Solving Cities

San Francisco's plan to cut plastic-bottle use

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A city known for bans is taking a different approach with plastic water bottles.

For a city that has banned plastic grocery bags and McDonald's Happy Meal toys, you might expect a similar approach with plastic water bottles. Instead the solution will be built into the walls of the city's building.

City officials are discussing an ordinance that would, instead of banning plastic water bottles, encourage the use of other containers for drinking water. According to the Associated Press, the ordinance would require new and renovated buildings to install water bottle-filling stations alongside any drinking fountains. In theory, the requirement would give people a more accessible alternative to buying a plastic water bottle.

It wouldn't be the first time these bottle-filling stations would be found in the city. Already they're in the city's airport, parks, and schools. Adding these stations would cost building owners about $750 per station.

And it's not the first time these stations have been installed at a large scale. On at least one university campus they seem to be doing their job, AP reports:

For officials at Pennsylvania State University, the cost has been worthwhile. The university is now installing taps on all its campuses after experimenting with them for three years, said Lydia Vandenbergh, an official overseeing the university's effort to reduce use of plastic water bottles. Students were more receptive to filling bottles from special taps than drinking fountains, thought to be dirty.

"In the era of hyper hygiene, for a lot of people, that's a barrier," Vandenbergh said. University officials have estimated the busiest tap replaces the equivalent of 35,000 plastic bottles a month.

The ordinance is expected to be voted on later this fall.

SF considering ways to curb plastic water bottles [Associated Press]

Photo: Flickr/josterpi

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure