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Bye-Bye Plastic: LAX Prohibits Single-Use Water Bottles

Los Angeles International Airport became the second major airport in the U.S. to ban the sale of single-use plastic water bottles after San Francisco imposed a similar ban in 2019

by Lauren Smith

July 31, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of Tanvi Sharma / Unsplash

Travelers can no longer purchase plastic water bottles at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), as the airport bans the sale of single-use plastics in a sustainability drive.

With TSA regulations still requiring air travelers to empty containers of water bigger than 3.4 ounces (100ml) at security, plastic bottles have become a staple of airport terminals, sold in their millions at kiosks and discarded at arrivals gates.

Photo: Tom Bradley Terminal Main Hall, LAX Airport. Courtesy of LAX

But with airports trying to curb their environmental impact, many have been encouraging travelers to bring refillable bottles instead and offering airside drinking fountains and refill stations to help them stay hydrated.

LAX is going even further. In 2021, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA)—which operates both LAX and the smaller Van Nuys Airport (VNY)— committed to phase out the sale of single-use plastic water bottles in the airports over two years. The timeline gave vendors time to sell out their inventory of bottled water and adjust their purchasing contracts.

It also gave LAWA time to work with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to install hydration stations in both airports.

Photo: Tom Bradley Terminal. Courtesy of LAX

While vendors can still sell water in recyclable aluminum or glass bottles, LAWA chief executive Justin Erbacci urged travelers to add reusable bottles to their packing lists and fill them in at the terminal.

“We encourage our guests to help us reach our goal of eliminating plastic waste at the airport by bringing a reusable water bottle and filling it up at one of our many hydration stations,” he said.

Before the ban, nine million plastic water bottles were sold at LAX in 2019, the equivalent of 24,000 bottles daily. Eliminating plastic water bottles is a crucial part of LAWA’s Sustainability Action Plan (SAP), which aims to make LAX and VNY airports zero waste and carbon neutral by 2045.

Photo: Courtesy of LAX

The plastic water bottle ban applies to vendors in the airport, vending machines, and events but not to airlines, who may still hand out plastic water bottles as part of their flight services. Beverages other than water, including sodas and juices, can still be sold in plastic bottles.

The prohibition makes LAX the second airport in the world to prohibit the use of plastic water bottles, following San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in 2019. In 2021, SFO extended the plastic ban to all types of beverages.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said the ban will help the wider city deliver its Green New Deal and reach its goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

“The climate crisis is a great challenge facing our city, and phasing out single-use plastic water bottles at LAWA facilities is an important step to reducing our environmental footprint and protecting the health and livelihood of all Angelenos,” she said.