SFO Bans Sale of Single-Use Plastic Water Bottles

Starting this month, people passing through San Francisco will need to purchase recyclable glass or aluminum water bottles at the airport—or remember to bring their own.

SFO Bans Sale of Single-Use Plastic Water Bottles

Don’t expect to find these at San Francisco International Airport after August 20.

Photo by Shutterstock

First it was plastic straws. Then came the ban on plastic utensils. Now San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is setting its sights on getting rid of single-use plastic water bottles. Starting August 20, bottled water in plastic containers or plastic-lined cartons will no longer be sold at any of SFO’s shops, restaurants, or vending machines, as part of the Zero Waste SFO program.

“We’re the first airport that we’re aware of to implement this change,” SFO spokesman Doug Yakel told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We’re on the leading edge for the industry, and we want to push the boundaries of sustainability initiatives.”

The ban excludes the sale of flavored water and sodas but includes sparkling water and electrolyte-enhanced water. Airport vendors will still be allowed to sell drinking water in recyclable aluminum, glass, and certified compostable bottles, in addition to reusable water bottles that can be filled up at “hydration stations” located above water fountains at SFO. Since 2011, the airport has installed more than 100 of these filling stations and there are plans to add more as terminal renovations and construction continues throughout SFO, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Currently, SFO vendors sell roughly 4 million plastic water bottles per year, according to the Chronicle. While the bottle ban is part of SFO’s sustainable food and beverage initiative, it also falls under San Francisco’s own plastic reduction laws and a 2014 ordinance that bans the sale of plastic water bottles on property that the city owns.

Previously this year, all the restaurants and cafés at SFO were required to start using compostable or natural utensils made from paper, bamboo, or wood if they were going to use single-use food service wares over reusable ones. The airport has also required that single-use paper or plastic straws are only allowed to be given to customers who specifically request them.

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Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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