Why Airports Need Zero-Waste Initiatives | PATHWATER

Why Airports Need Zero-Waste Initiatives

Microscopic fragments of plastic have been found in the furthest reaches of the sea. Animals are consuming high rates of these tiny microscopic plastic particles - enough to make one credit card every week, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Microplastics rise up into the atmosphere and drop back down in our local environments. This diagram shows where plastics end up throughout their long, endless travel and life cycle.


Diagram showing plastics long endless travel and life cycle | PATHWATER


With the hustle and bustle of major Airports around the world, the assumption has been created that “on-the-go” implies waste. Plastic waste, food waste, biowaste, paper waste, you name it, if it can be tossed, it was considered to make life “easier.” This wasn’t the case in the 1950s. Airport restaurants were a place where people sat down, and if someone wanted to buy a sandwich on-the-go, it would be wrapped in newspaper, and beverages came in returnable glass. Airports have a special ability to decide how and when they allow waste to be filtered into an Airport. While there is a responsibility to vendors for maintaining profitability, this profitability does not have to be based on waste. Instead, it can be based on reusability, composting, and selling sustainable products, not wrapped in plastic intended for single-use and trashed when travelers are scurrying between their connecting flights. 


The bottom line is that all airports need to adopt zero-waste initiatives because of the vast amounts of traffic they see, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and the waste that accompanies this amount of traffic. From a business standpoint alone, the cost of waste management alone for such high volumes is motivation enough to tackle the waste issue. 

Benefits of plastic elimination for SFO Airport Travelers

According to an article in the Journal of Medicine, it’s important for travelers to drink the right amount of water since there’s a lack of moisture in the air of the airplane cabin which can cause dehydration. Installing refill stations provides travelers with clean drinking water. This is just one area where PATHWATER adds to a travelers experience since the bottles are designed for reuse. Travelers no longer have to purchase so many bottles of water just to stay hydrated, they now have a bottle they can use at one of the many refill stations filled with Hetch Hetchy water at the Airport. Passengers who are accustomed to buying plastic bottled water can now grab a PATHWATER bottle for the first time and create a lifelong relationship; one of reusability. This gives people a new way to look at packaging, one that makes people think of how reusability benefits people and exposes the greed and waste of single-use beverage packaging. 


From the first time a person refills their bottle, they save money, and each additional refill after that can be calculated not only as cost savings but also as environmental impact reduction.


PATHWATER partners with SFO store, Napa Farms Market

The PATHWATER team was happy to partner with a hugely popular SFO store, Napa Farms Market. Our partnership came with a beautiful co-branded bottle. Now travelers scoping out locally crafted food can enjoy a locally crafted sustainable bottled water. Overall, the main points for travelers to note are:

  • The increase in 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

The convenience travelers are experiencing is heightened, with 100 refill stations filled with Hetch Hetchy water at San Francisco Airport. All airport visitors will have the option of bringing their own canteen, or they can buy PATHWATER. At the same price as plastic bottled water, everyone can keep the most affordable canteen-style bottle that happens to have water already in it. Once they cross the gates, passengers can refill at one of the many stations with the Bay Area’s favorite, Hetch Hetchy water. Typically after someone refills their PATHWATER bottle only three times, they’ve reduced their carbon footprint, and this ties in perfectly with SFO’s zero-waste initiative. If for some reason the person doesn’t want to take the bottle with them, aluminum is the most recycled material in the world, and the bottle can be recycled before boarding.

Benefits for SFO Airport Shops

Not only is PATHWATER making the distribution process seamless for stores, but we are also engaging and educating everyone about the plastic crisis and how everyone benefits from zero-waste initiatives. Vendors will also be satisfying the growing number of people who are becoming more aware of the plastic waste crisis. This is a label of true sustainability, very few stores in the U.S. can wear. This badge of sustainable honor is of great benefit to the stores at SFO who will be seen as forward-thinkers, ready to make airport sustainability a profitable choice.


PATHWATER a label of true sustainability 


Benefits for SFO Airport

Of course, the Airport’s number one goal out of seven is to “Revolutionize the Passenger Experience” which include achieving zero waste by 2021. This is beneficial to the Airport as it lowers costs in almost every area, including energy, waste management, water conservation, and overall stimulates the circular economy which also has a positive impact on our planet.


The impact of SFO’s zero-waste path

Any time a company, building, or institution, the size of San Francisco Airport creates and executes a zero-waste initiative, it has a giant impact on people and the planet. We can also say that sustainability policies incite continued progress and innovation. For instance, take single-use plastic, the world is at the point where most people agree the material needs to be banned, now. Naturally, environmentally-conscious solutions are beginning to pop up. Some are more sustainable than others; nevertheless, innovations are occurring. This is how we at PATHWATER started our journey, knowing we needed to find a solution that combined accessibility in cost, reusability, and genuine recyclability. The PATHWATER mission ties in with SFO’s as we both want to:

  1. Improve the environment 
  2. Create less waste  
  3. Create better, green jobs
  4. Create a better experience for travelers
  5. Support the commitment to Closed-Loop systems


Any airport can successfully achieve zero-waste | PATHWATER


Conclusion: Any airport can successfully achieve zero-waste

Any airport can implement a zero-waste initiative, and remove single-use plastic; it just takes a united effort, commitment, and education of everyone along the way. The fact is, the planet cannot wait until 2030 or any later to implement single-use plastic bans. According to the World Economic Forum, at the rate we are currently producing plastic, it is calculated that by the year 2050 we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish, by weight. San Francisco Airport’s leadership on such a huge initiative and goals for 2021 achievement, is more than monumental, it’s an actual blueprint for the world’s international airports to follow.


With international waste issues at the forefront, it’s only a matter of time before more Airports tackle zero waste initiatives. This is why the Airport team at PATHWATER is laser-focused on daily visits and support for SFO. We’re making sure every airport ready to make the transition can have a smooth, easy, and exciting experience. Our team who has already proven it can fill a critical need and offer great support for airports looking to accomplish zero-waste goals. We are just as committed to getting rid of plastic water bottles as the airports we work with. Win-win. The Airport lifts one less aluminum can, and the drinker can start counting savings by dividing it’s one time cost by the number of refills.

We look forward to making reusability, business growth, sustainably sourced water, and reusable aluminum bottles the norm for zero-waste models. 



PATHWATER is the first bottled water to create a hybrid of sustainable solutions, combining local purified water with reusable aluminum packaging designed intentionally for reuse. Our mission is a circular economy focused. PATHWATER also provides filtered water refill stations as an entire package. For any inquiries, contact Gulshan Kumar, Director of Food Services.

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