SFO Airport Implements Zero-Waste and Replaces Plastic Bottled Water with Reusable, Recyclable Alternatives like PATHWATER

SFO Airport Implements Zero-Waste and Replaces Plastic Bottled Water with Reusable, Recyclable Alternatives like PATHWATER

The untold story of reusability, recyclability, and zero-waste 

San Francisco airport (SFO) to become the FIRST triple zero airport in the world! San Francisco Airport (SFO) set its sights on ZERO WASTE by 2021, and they are well on their way to achieving their goals. How can an international airport the size of a small city ever hope to make this happen? Well SFO has indeed done their homework, and after reviewing the data, they are now offering genuine solutions, which entail bottled water that is made out of 100% recyclable materials such as aluminum and glass which are part of a closed-loop recycling system. PATHWATER not only provides travelers with purified water in an aluminum bottle but also boosts sustainability efforts to a whole new level. They do this by providing a bottle that is truly affordable, durable, and REUSABLE -  an experience no other bottled water has focused on.

PATHWATER is one of the genuinely sustainable bottled water options hydrating parched passengers at the San Francisco Airport. The mission of zero waste aligns equally with reusability, which is a vital strategy for any zero waste goal. PATHWATER is excited to be a part of the first triple zero airport in the world.



What Does SFO’s Zero-Waste Airport Efforts mean for Travelers?

  • Increased convenience
  • You can still buy bottled water; it will now be sustainable
  • 100 water refill stations with cold water from Hetch Hetchy 
  • More sustainable options, less guilt at the register
  • Better hydration for travelers
  • Affordable, reusable bottled water now sold, look for PATHWATER
  • BYOB (bring your own bottle), or NOT - PATHWATER has you covered

The experience for travelers will go above and beyond most airports when it comes to hydration. Most travelers will not even notice the difference, just maybe the increased hydration, and overall savings from buying less plastic bottled water. On average, 9,000 plastic water bottles are purchased at SFO on a daily basis. Now, those water bottles will be 100% recyclable, and some like PATHWATER will be 100% reusable - helping travelers carry their sustainability efforts beyond the airport. For example, when you head over to grab lunch at Napa Farms between your connecting flights, you can now pick up a cold, cost-effective PATHWATER. Then, when you're done, you can confidently either recycle the aluminum bottle on-site, or better yet, keep it with you for as long as you wish (days, weeks, years).


SFO Airport Implements Zero-Waste and Replaces Plastic Bottled Water with Reusable, Recyclable Alternatives like PATHWATERA reusable PATHWATER being refilled at SFO refill station. Photo courtesy of @flysfo

Napa Farms - Bringing sustainable, local food and beverage like PATHWATER to SFO

Napa Farms - Bringing sustainable, local food and beverage like PATHWATER to SFO

Napa Farms offers a healthier, more sustainable dining experience for travelers. So a mission-forward partnership with local company, PATHWATER, was a natural solution to plastic waste for the forward-thinking artisanal market.  

PATHWATER’s purified water in a refillable and recyclable aluminum bottle is currently the most widely accessible bottled water in more than 20+ SFO airport shops. This includes Napa Farms which has a co-branded bottle with PATHWATER, exemplifying their commitment to sustainable solutions and support of the SFO zero-waste initiative. 

“Napa Farms Market is the artisan marketplace that celebrates the best of Northern California’s agricultural bounty. It is located in Terminal 2 and International Terminal G. We believe in sustainable, organic quality food and beverages. Our partners and suppliers demonstrate that philosophy. We curate upcoming local suppliers who align with our values to make sure we stay current.” - Napa Farms

Why Zero Waste -- The Circular Economy at SFO

The dedication to Zero Waste goes hand-in-hand with the ideals behind a circular economy-- that is, stop harvesting new/virgin materials in order to create new products and more waste. Plastic does not fall into that category because when, OR IF, plastic is collected, it is usually incinerated or sent to landfills. If plastic is sent to a recycling plant, it is DOWNCYCLED into other things like carpet, which inevitably ends up in the trash. Here’s a great breakdown explaining the downcycling process. Single-use plastic bottles (a priority plastic pollution source) requires 90% virgin PET plastic material in order to make a new bottle. Did you know that aluminum is 100% recyclable? That’s why we at PATHWATER chose this material for making a REUSABLE bottle and are two of the main reasons why it’s on the APPROVED bottled water list at SFO. 

