San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu Introduces Legislation to Phase Out Plastic Bottled Water on City Property

Date: 
Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Proposal Is a Common Sense Approach to Begin Addressing the Enormous Problem of Excess Plastic in the Waste Stream

San Francisco, CA—Board of Supervisors President David Chiu today announced a first-in-the-nation legislative proposal to phase out the sale and distribution of plastic bottled water on municipal property.  It would apply to events, permitted vendors, and lessees on San Francisco property, as well as City departments themselves.

“The environmental impact of our yearly consumption of billions of plastic water bottles is enormous.  Given that San Franciscans can access clean and inexpensive Hetch Hetchy water out of our taps, we need to wean ourselves off our recent addiction to plastic water bottles,” said Chiu. “I hope San Francisco can again lead the way, by drinking water without harming the environment or the bottom line.”

According to the proposal, at first only those events that have access to adequate on-site water would be required to comply; however, in late 2016 all events on City property would.  Foot races and other participant sporting events would be excluded.  Additionally, new permits and leases on City property would have to include language prohibiting the sale of bottled water at their establishments.  So that it is fair and focused on the future, the legislation would not apply to existing lessees and permit holders, only ones going forward.  Departments would be able to grant waivers to events and lessees under certain circumstances.

In conjunction with what is being asked of others, the legislation also requires City government to take action to increase access to water in public places.  It asks that drinking fountains, filling stations, and hook-ups for events be installed when there is a renovation in a heavily used public park or plaza.  It also asks the City to investigate solutions that would allow events to hook up to the municipal water infrastructure.  Further, City departments would no longer be allowed to purchase plastic bottled water with city funds.

This proposal is a common-sense approach to begin tackling the enormous problem of excess plastic in the waste stream.  It gives events, vendors, and permittees on City property adequate time to develop alternatives to selling disposable plastic water bottles.  There are already a growing number of cost effective alternatives to plastic bottled water available, and the number of these will only keep growing. 

"Bottled water has negative environmental impacts, which start with the extraction of resources, continue with transportation and packaging and finally they frequently end up in landfills or as litter on our streets or in our Bay," notes Melanie Nutter, Director, San Francisco Department of the Environment. "Hetch Hetchy reservoir provides San Francisco with healthy, economical and tasty water that is readily available and a viable alternative to bottled water."

In San Francisco, Recology alone collects 10 to 15 million single-use plastic water bottles a year, and this does not include the bottles that go to redemption centers or landfill.  It is likely that tens of millions of single use water bottles from San Francisco end up in the recycling stream or landfill on an annual basis.

“We applaud Board of Supervisors President Chiu and San Francisco’s leadership in the movement to think outside the bottle. By taking this step, the city continues to be a pioneer, paving the way for cities across the country to follow suit and buck the bottle,” said Erin Diaz, Director of the national Think Outside the Bottle Campaign. “Not only does this measure eliminate wasteful spending on such an eco-unfriendly product, it is also a resounding endorsement of the tap and ensures people’s access in public spaces to the most essential of municipal services—tap water.”

"We are surfers and ocean enthusiasts dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world's oceans, waves, and beaches, and all too often we witness first-hand the negative impacts plastic bottles have on our beaches and on ocean health, “ said Scott Coleman, Chair of the San Francisco Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. “These plastic bottles will never biodegrade, but rather become part of the food chain as they break apart and are eaten by fish and other species. We support this legislation and thank Supervisor Chiu for his leadership in protecting San Francisco beaches and oceans."

 The legislation is co-sponsored by Supervisor Eric Mar and supported by a number of environmental organizations and event producers.  It will likely have its first public hearing at a Board of Supervisors committee in late January.

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