Every year, consumers from around the world spend a staggering $100 million on bottled water. Not only does that hurt wallets — spending just a couple bucks a day can really add up — but plastic water bottles contribute to pollution and harm the environment. In the first week of March, San Francisco took a major stride to help solve both those problems. New proposed legislation would ban the sale of plastic water bottles on city property and make the city the first major municipality to take such action.
“There are incredible, enormous environmental costs of plastic water bottles,” said Supervisor David Chiu, who introduced the idea. “It takes 1,000 years for a typical plastic water bottle to biodegrade.” The production and transportation of the bottles also adds to dependence on fossil fuels.
The ban was unanimously approved by the city’s board of supervisors on March 4th, and is now waiting for a second vote and for Mayor Ed Lee to sign off. If executed, the ban would start in October for indoor events and in 2016 for outdoor events.
Critics of the measure, not surprisingly including members of the bottled water industry, have expressed concerns about making it difficult for consumers to make a healthy beverage choice when they attend an event and get thirsty.
“If people are at an event and they don’t have a reusable container in front of them, they’re going to look for a packaged beverage,” said Christopher Hogan, a spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association. “It really reduces people’s opportunity to choose the healthiest packaged beverage, which is bottled water.”
While some might be concerned about, quite simply, how they are going to be able to stay hydrated without the sale of single-use bottles, Chiu notes that it wasn’t until the 1990’s that the bottled water industry even existed.
“I want to remind people that not long ago, our world was not addicted to plastic water bottles,” he said. “Before (the 1990s), for centuries, everybody managed to stay hydrated.” Now, the better alternative for consumers is to bring a reusable water bottle and sickly find a tap to fill it up.
San Francisco could very well earn the title of the Most Sustainable City in the U.S. if the ban goes through, which Chiu, at least, seems quite proud of. “In San Francisco, we’ve been leading the way in fighting for our environment,” Chiu said.