San Francisco May Be First Major City to Ban Plastic Water Bottles

Bottled water could be the next no-no in the environmentally conscious city

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Hans-Peter Merten

San Francisco officials like to talk trash. Specifically, they like to brag about how much of it is diverted from landfills around the Bay Area. The metro is now recycling and composting about 80% of its garbage, more than twice the national rate. With a goal of producing zero net waste by 2020 and a willingness to legislate environmental causes, it’s little surprise that San Francisco could become the first major American city to place strict limits on bottled water.

Under a proposal from city supervisor David Chiu expected to be introduced on Tuesday, San Francisco would ban the sale of plastic water bottles at any events on public land with more than 100 people and prevent the city from spending any public money on bottled water. “The big picture is to radically reduce the amount of plastic bottled water in the city,” says Catherine Rauschuber, a legislative aide to Chiu. “We see it as the direction that everyone has to go.”

The proposal has plenty of loopholes: it would not prevent stores operating on private property from selling bottled water, and races and walkathon events would be exempt. And the punishment for a first offense is not steep: event sponsors could face a fine of up to $500. To placate environmental advocates who want a more complete ban, the measure includes provisions that could reduce sales over time, like requiring all new food trucks to agree not to sell bottled water when they apply for permits to operate on city streets.

The complete board of supervisors is expected to vote on the ban by early February. If approved, San Francisco will follow Concord, Mass., which became the first American city to institute a ban on plastic water bottles at the beginning of 2013. Several college campuses and national parks like the Grand Canyon have also become water-bottle-free. And Toronto put bottled water on the blacklist in 2012, though embattled Mayor Rob Ford has pushed back, saying it’s silly to ban a healthy bottled beverage when sodas and other sugary drinks are still allowed.

The companies that make money from bottled water are none too pleased. The American Beverage Association (ABA), which represents companies like Coca-Cola (which is reporting strong growth in sales of the bottled water Dasani), argue that the proposal is a blow to consumer freedom. “The consumer should have a choice on how they drink their water,” ABA spokeswoman Kate Krebs told the San Francisco Examiner. “[The bottles] are not being thrown away … They are being recycled.” While that’s not true of all bottles in the Bay Area, San Francisco is ahead of the average American city — about 13% of plastics are recycled nationwide.

Environmental advocates emphasize that single-use bottles take centuries to decompose and that their transportation creates pollution. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 32 million tons of plastic waste was generated in 2011, slightly up from 31 million in 2010 — which breaks down to about half a pound per person each day. In the 1960s, plastic accounted for less than 1% of garbage generated in the U.S. and now accounts for 13%, the bulk of that coming from items like shampoo containers and drink bottles.

Rauschuber, Chiu’s aide, is not worried about the fallout from the proposal. San Francisco, after all, was the first major city to ban single-use plastic bags, way back in 2007. “Before 1990, there really was no bottled-water industry,” she says, “and we all managed to stay hydrated.”

9 comments
Rose-MarieFiske
Rose-MarieFiske

This is a waste of time bill. SF already has one of the highest percentages of recycling in the country, Surely there are better things to spend time on to make people and the city better off. How about the number of pedestrian fatalities? Mr Chui, people drank soda before bottled water became so prevalent. Surely it's better to have bottled water than soda. People seek the disposable for convenience so they do not have to worry about carrying or loosing a canteen or other container. Those containers  also have to be cleaned between uses to keep bacteria down. How about the water it takes to wash it? How about the fact that those containers are probably not made of recyclable material so they get lost and thrown away and you have more trash in the landfill. How about the loss of jobs that will follow due to this ban? Loss of revenue? What about the homeless who go around and pick up those water bottles and collect the money? You do not really see the water bottles lying around the street. Does anyone ever think about the after effects of such trifling bills?  This is not a huge problem for the city and it will actually cause more problems than it helps. Please stop the stupidity. 


livlife
livlife

Start banning everything, because we have a disposable mentality and live in a plastic society. At least beverage companies pay 5-10 cents a bottle to recycle. A well marketed recycling campaign could bring millions of dollars to cities and could create more jobs. The ban should be on selling filtered tap water in a bottle and sodas. We need access to clean living spring water, and there are many conscious companies using 100% recycled materials to bottle in.

typicalconsumer
typicalconsumer

This may be shocking for some people but believe it or not you can go for multiple hours at a time without drinking a single drop of anything.   Lewis Black said it right,  "Water use to be free everywhere and no one drank it. Now people go into the city with a bottle of water in hand like they are going to cross the Sahara."      

And another thing. Noone is really talking about the environmental impact and energy it takes to make a plastic bottle fill it with water, send truckloads of bottles of water to a distribution center. Then shipping cases of bottles of water from here to there then getting them to an event.   (Last I heard water weighs about 8lbs per gallon. It's heavy to transport).  After that the best case would be customers recycling the bottle.  There is an energy cost to collect the recycling and melt down the plastic, and re-cast, the plastic into something else.  All of this compared to using the city's water pumping station.   

Drink from the fountain, bring your own water bottle with a charcoal filter. Or you could actually not drink anything for hours. Really, it won't kill you. Don't believe the bottled water companies that will have you believe that you need to drink water continuously.  They are in business to selling you water.

p4kwasjustablog
p4kwasjustablog

OMGx2


1. With events no being able to sell water, I guess people should buy soda to quench their thirst.

2. All the venues that host EDM events are going to have a lot of dehydrated people.

mediabite
mediabite

Legislation like this would be a big problem here in Ireland where we have to suffer mandatory poisoning of our water with the toxic waste fluouride.  It's supposed to be good for the teeth but in reality it is a massive public health risk.  Our only alternative is bottled water.

jamesbluecan
jamesbluecan

@p4kwasjustablog Except now there is an Alternative to Plastic Bottles.   BLUE CAN PURE WATER.    Flat water in a can!   www.bluecanwater.com

aztecian
aztecian

@p4kwasjustablogthey need to get rid of the bottled water.  it just creates wasted like paper and plastic bags.  people can carry a canteen if they need water. 

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