They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Nothing could be more emblematic than towns and cities throughout the United States run by feel-good liberals who are banning single-serve bottled water in a misguided effort to “go green.”
Take California. This week, the San Francisco International Airport prohibited the sale of single-serve water bottles in a far-fetched goal to become the first zero-waste airport in the world by 2021. Although no one will argue that trying to minimize plastic waste from entering the ocean or other undesirable places is a good intention, the reality is: Shortsighted bans that single out one plastic product while permitting others aren’t the way to protect Mother Nature.
For example, at the San Francisco airport, single-serve bottled water is now banned for sale, while water bottles larger than 1 liter are still allowed to be sold, which means millions of thirsty consumers looking for a sugar-free, calorie-free beverage will be forced to buy bottled water in larger plastic bottles, doing more harm to the planet than the bottles’ smaller counterparts.
Yes, public water stations are available at the airport to use if A) you can find one near your departure/arrival gate, B) you trust the city’s tap water and C) you bring a reusable bottle with you while traveling. If not, you’ll have to purchase one at a much higher cost than a fully recyclable $2 single-serve Poland Springs.
Additionally, the misguided ban allows dozens of sodas, energy drinks and other single-serve beverages to be sold in plastic bottles, which will cause a mass consumer shift to unhealthier, sugar-loaded beverages that have a similar or heavier weight than lightweight single-serve bottled water — doing more harm to the environment.
But those aren’t the only counterproductive aspects of San Francisco Airport’s ill-advised ban.
The prohibition will also restrict public access to safe drinking water at a time when major U.S. cities are experiencing a water crisis. In Newark, New Jersey, the public can’t drink the poisonous tap water due to too-high lead levels and other contaminants. In fact, just last week, Newark officials warned residents not to drink the tap water and to instead drink bottled water for the foreseeable future.
And who can forget Flint, Michigan, where just a few years ago, the public drinking water was also contaminated, killing 12 Americans and sickening 90?
Knowing that our nation’s water infrastructure is decaying and woefully old and rapidly coming to the end of its useful life cycle, now is not the time to ban access to lifesaving bottled water — especially in a city like San Francisco.
The reality is if the ultra-progressive government in San Francisco can’t manage its out-of-control homeless crisis that has thousands of humans sleeping on the streets — littered with human waste and hypodermic drug needles — how can the public trust its tap water is A-OK?
Something consumers ought to consider before jumping on the latest plastic-ban trend is that it could end up having a detrimental outcome for both the environment and public health.
A far better solution toward achieving sustainability is fixing America’s failing water infrastructure, which will reduce dependency on bottled water and increase recycling initiatives of all plastic and single-serve products nationwide.
Symbolic “feel-good” bans, in San Francisco and beyond, that selectively target one product and not others are not the answer.
Adriana Cohen is a syndicated columnist with the Boston Herald. Follow her on Twitter @AdrianaCohen16.