Airport Bans Sale of Water in Plastic Bottles

Move requires use of recyclable aluminum, glass or compostable containers
Image: Shutterstock

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has prohibited the sale of water in plastic bottles. This move requires all airport retailers, restaurants, airline lounges and vending machines to sell or provide water in recyclable aluminum, glass or certified-compostable bottles. The policy applies to purified water, mineral water, carbonated or sparkling water and electrolyte-enhanced water, but it does not include flavored beverages such as sodas, teas or juices. It was effective as of Aug. 20.

“SFO continues to lead the way in airport sustainability initiatives,” said Airport Director Ivar Satero, who called the effort a “bold move for our environment.”

“With this move, we take a giant step toward our goal to achieve zero waste going into landfill,” he said.

In 2016, SFO established a goal to achieve zero waste going to landfill by 2021. Since then, SFO has been working with concessions and tenants on policies to achieve this goal, including a requirement to provide single-use food ware in compostable packaging.

Prohibiting the sale of bottled water in plastic packaging was implemented at this time because the market for acceptable alternatives to plastic bottles has matured sufficiently to provide retailers with a variety of choices for sale, according to airport officials. SFO has provided retailers with a list of approved alternatives to plastic water bottles and will continue to update the list as the market for plastic-free bottled water evolves.

In addition to the purchase of bottled water, customers may bring a reusable beverage container to fill up at any of SFO’s approximately 100 free Hydration Stations and drinking fountains, located in all terminals both pre- and post-security.

Passenger activity at SFO generates more than 28 million pounds of waste annually, which includes approximately 10,000 bottles of water sold every day at SFO. Worldwide, less than 25% of plastic bottles get recycled, and the market for the recycling of plastic bottles continues to shrink. It is estimated that a single plastic bottle takes anywhere from 450 to 1,000 years to biodegrade in a landfill, according to airport officials.

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