Disposable plastic water bottles banned from San Francisco airport

Disposable plastic water bottles banned from San Francisco airport

(CNN Business)Gone are the days of buying a last-minute pre-flight plastic bottle of water at San Francisco International Airport. If you want to hydrate, you'll either have to bring your own reusable bottle or prepare to buy an airport-approved glass or aluminum water bottle.

In an effort to make SFO more environmentally friendly, the airport is adding plastic water bottles to its list of restricted food service items starting August 20.

The airport, just south of San Francisco, set a goal three years ago of becoming the world's first zero-waste airport by 2021. According to the nonprofit Zero Waste Alliance, that means diverting at least 90% of waste from landfills and incinerators by recycling and composting.

"This is a big move for the airport," said Doug Yakel, SFO's public information officer. "It just further supports our green initiative."

The new practice stops airport vendors and tenants from selling or providing free bottled water in plastic. This includes all similar products sold in vending machines.

In place of plastic bottles, the vendors will be able to sell or provide reusable recyclable aluminum, glass and certified compostable water bottles, according to the airport.

Travelers can bring empty disposable plastic water bottles to refill. However, airport security still bans passengers from bringing filled bottles of water from outside.

SFO defines a bottle of water as drinking water in a sealed box, bag, can, bottle or other container intended primarily for single-service use and having a capacity of 1 liter or less. This includes purified water, mineral water, carbonated or sparkling water, and electrolyte-enhanced water. The ban does not apply to any flavored drinks like soda, iced tea or coffee and juice.

Coke and Pepsi abandon the plastics lobby Yakel said SFO has over 100 refillable water hydration stations for travelers bringing their own reusable water bottles, and it will add more.

In September, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that stops dine-in restaurants from automatically providing plastic straws to customers, making it the first state to partially ban them. Violating the law costs restaurants a $25 a day fine. In March, SFO also transitioned away from single-use plastic food service ware and utensils. Yakel said he knows that other airports are looking to make the same move to eliminate bottled water, but as far as he knows, his is the first to have this initiative. The ban is only one of the things that makes SFO unique. The airport is also one of the few with a free yoga room for travelers to use at their leisure.

You could be swallowing a credit card's weight in plastic every week

You could be swallowing a credit card's weight in plastic every week

(CNN) Globally, we are ingesting an average of 5 grams of plastic every week, the equivalent of a credit card, a new study suggests.

This plastic contamination comes from "micro plastics" -- particles smaller than five millimetres -- which are making their way into our food, drinking water and even the air.

Around the world, people ingest an average of around 2,000 micro plastic particles a week, according to the study by the University of Newcastle, in Australia.

These tiny particles can originate from a variety of sources, including artificial clothes fibers, microbeads found in some toothpastes, or bigger pieces of plastic which gradually break into smaller pieces when they're thrown away and exposed to the elements.

They make their way into our rivers and oceans, and can be eaten by fish and other marine animals, ending up as part of the food chain.

Microplastics have been found in many everyday foods and drinks, such as water, beer, shellfish and salt, co-lead researcher Kala Senathirajah told CNN.

Are you eating plastic? 01:30

"It is very clear that the issue of micro plastics is a global one. Even if countries clean up their backyard, it doesn't mean they will be safe as those [micro plastic] particles could be entering from other sources," she said.

The largest source of plastic ingestion is drinking water, according to the research, which reviews 52 existing studies to estimate plastic ingestion around the world. The research was commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for its report "No Plastic in Nature: Assessing Plastic Ingestion from Nature to People." It found that the average person consumes as many as 1,769 particles of plastic every week just by drinking water -- bottled or from the tap. But there could be large regional variations. It quotes a 2018 study that found twice as much plastic in water in the United States and India than in European or Indonesian tap water.

A separate study this month found that Americans eat, drink and breathe between 74,000 and 121,000 micro plastic particles each year, and those who exclusively drink bottled water rather than tap water can add up to 90,000 plastic particles to their yearly total. Read more: you drink bottled water, you could double how many microplastic particles you ingest

Shellfish is the second biggest source of plastic ingestion, with the average person consuming as many as 182 micro particles -- 0.5 grams -- from this per week. The report says this is because "shellfish are eaten whole, including their digestive system, after a life in plastic polluted seas."

Although micro plastics have been detected in the air, the study says inhalation accounts for a negligible intake "but may vary heavily depending on the environment."

The researchers note that their study "builds on a limited set of evidence, and comes with limitations" -- including a "lack of data available on crucial metrics, such as weight and size distribution of microplastics in natural environments."

