NAPCOR Research Indicates Plastic Bottle Ban at S.F. Airport Causes Greater Environmental Damage Than Recycling – Packaging World

NAPCOR Research Indicates Plastic Bottle Ban at S.F. Airport Causes Greater Environmental Damage Than Recycling – Packaging World

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 The National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) warns of the negative environmental consequences of banning plastic bottles in airports, stadiums, and other large venues, based on the results of its Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) conducted in 2023. Banning the sale of plastic bottles in such venues is purported to be in the interest of the environment, yet research shows that recyclable PET bottles are better for our planet than common alternative beverage packaging.

The San Francisco Airport (SFO) implemented a total ban on the sale of plastic water bottles in August 2019. NAPCOR’s LCA research indicates that, since the ban began, replacing 9,000 water bottles sold daily with aluminum cans would mean an estimated 1,100 metric tons of cumulative extra CO2 equivalent emissions, compared to the greenhouse gas impacts from water bottles. These additional emissions are equivalent* to the greenhouse gas impact of driving 2.8 million miles in a gas-powered passenger vehicle and equivalent to CO2 emissions from:

  • 2,500 barrels of oil consumed,
  • 1.2 million lbs. of coal burned,
  • 200+ US homes’ electricity use for one year, or
  • 133 million smartphone charges.

*Calculated using the EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.

“There’s a common and dangerous misconception regarding the impact of plastics versus other packaging materials,” said NAPCOR’s Executive Director Laura Stewart. “However, research unequivocally shows that when it comes to beverage packaging, the more sustainable answer is polyethylene terephthalate, better known as PET. Large venues are touting environmental benefits with a ban on plastic containers; in fact, these moves are counterproductive and ultimately cause more harm than good.”

Lca 16 9 Oz Pet Vs 12 Oz Aluminum[62]

When it comes to beverage delivery systems and making a positive impact on the environment, the LCA found that PET beverage bottles are the best choice when compared to aluminum and glass packaging systems in the U.S. A PET bottle is 100 percent recyclable and can be made with 100 percent recycled content. PET bottles also have a lower impact on several key environmental metrics, including greenhouse gas emissions, expended energy, water consumption, and emissions related to smog formation, acid rain, and eutrophication potential. LCA results show that glass carbonated soft drink (CSD) beverage bottles tend to have the highest environmental impacts for these areas of concern, followed by aluminum beverage cans, then PET bottles.

The NAPCOR LCA found that compared with a 12 oz. aluminum can, a 16.9 oz. PET plastic water bottle:

  • Consumes 80% less energy during production
  • Creates 80% less solid waste
  • Uses 53% less water during production
  • Has a 74% lower global warming potential
  • Generates 68%-83% fewer emissions that contribute to acid rain and smog formation

“PET bottles are the best beverage container choice for our planet,” Stewart added. “We are concerned about the detrimental environmental effects these total plastic bans will have on the environment. If large venues like the San Francisco Airport that already have a recycling infrastructure in place want to have a positive impact on the environment, they should be investing in, and advocating for, the proper recycling of PET plastic bottles instead of banning them.”

This report comes on the heels of a recent study that found that banning plastic bags in the state of New Jersey tripled the amount of plastic used in the state, a move the Wall Street Journal called “a major inconvenience for state residents” and “an environmental dud.”

NAPCOR and its members educate the public on the environmental benefits of PET and advocate for legislative measures that encourage recycling. PET’s full benefits come when we make environmentally conscious decisions at the store, as well as what we do with the packaging after we enjoy the product it contains. Understanding the benefits of PET packaging is key to making informed choices and comprehending the environmental trade-offs associated with alternative materials.

Click to read the full LCA and learn more about the sustainability of PET.