San Francisco International Airport bans sale of water in plastic bottles

Global Business

San Francisco International Airport bans sale of water in plastic bottlesSan Francisco International Airport bans sale of water in plastic bottles

San Francisco International has become the first major airport in the world to ban the sale of plastic bottles. It’s part of a lofty goal to make it the first zero-waste airport.

In August, San Francisco International says it became the only airport in the world to ban the sale of water in plastic bottles.

CGTN’s Mark Niu reports.

You can still buy water, but peruse the restaurants and you’ll find plenty of recyclable aluminum and compostable packaging.

“I think that’s fantastic,” said traveler Kelsey Ransick. “It’s a great idea. We need to do that in more places, more quickly.”

“It wouldn’t have been realistic to require retailers to do that several years ago because there just weren’t that many cost-effective options,” said Doug Yakel, spokesman for San Francisco International Airport. “We’ve been watching this industry grow and mature over the years and we really felt now is that right time to make this type of change. As a good example of how it’s grown, we’ve given our retailers a list of approved alternatives to plastic water bottles and that list is about 30 strong and continues to grow by the day.”

Yakel says SFO airport saw numbers indicating plastic bottles were being recycled at a rate of only 10 to 25 percent and that overseas markets to recycle them, including China, were disappearing. Prior to the ban, SFO Airport was selling nearly 10,000 plastic bottles a day.

At airport shops, you can find displays filled entirely with glass bottles. But as I look inside the refrigerated beverage section, I do find more recyclable glass bottles, but also some plastic ones. They are bigger bottles. That’s because the sales ban is only in effect for bottles less than 1 liter in size.

In fact, we watched as one customer scanned the refrigerated section unable to find a small plastic bottle, so he bought a big one. Some customers also point out another irony – soda and juice in plastic bottles are still readily available.

Yakel knows why.

“For us, this is really a starting point,” said Yakel. “Our hope is that this industry will continue to the point where there are good alternatives not just for water, but good alternatives to plastic for flavored beverages, like sodas, teas, and juices such that we can expand this policy to include those beverages as well. We’re in the same place with those beverages as we were two to three years ago with basic water.”

Part of the plan is also encouraging passengers to bring their own reusable bottles by filling the airport with nearly a hundred free water fountains and hydration stations.

“It’s so easy. And these things, you just go to the water station,” said traveler Dora Macia. ”If we can get the second and third world countries to do it, that’s going be the harder win or push. Because they don’t have the resources like this big country has or even China would have of getting free water.”

SFO Airport says it’s gotten inquiries from other airports aiming to enact similar policies. The new bottle ban is also part of a greater goal of becoming the world’s first zero-waste airport by 2021.