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San Francisco bans sale of water bottles in city limits


San Francisco continues to live up to its progressive standards—last month the city moved to ban the sale of single-use plastic water bottles. Starting this October, city funds will no longer be used to buy these bottles. Further restrictions on using water bottles on public city grounds, such as for food trucks and events held outdoors, will be phased in starting in 2016. The legislation states that the city will install water fountains and filling stations in public places to encourage residents to continue drinking water.

Other organizations, including cities, universities and national parks, also are considering similar measures. Concord, Mass., banned water-bottle sales back in January 2013 and there is a petition to do the same in Seattle, Wash. The University of Vermont hasn't sold water bottles on its campus since 2012, and Western Washington University has recently joined in the ban—one of over 100 universities to do so.  

Not everyone believes banning plastic water bottle sales is a good thing. Some argue that eliminating the option to buy bottled water will force consumers to buy bottled soda and other flavored drinks instead. "I don't understand how campuses can ban sales of bottled water while continuing to sell Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Vitamin Water and Red Bull," writes journalist Charles Fishman in National Geographic blog.

Environmentally, San Francisco's water bottle ban also might not make the most sense. "Concerns about the leaching of chemicals from plastic bottles are not the point of this legislation. If they were, the city would have banned plastic beverage containers outright," Adam Minter writes in an article at Bloomberg View. Minter suggests that if San Francisco is trying to reduce the number of plastic bottles going to the landfills, they should target all plastic containers and not just the ones made out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET)—a valuable material that is easily recyclable. "The EPA says that plastic bottles were the most-recycled plastic products in 2012, with a 30.8 percent recovery rate...why ban water bottles, and not far more difficult-to-recycle Starbucks cups?" Minter writes.

But Minter may indeed miss the point of San Francisco's ban. The Ban the Bottle campaign lists multiple reasons why using legislation to ban single-use water bottles is a good thing—especially when bottled water may be nothing more than what is coming out of your faucet.

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