San Francisco airport becomes first to enact a plastic water bottle ban


Plastic water bottles are an endangered species at San Francisco International Airport, with an extinction date set for Aug. 20.

The airport announced the decision to ban the sale of the bottles last week as part of a larger zero-waste initiative and in compliance with a 2014 city ordinance, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Under the new policy, shops, restaurants, lounges and vending machines will not be allowed to sell or offer water in plastic bottles. Instead, passengers are encouraged to bring their own containers and refill them at stations around the airport.

Airport spokesman Doug Yakel said the airport believes it is the first to put such a ban in place, though they are hearing from others that are interested in making the same move. He said the hope is that more will follow suit.

But while public reaction has mostly been positive, the news has resulted in some disgruntled business travelers who bristle at the inconvenience of having one more item to pack as well as proponents of the ban who think it doesn’t go far enough. Sodas, juices and flavored water can still be sold in plastic bottles.

“So, what they’re saying is we should drink more soda?” asked one man on Twitter.

Yakel said in an email that the ban only applies to water bottles for now because there are so many alternatives available.

“SFO has about 100 hydration stations that dispense free filtered water, and the availability of water that’s been bottled in something besides plastic continues to grow,” he said. “This trend has yet to make its way to flavored beverages, but we’re hopeful it does in the coming years.”

As alternatives to plastic expand into those types of drinks, he said the airport would consider extending the plastic ban.

The airport’s announcement came a few days after hotel giant InterContinental Hotels Group said it would stop using miniature toiletries such as shampoo and lotion across its portfolio of brands, which amounts to nearly 843,000 rooms in more than 5,600 hotels. Instead, the company’s hotels will offer those products through bulk dispensers in a change expected to eliminate 200 million bottles worth of waste a year.

Last year, travel companies and cities jumped on a different plastic ban-wagon, announcing they would eliminate or significantly reduce the use of plastic straws.

Rachel McCaffery, director of Travel Without Plastic, said in an email that more airports are trying to reduce single-use plastics, but San Francisco is the first that she’s aware of to ban the sale of water bottles altogether.

“Travel Without Plastic welcomes the news that San Francisco Airport is taking action to reduce single-use plastic waste,” she said. “This is a move that will be welcomed by increasing numbers of travelers, concerned at the impact plastic is having on the environment. There is still more to do though and we’d encourage all other businesses involved in travel and tourism to identify where they can easily reduce plastics, make these changes and plan how to reduce plastic in the more challenging areas.”



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