Earlier this year, Concord, Mass. — with a population of about 17,000 residents — became the first U.S. municipality to ban the sale of plastic water bottles, which are criticized by environmentalists for their waste and fossil fuel consumption.
The ban was emblematic of a rising tide — thanks in part to the Ban the Bottle campaign — challenging the plastic water bottle industry that has flourished since the 1990s.
San Francisco is on tap to join the effort with a proposal Board of Supervisors President David Chiu plans to introduce Tuesday that he says could eliminate the sales of millions of plastic water bottles annually.
The legislation would gradually implement a ban on the sale of plastic water bottles — defined as 21 fluid ounces or less — on public property while also aiming to increase the infrastructure of potable water sources.
“Given our access to incredibly healthy clean and tasty Hetch Hetchy water, which is some of the highest quality municipal tap water in the country, it just doesn’t make sense for us to have this addiction to plastic water bottles,” Chiu said during a Wednesday interview, calling them “incredibly wasteful and environmentally damaging.”
For events on public property with 100 or more attendees, the legislation would prohibit the sales of plastic water bottles if there is an alternative city potable supply. City agencies would have to study how to better supply water to events, and it would be city policy to install drinking fountains, bottle filling stations and potable water hook-ups whenever there are capital improvements. By October 2016, no person would be able to sell or distribute bottled water at outdoor events on public property.
Beginning October 2014, new leases, including renewals, and permits, such as those for mobile food vendors and vendors in public parks, would prohibit the sale of plastic water bottles. The provision would eventually impact Giants games at AT&T Park, but not for decades, since the team’s lease expires in about 50 years. But other city venue leases are up sooner such as Pier 39, a large collection of restaurants on the Port of San Francisco and the Bill Graham Auditorium, which hosts concerts and other events in the Civic Center.
The legislation also enshrines a city policy that doesn’t allow city departments to spend money on bottled water purchases.
The proposal is opposed by the American Beverage Association, which represents the nonalcoholic beverage industry.
“The consumer should have a choice on how they drink their water,” said Kate Krebs, spokeswoman for the American Beverage Association. She noted that San Francisco has a high recycling rate.
“They are not being thrown away,” she said of the plastic bottles. “They are being recycled.”
The sale of bottled water is prohibited in 14 national parks and on a growing number of college campuses around the nation. Chiu’s proposal would not impact businesses on private property, though he acknowledged some want a more aggressive proposal.
“We thought it’s important for The City to set our own example first to show that this can be done easily, well and in an environmentally conscious way,” he said.