ECU to phase out plastic water bottles at all campuses

ECU student Ana Victoria Neves and Vice Chancellor Steve Chapman are encouraging people to stop using plastic water bottles on campus. Picture: Bruce Hunt
ECU student Ana Victoria Neves and Vice Chancellor Steve Chapman are encouraging people to stop using plastic water bottles on campus. Picture: Bruce Hunt

EDITH Cowan University will start phasing out plastic water bottles at its campuses next week through a joint initiative with the ECU Guild.

The university will limit the use of plastic water bottles at its Joondalup, Mt Lawley and Bunbury campuses from the start of semester 2.

WA Screen Academy masters student Ana Victoria Neves approached the university about banning plastic bottles after a lecturer showed her class a video about plastic pollution.

“It was so confronting to see children swimming in an ocean full of plastic,” she said.

Miss Neves said the class of about 30 students all agreed to stop using disposable coffee cups and plastic water bottles.

The Northbridge resident thought it would be a good idea to expand across the university, and approached Vice-Chancellor Steve Chapman.

As similar initiatives had backfired at other universities due to the student backlash, they sought support from the guild, which readily came on board.

“The university support has been so incredible,” Miss Neves said.

“It would be great to see students embrace it and make a change.

“Hopefully this also becomes the change that other universities want to see and they implement something similar.”

ECU will start by providing water refill stations at the 40 events it holds on campus each year.

The guild has pledged to no longer permit the sale of single use plastic water bottles at its events, instead providing hydration stations.

The university is also investigating options to increase the number of drinking fountains on campus, discuss alternatives to single-use water bottles with commercial tenants and offer free or discounted multi-use bottles.

“With around 30,000 students and 1800 staff, we can make a huge difference by taking this first step to limit single use plastic water bottles at our campus events,” Professor Chapman said.

“It’s also financially responsible. More than 90 per cent of the cost of bottled water can be traced back to the bottle, lid and label.”

Professor Chapman said it was not a ban, but the initiative focused on education and providing alternatives.

“By offering high quality, convenient options to students, staff and visitors, we are confident we can reduce the demand for single use plastic water bottles,” he said.

ECU is believed to be the first university in WA to introduce the initiative, following similar projects at the universities of Canberra, Melbourne, Sunshine Coast and Monash.

Fast facts:

  • Most bottled water is packaged in PET plastic derived from crude oil. It can take up to 3L of water to produce 1L of water.
  • Transportation of bottled water around the world requires burning of fossil fuels via truck, train or air freight instead of in water pipes.
  • Although plastic bottles are recyclable, many end up in landfill and take up to 1000 years to break down.
  • More than 90 per cent of the cost of a water bottle can be traced back to the bottle, lid and label.
  • Single use water bottles are among the 10 most common items picked up during Clean Up Australia Day.