S.F. considers law to curb plastic water bottles
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images
(CBS/AP) SAN FRANCISCO - The city that regulated Happy Meal toys and banned plastic grocery bags has a new target in its health-conscious, eco-friendly crosshairs: plastic water bottles.
City officials are considering an ordinance that would require owners of new and renovated buildings with water fountains to install special bottle-filling taps. The law is designed to encourage thirsty people to refill containers instead of reaching for another bottle of Evian or Aquafina.
"This is the appropriate next step to make it easier for San Franciscans to get out of the bad habit of using environmentally-wasteful plastic water bottles and into the good habit of using reusable water containers," said Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who introduced the legislation in June.
Chiu told KCBS correspondent Barbara Taylor that Californians dump a billion water bottles into the state's landfills every year.
Advocates say having bottle-specific spigots encourages the reuse of water bottles by eliminating long waits to fill them and removing concerns about germs. Some people squirm at the thought of drinking from a fountain exposed to so many mouths, although city officials say water fountains are no less hygienic than bottle taps.
Skeptics question whether the ordinance is necessary, since the proposed taps would dispense the same highly-regarded public water that comes out of every other faucet and drinking fountain. Businesses often complain that San Francisco lawmakers are too quick to impose bans or restrictions that affect their bottom lines.
"If you are in an office, your kitchen has a sink, the sink has a faucet and that faucet puts out Hetch Hetchy (reservoir) water," San Francisco Building Owners and Managers Association representative Ken Cleaveland said. "It's just one more new law that San Francisco is implementing on top of hundreds of other laws to make - rather, force - compliance in sustainable practices."
Despite initial skepticism, the association is waiting for more details before taking a stance on the law.
Adding a bottled-water spigot to existing water fountains would cost at least around $750, according to manufacturers.
For officials at Pennsylvania State University, the cost has been worthwhile. The university is now installing taps on all its campuses after experimenting with them for three years, said Lydia Vandenbergh, an official overseeing the university's effort to reduce use of plastic water bottles. Students were more receptive to filling bottles from special taps than drinking fountains, thought to be dirty.
"In the era of hyper hygiene, for a lot of people, that's a barrier," Vandenbergh said.
University officials have estimated the busiest tap replaces the equivalent of 35,000 plastic bottles a month.
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