San Francisco International Airport rolls out ban on plastic water bottles

SFO rolls out ban on plastic water bottles

San Francisco International Airport is rolling out a ban to end the sale of plastic water bottles at its convenience stores, restaurants and vending machines. The ban, which begins on Tuesday, is part of the airport's latest effort to become the world's first zero-waste airport by 2021.

San Francisco International said each guest that comes through the airport produces half a pound of trash. To eliminate that waste, the airport has already cut back on single-use food items like napkins and straws. Prior to the ban, the airport sold about 10,000 bottles of water each day and generated about 28 million pounds of waste each year, according to Doug Yakel, a spokesman for the airport. But starting on Tuesday, the airport will gradually begin phasing them out.

First, it will sell off what's currently on store shelves. Once that inventory dries up, passengers will be encouraged to refill their own reusable containers at any of about 100 "hydration stations" or buy water in glass or aluminum containers.

Some passengers appeared to be on board with the change. "If you know about it, it's great," said traveler Chris McCloud. "If you don't know about it, it's going to be inconvenient. But it's headed in the right direction, I think." 

The airport is following a 2014 ordinance banning the sale of plastic water bottles on city-owned property. Nationwide, Americans discard more than 30 million tons of plastic every year, only 8% of which gets recycled. Much of what remains ends up in landfills, where it can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, leaching toxins into the soil and water.

There will still be some plastic bottles at San Francisco International. The ban does not apply to flavored drinks like soda and juice. That bothered traveler Claus Dojahn, who told "CBS This Morning" that "They want to do something good, and yet they don't tackle the whole problem."

Yakel said that "our hope is that the industry continues to expand…There's really not a lot of good alternatives yet for teas, juices and sodas, but we're hoping that changes over time."  

As of now, the policy only applies to the airport and not to the airlines that fly in and out. The airport said it's the first to ban plastic water bottles, but it's hoping the idea will take off at other airports and airlines as well.