“Pivoting away from a conventional lifecycle of a product with a finite end, a zero-waste system focuses on reinventing consumption into a process of renewal and regeneration that mitigates environmental impacts and builds a circular economy through a suite of new jobs required to ensure a product has a continuous journey.”- SFO’s Zero Waste Plan

A reusable PATHWATER being refilled at SFO refill stationA reusable PATHWATER being refilled at SFO refill station. Photo courtesy of @flysfo


How SFO is Putting Zero-Waste into Action - A Model Any Airport Can Follow

First, SFO officials created a comprehensive plan in 2017 to get to the Zero Waste goal. Officials collected data by monitoring where most of the waste at the airport was generated. They determined specific areas where more trash was collected (pre-boarding/TSA areas, paper towels in restrooms, food and beverage containers, and different types of waste in lounge/waiting areas, for example), and then how much of the waste was sorted into actual waste, recyclables, and compost. 


SFO sustainability agents found: “In Fiscal Year 2015/2016 (July through June), SFO recorded a 57% material diversion rate which resulted entirely from the sorting of renewable materials on-site at the Airport by our staff, tenants and passengers. Of the source-separated materials, more than 70% (4,917 tons) were reported as compostable and processed at a composting facility in Gilroy, CA; the remainder was hauled by South San Francisco Scavenger Company.”


How SFO is Putting Zero-Waste into Action - A Model Any Airport Can Follow | PATHWATER


After a thorough examination of the different types of waste and where waste was mostly being generated, SFO created plans to tackle specific areas. For instance, a study of the airport commission (shops, parking, curbside, terminal, office, break room), the airline (office, aircraft, lounge), and the tenants (storage, retail, food & beverage) was conducted. The study determined that specific recommendations such as better labeling of recycling and compost bins should be made to reduce waste.

Current Status of SFO’s Zero Waste Plan


  • Establish a baseline and identify annual reduction targets



  • Evaluate opportunity to design and build a Solid Waste Sorting Facility and Program  
  • Develop and implement a Zero Solid Waste Management Plan by the end of 2017
  • Eliminate the sale of plastic shopping bags at SFO and promote the use of recycled-paper shopping bags
  • Achieve a 30% reduction in paper use



  • Eliminate the sale of plastic water bottles to promote the use of reusable water bottles
  • Work with food and beverage vendors to create a program where perishable goods are donated to people in need, reducing landfill.

SFO-Approved Bottle list | PATHWATER


Conclusion: As California goes, so goes the globe

San Francisco is a city long accustomed to being the forerunner on issues of importance regarding environmental initiatives. Long before the national debate on climate change gained traction, San Francisco was already preparing to go to battle for the planet. On August 20th, SFO will be uplifting how travelers consume and purchase their water - from plastic to aluminum, glass, and reusable aluminum bottles. "Instead of drinking PATHWATER one time and throwing the bottle away, this is the bottle you can keep and you can refill for as long as you want," explains PATHWATER's Co-founder & CEO, Shadi Bakour. 


SFO is truly walking the zero waste walk, and after much research, they intentionally decided not to include single-use plastic as well as drink boxes which have a plastic-lined structure mixed into the packaging. "This is history in the making. SFO has seriously done their homework. More than just getting rid of single-use plastic bottled water, SFO is committed to addressing all water packaging whose life cycle assessment proves unsustainable. This move will save travelers the headache of trying to make the most sustainable choice at the counter. SFO has already done the hard work, and we're excited PATHWATER is a solution in SFO as they achieve their zero-waste goals." - Ali Orabi, Co-founder and VP of Marketing


Having a list of approved bottled water by material-type provides a template for other airports, and even businesses, schools, cities, and organizations to quickly initiate zero-waste efforts. The list is narrowed down to only include reusable, genuinely recyclable bottles such as aluminum and glass. These efforts are vital for SFO and all organizations with sustainability initiatives that are looking to address their carbon footprint through zero waste efforts. We now know if we continue business as usual, by 2050, there is expected to be more plastic in the ocean than fish, revealed by a World Economic Forum Report.


With 8,000,000 tons of plastic ending up in our oceans each year, SFO's move will have a major positive environmental impact. PATHWATER is dedicated to the same mission and is looking forward to showing travelers at the Airport and around the world that sustainability can be convenient, cost-effective, and adventurous.

SFO's move will have a major positive environmental impact | PATHWATER


PATHWATER is the first-ever reusable bottled water - a hybrid of purified water in a 100% reusable and recyclable aluminum bottle. PATHWATER is on a dedicated mission to educate and provide sustainable solutions to the plastic crisis and change the beverage industry as a whole by introducing reusability aside from recyclability. PATHWATER will now be available in the San Francisco Airport (SFO) which sees more than 50 million passengers annually. We hope to help all who pass through SFO to eliminate plastic water bottle waste by replacing previous plastic bottled water with alternatives like PATHWATER. Founded in 2015, PATHWATER has three goals: (1) to provide a sustainable option to reduce and reuse; (2) to educate others about reducing waste and; (3) change a stagnant, polluting industry of single-use plastic. PATHWATER puts people and the planet before profits. For more information, visit: https://drinkpathwater.com/ or email ali@drinkpath.com and support the #RefillNotLandfill revolution on Facebook and Instagram. 


















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