Liberal virtue signaling on the Left Coast reaches new heights with the banning of plastic water bottles at the San Francisco Airport. Under the ban, single-use plastic water bottles will no longer be sold at airport restaurants, shops and vending machines. According to officials, the move to eliminate plastic water bottles is an airport-wide effort to reduce plastic waste.
Because the airport’s ban on single-use plastics solely targets water, this means sodas, iced teas and other sugar-sweetened beverages bottled in plastic are still fair game. Simply eliminating water as a beverage option is unlikely to help reduce the amount of plastic waste the airport produces in a meaningful way. But boy, does it make them look “progressive.”
The water bottle ban also poses a big problem for passengers looking to quench their thirst healthfully: Due to security issues, you can’t bring your own bottled beverage into the airport. You can bring an empty bottle — but does anyone really want to drink airport tap water? Probably not.
According to reports, the new rules regarding plastic water bottles at San Francisco Airport (SFO) came into effect on August 20. Under the ban, the sale of single-use plastic water bottles will be eliminated — and passengers cannot even bring their own single-use water bottle with them. Instead, SFO will encourage travelers to either bring their own reusable bottle or buy a reusable container at the airport.
SFO is home to over 100 “hydration stations” designed for filling up reusable water bottles with filtered water. Unfortunately, San Francisco is one of the dirtiest cities in the nation. Tap water is often highly contaminated and even filtering isn’t always enough.
There is, however, a loophole: The ban only applies to single-use containers that have a capacity of one liter or less. Most people probably don’t want to be burdened with a gallon-sized jug of water at the airport, but it is an option.
The other option travelers have is fairly obvious: Drink something else. Because the ban only applies to single-use water bottles, other bottled beverages will still be readily available.
It’s understandable that SFO is interested in sustainability; it’s a massive airport and according to reports, sells about four million water bottles every year.
That is a lot of water bottles — and it is well-established most plastic waste ends up becoming an environmental pollutant. But will ceasing the sale of water stop the sale of plastic bottles at the airport? If bottled sodas, seltzers and teas are still available, then the obvious answer is “no.”
If someone is thirsty, and they’re not the sort of person who carries a reusable water bottle, they’re going to buy what’s available (and affordable). If those four million water bottles become four million bottles of soda, the environment is no better off — and the health of the public will be that much worse. While the ban on plastic water bottles may work, similar efforts have backfired.
Research led by the University of Vermont found that banning plastic water bottles and replacing them with reusable bottles and water fountains actually drove up consumption of plastic bottles. But instead of water, students were grabbing sodas, juices and other beverages.
One of the study authors, nutrition professor Rachel Johnson, commented on the research, “I understand the point about limiting plastic that goes into the waste stream by removing bottled water. But to remove bottled water and then continue to sell unhealthy sugary drinks seems to defeat any public health goals. You’re simply taking away a healthy choice.”
Indeed, in many ways, it seems obvious that this “ban” is less about healing the environment and more about keeping up appearances. Liberals love virtue signaling, and it seems like coming up with new ways to ban plastic is the biggest signal of all.
According to reports, SFO has a five-year plan to bring its “net landfill waste, net carbon emissions and net energy use” down to zero. Whether or not that plan includes also eliminating the sale of unhealthy beverages that are bottled in plastic remains to be seen.
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