San Francisco has become the first city in America to ban the sale of water in plastic bottles. Over the next four years, the ban will phase out the sales of plastic water bottles that hold 21 ounces or less in public places. Waivers are permissible if an adequate alternative water source is not available.
This is a welcome first step towards tacking the plastic bottle plague. Whilst tourism is not the only cause of this form of pollution, it is a very obvious one – many tourists carry around bottled water and are not always careful about disposal. While I was in Kerala last week plastic pollution was very obvious; discarded plastic and glass bottles and cans bob around in the Vembanad Lake and in the backwater channels. This litter is not left by the sand miners and fishermen, although the polystyrene floating with the bottles is probably not left by tourists. In the household survey we are conducting in Kumarakom plastic pollution is coming up regularly in local people’s concerns about the negative impacts of tourism. Bottles which find their way into water courses end in the sea threatening marine life.
The industry needs to do more to encourage guests not to use plastics. In CGH Earth hotels guests are provided with cloth bags to use when shopping and the bathroom toiletries come in attractive reusable earthenware flasks. At CGH Earth’s Brunton Boatyard property they used to get through 15,000 bottles of water each year. They have installed a reverse osmosis water purifier and now serve water in reusable, and very stylish, glass bottles. The guests have a habit of taking them home so they are going to start selling the bottles in the hotel shop.
& Beyond has a similar plant at Phinda Private Game Reserve, where the bottling plant provides both still and sparkling water, known as “wild” and “tame” on &Beyond’s specially designed glass water bottles.
There are stylish alternatives to plastic bottles – gain some kudos by providing them.