First, it was our plastic bags. Next, they came for our plastic straws. Now, they’re here for plastic water bottles.

The plastic police have a new target, your thirst-quenching water bottles.

As of yesterday, San Francisco International Airport banned plastic water bottles. Like a raid on contraband cigarettes, carts of unused, unsold water bottles were pulled from shelves and hauled off as the airport purged every cart, vending machine, kiosk, and store of the environmental culprits.

According to reports, everything from purified water to electrolyte-enhanced water bottles are all officially banned. That means vendors cannot sell any single-serve bottles of 1 liter or less.

If you want water, you have to buy or bring your own reusable aluminum, glass, or plastic bottles and fill them up at any of the airport’s nearly 100 water fountains or hydration stations.

This may be about saving the environment, but there’s reason to question that. 

Here’s why this is ban is a terrible idea:

  1. It will cause delays and inconvenience to passengers. When you’re racing to catch your flight, if you happened to remember to bring an empty bottle, you’ll have to search to find a water station and hope there isn’t a line of people waiting to fill it up. 

  2. It will encourage passengers to drink less healthy options than water. Plastic bottles of soda, juice, smoothies, energy drinks, iced tea, and every other sugary beverage remain on the shelves. With no other water alternatives in sight, these beverages will undoubtedly get a big boost in sales and perhaps so will the waistlines of passengers. When the University of Vermont banned water bottles in 2013, sugary drink sales increased by 33 percent according to the executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

  3. It will generate more waste. The same Vermont water bottle ban led to greater production of plastic waste because soda bottles typically contain twice the amount of plastic as water bottles (they have to be thick enough to withstand the high pressure of carbonation).

San Francisco Int’l Airport wants to be the world’s first zero-waste airport by 2021. This is another step in an aggressive strategy to achieve that goal, but this effort is counterproductive. Apparently, they plan to come after other plastic bottles in the future. What’s next, plastic plates and forks?

It sounds like an assault on the plastics industry.

Despite the bad rap they get, plastic utensils, and containers serve valuable purposes in society. 

The advantages of plastic bottles 

Plastic bottles are painted as an enemy of the environment, but let’s not forget the advantages of plastic bottles. 

They are durable and strong, which is great for travelers moving from place to place. 

They won’t shatter when dropped. 

Once the lid is on tight, they won’t leak out their contents. 

They mold to take the shape of different liquids or can be compressed when empty for easier storage and transport.

Plastic bottles are lighter in weight than their glass counterparts, which reduces energy and costs required to ship products. They also take less energy to manufacture than glass because plastics are soft and have relatively low melting points.

San Francisco Airport has more pressing issues to worry about like the surge of homeless people looking for warmth and shelter. 

Instead of yanking water bottles off shelves, they ought to worry about the safety and health of travelers.