The San Francisco International Airport (SFO) announced plans to prohibit the sale of water in plastic bottles effective August 20, 2019. This move will require all airport retailers, restaurants, airline lounges, and vending machines to sell or provide water in recyclable aluminum, glass or BPI-certified compostable bottles. The policy applies to purified water, mineral water, carbonated or sparkling water, and electrolyte-enhanced water, but does not include flavored beverages such as sodas, teas, or juices.
“SFO continues to lead the way in airport sustainability initiatives,” said Airport Director Ivar C. Satero. “With this move, we take a giant step towards our goal to achieve zero waste going into landfill. I appreciate the support of our SFO business community in making this bold move for our environment.”
In 2016, SFO established a goal to achieve zero waste going to landfill by 2021. Since then, SFO has been working with concessions and tenants on policies to achieve this goal, including a requirement to provide single-use food ware in compostable packaging.
Prohibiting the sale of bottled water in plastic packaging was implemented at this time because the market for acceptable alternatives to plastic bottles has matured sufficiently to provide retailers with a variety of choices for sale. SFO has provided retailers with a list of approved alternatives to plastic water bottles and will continue to update this list as the market for plastic-free bottled water evolves. The list can be viewed here:
In addition to the purchase of bottled water, customers may bring a reusable beverage container to fill up at any of SFO’s approximately 100 free Hydration Stations and drinking fountains, located in all terminals both pre- and post-security. As a reminder, TSA regulations still limit liquids in a carry-on to less than 3 ounces.
Passenger activity at SFO generates over 28 million pounds of waste annually, which includes approximately 10,000 bottles of water sold every day at SFO. Worldwide, less than 25% of plastic bottles get recycled, and the market for the recycling of plastic bottles continues to shrink. It is estimated that a single plastic bottle takes anywhere from 450 – 1,000 years to biodegrade in landfill.