A US airport is the latest place to ban plastic water bottles

Categories: Articles

It’s just the beginning of fixing the airline waste problem.

By Terry Nguyenterry.nguyen@voxmedia.com  Aug 21, 2019, 4:40pm EDT

Since the advent of air travel, airlines and airports have provided passengers plastic-wrapped items to be used once and tossed away. Rather than make the switch to sustainable goods and packaging, which tend to be heavier than plastic, the aviation industry has kept at this — and annually generates millions of tons of plastic waste.

In recent years, however, sustainability has grown into a larger talking (and selling) point for customers, who care about green travel options. On August 20, 2019, the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) started banning plastic water bottles smaller than one liter from being sold at concession stands, lounges, restaurants, or vending machines. It’s the first major airport in the US to issue such a policy, a step toward its goal to be a zero-waste hub by 2021.

Each guest that comes through the airport produces roughly half a pound of trash, an airport spokesperson told CBS News, and around 10,000 bottles of water used to be sold daily. San Francisco International already requires vendors to provide certified compostable utensils, food service accessories, and reusable cups.

As progressive as that sounds, there is a caveat: The plastic bottle policy only applies to water (not other beverages like seltzers, juices, or sodas), and doesn’t affect how airlines independently serve passengers. Airport vendors will still be able to sell water in presumably single-use aluminum and glass containers, which are arguably not much better for the environment.

Plastic water bottles have a notorious reputation in our waste-obsessed world: They’re flimsy, disposable, and most likely won’t be recycled, since research shows that only 9 percent of plastic waste ever generated are reused. They’re also manufactured from petroleum, which is extracted by oil drilling.

While glass and aluminum certainly seem more sustainable (both can be recycled again and again), manufacturing cans and bottles out of these materials, not to mention shipping them, requires lots of fuel, according to Grist’s Umbra Fisk. Completely banning single-use disposables — or even all plastic bottles, in this instance — would be a radical step for the airport, but could lead to a number of problems. It could cause confusion for passengers not aware of the policies, and according to SFO’s spokesperson, there are not enough non-plastic alternatives for teas, juices, or sodas.

In comparison, San Francisco International’s push to completely ban plastic water bottles seems positioned to actually reduce waste. (Now if only it could do the same for plastic Coca-Cola bottles or aluminum La Croix cans!) But conscious change, especially in a space thousands of transient people pass through daily, happens slowly.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) started banning plastic water bottles smaller than one liter from being sold at concession stands, lounges, restaurants, or vending machines. It’s the first major airport in the US to issue such a policy, a step toward its goal to be a zero-waste hub by 2021.


Added by article submitter:

First it was plastic straws, now its plastic water bottles. It might be time to start thinking how we can all do our part. There are tons of options when it comes to re-usable tumblers, simple plastic ones and stainless versions with vacuum sealed interiors to keep liquids either hot or cold. All can be imprinted with a company logo. Now that we know for sure passengers will be carrying something other than plastic bottles through the airports, it might as well be some sort of device with YOUR logo on it.

Sheila Fox-Lovell

Shandy Creative Solutions

Shandycreative.com

sheila@shandycreative.com

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