Water filling stations burst plastic bottles’ bubble
Initially, the city of Gresham applied for an Oregon Department of Environmental Quality grant to fund water-bottle filling stations, to encourage students to opt for refillable water bottles instead of purchasing and consuming single-use plastic water bottles.
But DEQ officials wanted to use the project as an experiment, to study whether students at high schools and middle schools with ready access to water-bottle filling stations are more likely to use refillable water bottles than students without such access, said Elaine Blatt, a DEQ senior policy and program analyst.
DEQ officials wanted data regarding student usage to encourage school districts across the state to install water-bottle filling stations, Blatt said.
Petroleum and other chemicals are used to make the plastic bottles, a process that also requires large amounts of water, energy and creates carbon emissions, said Jaylen Schmitt, a natural resource specialist with DEQ’s Materials Management Program.
As part of the nearly five-month pilot program, the 10 participating schools were divided into three groups: those receiving "water-wise" education about the environmental merits of refillable water bottles, those that got additional filling stations, and those that got both.
Their schools didn’t receive additional filling stations until after the study was over.
Three other schools received extra filling stations and offered their students the same lessons regarding bottled water usage and the environmental effects of single-use bottles.
Blatt said the results could help encourage school districts throughout Oregon to install reusable water-bottle filling stations.
• During the five-month pilot study, students used the filling stations to drink the equivalent of 330,000 single-use plastic water bottles.
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