You have undoubtedly heard the news: in January, Utrecht University announced plans to stop selling plastic water bottles in the vending machines on campus. The decision has received an overwhelmingly positive response on social media, along with coverage in various newspapers and a segment on RTV Utrecht. It is now 4 February, and MAAS (the vending machine supplier) is set to begin removing the plastic water bottles. This will take no more than a week.
What is the reason behind UU's decision?
'The quality of tap water in the Netherlands is very high. For this reason, we don't think it's necessary to sell disposable water bottles in our vending machines,' says Evelyn Maurer (Contracts and Suppliers Manager at UU's Facilities Service Centre). 'There are all sorts of places where you can easily fill up a reusable bottle for free. As a university, we want to reduce the amount of plastic waste we produce. No longer selling disposable water bottles will contribute to this aim.'
Disposable water bottles were the best-selling product in the vending machines in 2018, with around 28,500 units sold. What is it like for a supplier to stop selling this product? Peter van Griensven (strategic key accounts manager at MAAS): 'It's commercially unattractive, of course, but at the same time, we knew about this decision from the beginning. The tender already included a statement saying that the plastic water bottles would have to go. Now the time has come.'
Why only get rid of still water?
For some, removing only the plastic bottles with still water is not enough. Why doesn't the university discontinue sales of sparkling water and unhealthy soft drinks as well? Evelyn: 'Because tap water is an excellent alternative to still water, it's relatively easy to stop selling this product. The decision to no longer sell still water will also have the greatest impact, since these bottles were the best-selling item.' Peter adds: 'We sell the products that customers want. If it's Coca Cola, then that's what we'll put in the machines. We obviously care about health, too, which is why we'll be replacing the still water bottles with reusable BOGO bottles and flavoured sparkling water. We're aiming to offer at least 50% healthier alternatives with fewer than 30 Kcal per 100 ml. This is in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Netherlands Nutrition Centre.'
Instead of plastic water bottles, the vending machines will now sell reusable BOGO bottles by Join the Pipe for €4.95. These bottles come pre-filled with tap water. Later, you can refill your bottle for free at the tap or get chilled water from one of the coffee machines. 'For every BOGO bottle purchased from the vending machines, a bottle will be donated to a schoolchild in a developing country. MAAS will also match every litre of water taken from the coffee machines via the Made Blue initiative 'a litre for a litre'. In other words, for every litre of water that comes out of a MAAS coffee machine, MAAS will donate the same amount of clean drinking water to Made Blue, which will then be made available in developing countries.' Read more about sustainability and the machines.
Plastic water bottles in staff restaurants
Starting today, Sodexo will decrease its sales of plastic water bottles in the staff restaurants. Instead, BOGO bottles from Join the Pipe will be available for purchase.