Thu, Mar 06, 2014 - Page 7 News List

US city moves toward water bottle ban


San Francisco moved to restrict the sale of plastic water bottles on city property on Tuesday, the first such action by a major US municipality and the latest in a string of waste-reduction measures that included a ban on plastic grocery bags.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to begin phasing out the sale and distribution of water in single-use plastic bottles on city-owned or leased land next fall, and to ban future water bottle purchases with city funds.

“There are incredible, enormous environmental costs of plastic water bottles,” said Supervisor David Chiu, who introduced the measure. “It takes 1,000 years for a typical plastic water bottle to biodegrade.”

Numerous cities in California and other states, including Maui County and a number of Hawaiian municipalities, have made it illegal for grocery stores to pack consumer purchases in plastic bags, and there have been moves to extend the bans to cover entire states.

San Francisco appears to be the first city to try to steer consumers away from using disposable water bottles, which environmentalists say fill landfills and wash out to sea as trash just as grocery bags do.

Chiu, who proposed the measure, said bottled water restrictions would fall in line with a string of actions, including the plastic bag ban in 2007 and aggressive citywide recycling campaigns.

Manufacturing, selling and transporting single-use water bottles also leads to excess reliance on fossil fuels, Chiu said.

“In San Francisco, we’ve been leading the way in fighting for our environment,” Chiu said. The city accounts for tens of millions of water bottles that wind up in landfills, recycling centers or in the ocean each year, he said.

Some sellers of the water bottles have moved to reduce the amount of plastic used, but opponents of their use say that is not enough.

If the ordinance wins approval on a second reading next week and is signed by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, then starting in October, city funds could not be used to purchase bottled water and the packaged beverage would be banned from all indoor events held on public property.

By October 2016, the ban would apply to most outdoor events as well as to food trucks and other mobile vendors selling beverages on city streets.

Non-profit sponsors of events that attract more than 250,000 attendees would be allowed to sell and distribute bottled water until January 2018. Afterward, organizers could apply with the city to be granted an exception and sell bottled water at their functions.

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