The Unpleasant Reality of Plastic Water Bottles at Airports

What do you do when maintaining your health is bad for the planet’s health?

You know you need to drink plenty of water every day to keep your system clean and running well. That’s harder to do when traveling – and many of the ways available to do it are bad for the environment.

Airports are especially bad for both sides of the equation. You can’t take water through security, but they make it awfully hard to get free drinking water once you’ve dutifully chucked yours out before security.

You can stop by a beverage shop inside security and get a healthy fruit juice, of course, but that costs money – and usually comes in a disposable cup or bottle. Or you can buy a bottle of water at a store – for a few dollars, and you’re left with a plastic bottle.

And there, my friends, is the biggest problem.

The planet is drowning in plastic. According to Euromonitor International, humans produce 20,000 plastic bottles per second, and fewer than half are turned in for recycling – and just 7% are turned into new bottles.

It’s a particular problem for airports. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport tells readers of its website that 130,000 bottles are tossed in its recycling bins every week. That adds up to 70,000 kg a year. “And this mountain of plastic waste is continuing to grow, since more and more passengers are departing from Schiphol.”

PHOTO: Sea-Tac Airport

Schiphol recycles all those bottles, but not every airport does. And recycling still uses water and creates waste and pollution. Remember, there are three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Recycling is the last of the three for a reason. You can reduce your use of bottles by reusing the same one, and then you will decrease the recycling load. Pack a reusable water bottle in your carry-on. A well-made one can even keep your water cool and fresh – and it may be made by more environmentally friendly means than the usual clear crackly ones.

Whatever you use, though, make sure it’s empty before you get to security! Schedule a bathroom stop before you get in the security line. You can pour water you don’t want into the sink while you’re there.

Refilling after security is more of a challenge in some airports than in others. Buying a bottle of water and pouring it into your reusable bottle defeats the enviro-friendliness. But most airports at least have drinking fountains, and some have dedicated refilling stations. You may also be able to get water from the soft drink area at a cafeteria.

But wait: there’s more. Once you’re on the plane, you can still drink from your bottle, of course, as long as it has water in it, but you may want to have a tea or coffee or something else as well.

That also comes with waste. Most airlines throw out at least a million cups every month. So if you plan on having more than one beverage during your flight, hang on to your cup and reuse it if they’ll let you.

When you keep yourself properly hydrated, you’re making for a healthier you. And when you reduce your use of plastic and other disposables, you’re making for a healthier planet. If you can do both at the same time? You’re on Cloud Nine.

Cristina Alcivar

Founder and Editor of Vane Airport Magazine. Passionate about everything well-being, love travel, the ocean and the sun.

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