Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 29, 2016

Contacts:  Angelina Yu, SF Supervisor Eric Mar’s Office, (415) 554-7411,
Steve Jones, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 305-3866,
Kara Kaufman, Corporate Accountability International, (617) 695-2525,

SF's Limits on Plastic Water Bottle Sales Go Into Effect, But Loopholes Remain

This Weekend's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival Still Exempt From Ordinance

SAN FRANCISCO— San Francisco’s 2014 ordinance restricting plastic water bottle sales on city property goes into effect this Saturday, Oct. 1, cracking down on a leading source of ocean pollution and nonbiodegradable landfill waste. But the ordinance still won’t apply to this weekend’s massive Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park and San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar has joined with conservation groups in calling for the ordinance to be strengthened to close its loopholes.

Plastic in Golden Gate Park
Major concerts in Golden Gate Park, like this shot from Outside Lands in 2015, often create a mountain of plastic water bottle waste. Photo by Eric Mar. This photo is available for media use.

"San Francisco now has the one of the strongest common-sense bottled water policies in the country. The city is rightly prioritizing people's access to clean, safe drinking water over corporate profits," said Lauren DeRusha, senior national campaign organizer with Corporate Accountability International. "With grassroots support at a high point, San Francisco is now poised to strengthen the policy even further, blazing the way for cities across the country to make public spending on bottled water a thing of the past."

The ordinance applies only to plastic water bottles that are 21 ounces or less. It barred the city from distributing water bottles starting Oct. 1, 2014 and extends to most events on city property starting Oct. 1, 2016, although it exempts events run by not-for-profit entities with 250,000 attendees or more until Oct. 1, 2018. That exemption applies to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, which is expected to draw about 750,000 people and offers just a single free water fill-up station, located at a fountain between the Banjo and Arrow stages. Workers have been installing new water fountains around the city as part of the ordinance. 

“I’m proud that San Francisco has taken the lead on this issue, but we can do better. San Francisco has the best urban water in the country so there’s simply no reason for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and other large events to produce mountains of plastic waste,” Mar said. “That’s why my office is working on an update to close exemptions, examine waivers more carefully, and expand the 21-ounce threshold.”   

Tens of millions of single-use plastic water bottles end up San Francisco’s waste and recycling streams every year, according to findings in the 2014 ordinance that was unanimously approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Nationwide, Americans buy half a billion bottles of water per week, more than any other nation and enough to circle the globe twice. Producing and transporting plastic water bottles increases our overreliance on fossil fuels and it makes drinking water more expensive, even though about a third of water sold in the United States is simply repackaged tap water.

“Marine life is choking on the plastic waste in our oceans. Tap water is clean, healthy alternative to the throwaway plastic bottles that big corporations produce by the billions,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We support public water, not plastic for profit, and urge everyone to unbottle their water.” 

Mar is working with national groups pushing for reductions in the sale and use of single-serving plastic water bottles, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Corporate Accountability International, The Story of Stuff Project, Surfrider Foundation, and 5 Gyres.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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