As reported by The Guardian, San Francisco’s airport, SFO, is banning the sale of single-use plastic water bottles effective later this month on August 20. The move isn’t surprising since San Francisco and the West Coast in general have been leaders in promoting recycling and limiting waste for many years.
This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to drink bottled water at the airport. Glass, aluminum, and compostable bottles are still allowed. Or you could bring your own reusable bottle. I still remember when the first refillable water stations appeared at SFO a decade ago, well before they became common elsewhere.
I’m sure some people will think this is a pointless, overbearing policy that makes life difficult for everyone else. Frankly, I disagree. I’m not really in the water bottle camp to begin with. I prefer a plain drinking fountain, or I’ll ask the flight attendant for water onboard. I’ve never once been refused. My wife still buys a bottle of water now and then, but I know she prefers to have her reusable bottle.
But here’s the thing: my own biases aside, I think policies like this one help force a change that, eventually, we can all live with. I have a trash can at home split 30/70 between recycling and trash. Living in Seattle, I chose to use the big side for recycling. My wife would manage the composting. And this is even though we lived in an apartment. It took two weeks to fill the trash side.
Now, living in Austin, it’s much more difficult to be eco-friendly. Not because our attitudes have changed but because the policies in place to support it aren’t there, even in one of the most liberal cities in Texas.
Plastic straws haven’t been banned, as they were in Seattle, so I have to politely hand them back to the server at restaurants. As much as I love Chik-Fil-A, I hate that they still use Styrofoam cups. And there’s no composting in our neighborhood …not yet, anyway. We even order more packaged items from Amazon because there aren’t any nearby shops that we can walk to instead.
The amount of trash we produce is far higher than it used to be because we simply have few other options.
There will always be a need for some amount of pre-packaged, single-use items. Especially at an airport. But I don’t think every passenger needs to produce have a pound of trash, as SFO management currently claims. Hopefully San Francisco’s move at least starts a conversation about where that balance lies.