As a small Massachusetts town became the first U.S. community to ban the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles Tuesday, even eliminating such packaging from large events continues to elude San Francisco despite years of discussion.
While The City hasn’t been shy about taking on plastic bags or plastic foam food containers, water bottles have thus far managed to avoid its ever-growing ban list.
In 2007, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order banning city departments from buying bottled water. And since 2010, the Commission on the Environment has talked about banning plastic water bottles at events on public property. But it has yet to develop a citywide proposal.
“This is an item that we’ve talked about numerous times,” said Ruth Gravanis, member of the Commission on the Environment. “We are making strides, but we still have a long way to go.”
Last February, the Port of San Francisco banned single-use plastic water bottles for all events with more than 5,000 attendees, which impacted the America’s Cup yacht races. However, since the policy did not affect existing leases, it did not restrict sales at AT&T Park.
Meanwhile, other communities have taken action. On Tuesday, Concord, Mass., banned the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles. In 2007, Ann Arbor, Mich., prohibited city vendors from selling bottled water at city events.
In December 2008, Toronto’s City Council approved a ban that prohibited the distribution of water bottles in all civic centers, city facilities and parks. Last year, the National Park Service banned bottles from Grand Canyon National Park.
Julie Bryant, the city government zero waste coordinator for the Department of the Environment, called plastic water bottles “a very big environmental problem.”
“The commission would like to see the amount of bottled water consumed reduced and eventually eliminated — especially when San Francisco has such healthy, economical and tasty water available with the turn of a faucet,” said department spokesman Guillermo Rodriguez. He said the Department of the Environment is currently working with event producers and city departments to analyze different policies for events on public property. But no talks are under way about imposing a citywide ban on the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles.
The Ban the Bottle campaign claims that it takes 17 million barrels of oil per year to make all the plastic water bottles used in the United States.