Without water bottles, SF is that much closer to zero waste

When the Board of Supervisors unanimously supported a measure that would restrict the sale of water bottles in San Francisco, the city got closer to its goal of Zero Waste — a mission to send no waste to landfill or incineration by 2020. The move has some people grumbling about the trend for banning products in liberal cities, as if buying a water bottle was an unalienable right.

To safely dismiss these complaints, it is important to note that the measure is actually pretty specific. The law will not ban bottled water of all types across the city. Instead, it would only ban the sale of bottles smaller than 21 ounces sold at events on city property with a crowd of 100 people or more, effective in October. While the law may not have been extreme enough for the city dwellers that are ever equipped with a reusable bottle, it is a step in the right direction for many reasons.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States generated nearly 32 million tons of plastics in 2012 and recycled only nine percent of that. Not only do those plastic products clutter the environment when they are improperly disposed, the production of plastic contributes to global warming. From climate change to rising sea levels, anyone who’s living in the world right now should be well aware of the serious global warming issues we are facing.

Obviously the world’s problems aren’t entirely the fault of plastic water bottles, but solving global problems must come one step at a time.

Another complaint about the new policy is that there aren’t enough clean public water sources in the city to make a water bottle ban viable. The city is already dealing with this issue. Since 2010, the city has installed nine water bottle refilling stations throughout San Francisco as part of the Drink Tap Program. For the most part, the nine taps are located in tourist heavy areas, such as the Marina Green, Yerba Buena Gardens and the San Francisco Zoo.

The public taps look like fancier versions of the stations on campus, which have been installed since last year as part of the Take Back the Tap Campaign led by The Green Initiative Fund. In addition to new filling stations, the city is encouraging restaurants and businesses to join TapIt — a community of tap water providers who agree to refill bottles for free. With this in mind, it is easy to imagine a future in which using a reusable bottle in San Francisco is an economical and obvious choice.

San Francisco’s push for residents’ use of tap water is a great move because it takes advantage of the resources we already have. Since the city is blessed with clean and delicious tap water and the residents already pay for the infrastructure, moving away from bottled water just makes sense.

With the sky-high price of bottled water at events, it’s amazing that anyone would want to buy water instead of refilling for free. In San Francisco’s quest to be ahead of the curve in its recycling program, targeting water bottles is a smart move. With a bit more time and investment, all San Franciscans will come to appreciate the law.

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