SFO Bans Plastic Water Bottles as Part of Its Zero Waste Goal

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Photo Credit: MABANGLO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
August 20, 2019

San Francisco International Airport’s has banned plastic water bottles as part of its bid to reduce its landfill-destined waste to zero.

The new policy is the latest eco-friendly move by the airport, which has long been a pioneer among airports pursuing green initiatives, and is part of its goal of achieving zero waste by 2021.

“This is really all about our environment and making a difference there,” said Doug Yakel, San Francisco International’s (SFO) public information officer.

The ban was first announced last week and went into effect on Tuesday. Going forward, only water bottles made of aluminum, glass, or compostable packaging materials will be sold by the airport’s scores of retailers. Restaurants, airline lounges, and vending machines will also be prohibited from selling plastic bottles.

Before the ban, Yakel said, SFO was selling roughly 10,000 plastic water bottles a day.

“SFO continues to lead the way in airport sustainability initiatives,” Ivar Satero, the airport’s director, said in a statement. “With this move, we take a giant step towards our goal to achieve zero waste going into landfill.”

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Plastic water bottles for sale at a store at San Francisco International Airport, August 2, 2019. Photo Credit: Eric Risberg/AP/Shutterstock

In 2016, SFO released a five-year strategic plan that detailed its 2021 goals that included achieving zero waste, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent, and increasing the environmental sustainability of its infrastructure. The ambitious proposal came just a few years after SFO became the first airport in the U.S. to have a LEED certified terminal.

In a recent report, the International Civil Aviation Organization urged airports worldwide to increase their sustainability efforts and to take into consideration the “social, economic, environmental, and operational aspects of waste” as they improve airport management.

SFO, which served over 5.4 million passengers in June alone, provided its retailers with a list of approved alternative bottle providers

“We’ve been wanting to do this for several years but only recently has it really developed to the point where there is a lot of good alternatives.” Yakel said. “Already we’ve heard from so many different suppliers. We think our list of approved products is going to grow.”

The airport also expanded its reusable water bottle refill stations. San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission lauded the plastic ban, urging travels in a tweet to “fly in true San Francisco style! #DrinkSFTapWater.”