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Poll: Should Colleges Ban Bottled Water Sales?

Campuses and consumers are moving towards tap water.

Is bottled water on its way to becoming a relic of the past, such as back when people used to drink tap water?

If the trends on college campuses are any indication, the answer might be yes.

Colleges across the country are banning the sale of bottled water and in its place are installing drinking fountains with spigots that easily refill reusable water bottles.

And students are convincing administrators to take steps to make plastic water bottles a less prominent part of everyday university life.

Officials at the University of Maryland College Park now serve pitchers of tap water at meetings, rather than bottled water, according to The Washington Post.

More than 90 schools nationally either ban or restrict the sale or use of plastic water bottles, according to Bloomberg, which names Brown and Harvard among those participating.

The move away from bottled water isn’t just occurring on campus.

Diners, which can save nearly $1,000 a year by drinking tap water at restaurants, are increasingly choosing “just plain water,” reports MSN Money.

Only one in four plastic water bottles used nationwide is recycled, according to Food and Water Watch, the environmental organization that started Take Back the Tap.

Ban the Bottle, Take Back the Tap, and Unbottle It are nationwide campaigns that emerged in the past several years whose doctrines resonate with environmentally-aware college students.

The bottles that aren't recycled-roughly 2 million tons per year-end up in U.S. landfills.

Even so, many colleges and universities in Maryland say they have no intention of "banning the bottle" any time soon.

Lawrence Gingerich, sustainability and safety coordinator at Frostburg State University, said that insufficient funding is a major barrier to his university's program.

Banning the sale of plastic water bottles on campus would require funding for additional water fountains and "filling stations" to refill reusable bottles, officials said.

Also, colleges have pre-existing contracts with beverage companies like The Coca-Cola Co., which sells Dasani water, and PepsiCo, which markets Aquafina water, said Jack Nye, Towson University's sustainability director.

The bottled water industry is also firing back against bottled water bans. 

"A ban on the sale of bottled water on college campuses restricts freedom of choice for students to choose one of the healthiest beverages available in vending machines," Chris Hogan, spokesman at the International Bottled Water Association, said in a news release.

"These activist students fail 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," Hogan said.

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