Courtesy of San Francisco International Airport

SFO is leading the charge in reducing plastic waste at airports

Andrea Romano, Travel + Leisure  – August 19, 2019 | Updated August 27, 2019

You might want to invest in that fancy, reusable water bottle if you’re planning to travel through San Francisco soon.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco International Airport will become the first airport in the U.S. to ban plastic, single-use water bottles starting on Aug. 20.

Starting then, restaurants, cafes, and vending machines will be a water-bottle free zone. Of course, you could take a bottle of Poland Spring through security with you (as long as it’s empty), but at that point, you might as well spring for something a little sturdier.

Oddly enough, the ban does not apply to sodas, juices or flavored water, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Passengers will still be able to purchase those single-use bottles throughout the airport. Even though the new ban doesn’t technically solve the plastic bottle problem at the airport, it can cut down on waste significantly — about four million bottles per year, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

If you are in need of regular, plain H2O, the San Francisco International Airport has over 100 “hydration stations,” which are made for refilling reusable water bottles with clean, filtered water. They’re also completely free.

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

The city of San Francisco also banned the sale of plastic water bottles on city-owned property and just began a city-wide ban of plastic straws, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Yakel said in a statement that he hopes the ordinance will eventually apply to other beverages as well in the future.

Not all travelers are excited about the new changes, according to The Washington Post. In particular, some people have criticized how the ban does little to cut down on plastic waste by only taking aim at water bottles and not other beverages.

Others complain that the ban makes finding water inconvenient for people who don’t want to carry around a reusable bottle. However, we would like to note that lots of lightweight and collapsible options are out there. It also assumes that someone who wants water has the money to shout out for an expensive aluminum, glass, or compostable bottle (which will be made available for purchase at retailers around the airport).

Other travelers still applaud the new ordinance, saying it is a step in the right direction to reduce waste.

Liquid restrictions by the TSA are still in effect, so all water bottles, regardless of their containers, must be empty while traveling through the security line.

There are lots of other ways to cut down on your plastic use while you travel besides your water bottle, including using compostable or reusable toiletries, utensils, and food wrapping.