prefer or want to terminate UMass’ contract with Coca-Cola.

Sophomore Paige Diffendale said she advocated for discontinuing UMass’ contract with Coca-Cola, saying “we want to be a green, sustainable campus.”

Freshman Meg Bresnahan disagrees.

“A lot of organizations rely on that funding,” Bresnahan said of the contract between UMass and Coca-Cola, adding that what she thought should happen is to “make people more aware of the effects of plastic” on the environment in hopes that students will make more of an effort to recycle, which would “at least help a little bit.”

Senior Phil Taberner is undecided on the matter, saying that it’s “a tough question because we’re already an underfunded university so … there’s obviously two sides to the coin.”

This initiative by other schools is a response to the rise in sales of plastic water bottles in the past couple decades. According to a report made by USA Today, between 1990 and 2007 the sale of water bottles, which requires around 1.5 million barrels of oil a year to produce, has quadrupled. The number of empty bottles that end up in landfills has more than tripled from 1995 to 2005.

Anna Jolliffe can be reached at [email protected]


4 Responses to “UMass won’t ban plastic water bottles due to Coca-Cola contract”

  1. Dr. Ed Cutting on October 18th, 2012 8:32 am

    Heaven forbid that people who don’t want to purchase plastic bottles SIMPLY DON’T BUY THEM and encourage their friends to do likewise. Heaven forbid.
    Oh, no, we must FORCE people to do what WE think is best. Folks, that is what fascism is….

  2. Recent Grad on October 19th, 2012 3:40 pm

    They’ve tried to lower the amount of bottles being purchased/thrown out by giving Freshmen re-usable bottles. Even so, the amount of soda bottles that are thrown out is ridiculous. After any given even at Mullins Center, take a look at the rows as you walk back up the stairs. It’s horrendous, and most of it just gets tossed. If you have something recyclable, throw it in the correct bin. There are harder things to do at the University.
    I don’t know what kind of systems IPF has, but maybe UMass needs to consider going to “Single-Stream” Recycling.

  3. EJC on October 19th, 2012 7:21 pm

    “Dr.” Cutting doesn’t understand what fascism is. When corporations like Coca-Cola call the shots instead of the people and students of the university, that’s fascism.

    This wouldn’t be such a huge problem if bottling companies didn’t spend millions of dollars a year lobbying to block the extremely popular expansion of the already successful bottle deposit program in Mass. All studies show that if people can get a few cents back for each bottle they return, they do it. Relying on people to just “do the right thing” DOES NOT WORK. It just doesn’t. If everyone did the right thing, we wouldn’t need laws. But, we live in the real world, and everyone doesn’t always do the right thing, so we need laws.

  4. Avalon on September 16th, 2015 11:46 am

    When I tried to reduce the use of plastic water bottles in high school, I had the same issue with coca cola. They even wanted to send someone in to talk about how important it was to have plastic water bottles.

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