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New drinks machines provide free water and cut plastic waste

University students and staff will help stop more than half a million plastic bottles being thrown away every year with the introduction of new drinks machines around campus.

The University of Reading is becoming the first university in the UK to introduce new vending machines designed to provide healthier drink choices and cut the volume of plastic waste on campus.

Around 650,000 plastic bottled drinks are used across the University’s Whiteknights and London Road campuses each year. To reduce the volume of plastic used on campus, the University is this week launching the Sustain It bottle – a reusable bottle that uses technology to offer students and staff a range of vending machine drinks.

The Sustain It bottle contains a microchip that allows users to pre-pay for drinks either in multiples of 10 (£12) or unlimited use for an academic term (£39.95). Most of these will be zero and low-calorie options. Free filtered water will also be available at each machine, allowing students and staff to fill any bottle at no cost – a service that has been requested by students.

The 591ml bottle is designed to be used at the new range of Coca-Cola Freestyle machines, offering more than 100 drinks and custom mixes. Using the Freestyle App on a mobile phone, consumers can select and save their preferred mix, ordering at the machine by scanning a code from the app.

The machines have been installed at catering venues around the University: Park Eat and Eat at the Square at Whiteknights campus, The Dairy at London Road campus, and at two halls of residence, Wantage Hall and St Patrick’s Hall.

With the exception of water bottles, the University will aim to phase out the sale of plastic bottles at locations with the new machines, subject to review. Single-use recyclable cups allowing consumers to buy one drink for £1.60 will also be offered.

The University will keep the system under review to see how it is used by students during a trial period.

As well as cutting down plastic waste, the system will reduce traffic on campus and carbon emissions by reducing the need for deliveries.  The machines use a concentrated mixture packaged in cartridges, which can be sent by courier instead of traditional delivery by lorry.

The vending model originated in the United States and is used by several universities, many of which have phased out plastic bottles entirely in favour of reusable bottles. The University of Reading will become the first university outside of the US to dispense drinks in this way.

The Sustain It bottle goes on sale on Thursday 14 September for £9.95, including two free fills. It will be available to purchase at Park Eat, Eat at the Square, The Dairy, Wantage Hall and Eat at Northcourt (St. Patrick’s Hall).

The new system is part of the University of Reading’s continuing work to reduce its impacts on the local and global environment. It aims to embed and cultivate a culture of sustainability throughout its teaching, research and daily operations.

Feedback on the new scheme is welcomed via email to the University of Reading Catering team.

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