What is the health risk? There is growing concern about the health risks microplastics pose to human health, but the full impacts of plastic pollution remain unclear.

Professor Richard Lampitt, of the UK's National Oceanography Centre, who was not involved in the research, told CNN that it was difficult to assess the significance of ingestion rates without understanding the associated health risks. "There is very large uncertainty about the harms that plastics do," he said.

"Plastic is not a particularly harmful material, however there is the potential that it does significant harm," Lampitt said, adding that further research is needed into the impact of long-term plastic exposure.

But if micro plastics are shown to damage human health, it will be very difficult to remove them from the environment.

"We cannot just remove it," said Kavita Prakash-Mani, global conservation director at WWF International. "Therefore we need to tackle plastic pollution at its very source [and] stop it from getting into the nature in the first place," she told CNN, stressing that the priority should be reducing plastic production

Globally, more than 330 million metric tons of plastic is produced each year, and global plastic production is expected to triple by 2050.

Prakash-Mani said a global treaty on plastics and reduction targets from companies and governments was needed to tackle the issue.

Geneva set to ban single-use plastics

Geneva set to ban single-use plastics

The Swiss city of Geneva is ramping up efforts to protect the environment with a planned ban of single-use plastics at businesses and events on public land.

The ban will cover plastic straws, cutlery, crockery and cups as well as any other items made of single-use plastic

It will affect locations such as food stalls, food trucks, ice cream stands and other outdoor venues on public land. Single-use plastics will also be banned at events held on public land in the city.

Businesses that fail to comply with the ban will be fined, or could even see their licence revoked, Geneva city councillor Guillaume Barazzone told the Tribune de Genèvenewspaper.

The ban is set to come into force from January 1st 2020. It will see Geneva following the European Union's lead. The EU is planning to ban single-use plastics from 2021.

In March, the canton of Geneva announced a ban on the handing out of free plastic bags in shops – partly in a bid to stop the tide of plastic ending up in Lake Geneva.

The Swiss government last year said it would not draw up a law banning single-use plastics. It argued businesses would have to take the lead on the issue.

People Are Picking Up Trash in Parks and Beaches for the 'Trashtag Challenge'

People Are Picking Up Trash in Parks and Beaches for the 'Trashtag Challenge'

As online challenges go, #trashtag, which went viral on social media over the weekend, is a pretty wholesome one. Hundreds of people shared photos of themselves litter-picking in trash-strewn parks and streets on Saturday and Sunday, while calling on others to start cleaning up their communities.

The idea for #trashtag has been around for several years, with one companypromoting the idea back in 2015 as a way to protect threatened wilderness areas.

But it gathered steam over the weekend, as users on Instagram, Reddit and Twitter shared dramatically different before and after photos of one wooded area where a man bagged up hundreds of plastic objects — accompanied with an invitation to find a place “that needs some cleaning or maintenance” and “take a photo when you have done something about it.”

The idea soon spread, with some social media users incorporating “trashtag” into their weekend trips

UN resolution pledges to plastic reduction by 2030

UN resolution pledges to plastic reduction by 2030

One hundred and seventy countries have pledged to significantly reduce the use of plastics by 2030.

After five days of talks at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, a non-binding resolution was made over throwaway items like plastic bags.

An initial proposal to phase out single-use plastic by 2025 was opposed by several nations including the US.

Over eight million tonnes of plastic enter the world's oceans each year.

"It's hard to find one solution for all member states," Siim Kiisler, the UN assembly president, told journalists before the vote.

"The environment is at a turning point. We don't need verbose documents, we need concrete commitments."

 Coca-Cola reveals how much plastic it uses

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More than 4,700 delegates - including environment ministers, scientists and business figures - took part in the meeting.

A series of other commitments were also signed, including ones to reduce food wastage and to consult with indigenous populations over the development of new regulations.

The assembly is the world's top international environment body, and this week's pledge will set the tone for the UN's Climate Action Summit in September.

The final ministerial statement only made only two references to man-made global warming, however, and none to the damage caused by fossil fuels that drive it.

However some campaigners have expressed concern that the final ministerial statement made only two references to man-made global warming.

Others have criticised countries like the United States, Cuba and Saudi Arabia for blocking attempts to pledge an earlier date for cutting their use of plastics.

"The vast majority of countries came together to develop a vision for the future of global plastic governance," said David Azoulay from the Center for International Environmental Law, in an interview with Reuters.

"Seeing the US, guided by the interests of the fracking and petrochemical industry, leading efforts to sabotage that vision is disheartening"