News and Commentary

San Francisco At It Again: Airport Bans Single-Use Water Bottles
SANTA FE, NM - JULY 4, 2018: A tub filled with ice and plastic bottles of Dasani purified bottled water being given away at a Fourth of July holiday event in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Dasani is a brand of bottled water from the Coca-Cola company.
Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the ban on selling many single-use plastic water bottles at San Francisco International Airport went into effect. The ban was implemented based on a 2014 ordinance that bans selling disposable plastic bottles on city-owned property; the airport is owned by the city.

As NBC News reports, 58 million passengers go through SF International each year; 10,000 single use bottles are sold there every day, amounting to four million every year.

“Travelers lugged empty canisters through security. They refilled them at the airport’s more than 100 ‘hydration stations,’ the water dispensers mounted outside most bathrooms. The fountains had no lines early Tuesday morning,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Wednesday.

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

Interestingly, although buying plastic water bottles is a no-go, plastic bottles containing soda, juices and flavored water are still available. also noted that there is a loophole in the ban; it is still permissible to sell plastic water bottles larger than one liter; the SFO website states, “This policy covers drinking water in a sealed box, bag, can, bottle or other container intended mainly for single-service use and having a capacity of 1 liter or less.” The airport intends to transfer zero waste to landfills by 2021.

CNN noted, “Americans eat, drink and breathe between 74,000 and 121,000 microplastic particles each year, depending on their age and sex, according to a recent study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. If bottled water (and not tap) is our only source of hydration, annual plastic particle intake via drinking water is estimated to be approximately 75,000 for boys, 127,000 for men, 64,000 for girls and 93,000 for women, the researchers noted.”

As The Daily Wire reported in July 2018, “the SF Board of Supervisors took up a proposal to ban plastic straws … the proposed ban would also prevent vendors from using takeout containers made with fluorinated chemicals.” Newsmax reported, “The legislation prohibits eateries from using plastic anti-splashers, stirrers and other plastic items that environmentalists say are too small to be recycled properly.” It continues, “Retailers would no longer be able to sell the items starting July 2019. In addition, food and drink vendors would be allowed to dispense cutlery, napkins, condiments and lids only on request or through self-serve stations.”

The Heartland Institute noted in September 2018, “The ordinance also prohibits restaurants from offering napkins and utensils with takeout or delivery orders unless customers specifically request them or take them from a self-serve station. Businesses violating the ban face fines ranging from $100 to $500 per incident, depending on the number of violations, beginning January 1, 2020. The ban was adopted on July 31 and takes effect July 1, 2019.”

Kerry Jackson, a research fellow at the Pacific Research Institute’s Center for California Reform, noted, “One percent of the plastic found in the ocean comes from California, meaning California can do whatever it wants to do, but it’s not going to change anything. Plastic straws are not dangerous to anybody, and they can be disposed of properly, which most people do.

On July 1, 2019, the ban went into effect.