Green Travel — Airport Water Bottle Empty and Refill Stations

Author's Reusable Water BottleAirport water bottle emptying and refilling stations make it easy for travelers to use their reusable water bottle and skip buying bottled water at the airport.

I am a committed reusable water bottle user but have to admit that air travel does add complexity to using it.

Passengers can take empty plastic and aluminum bottles through security checkpoints. They key word is empty. I usually leave the house with a full bottle and sprinkle any remaining water on the parking lot plants before going inside the airport. A few times while standing in the security checkpoint line, I’ve remembered I forgot to empty my bottle. I really like my reusable water bottle and would not want to give it up at the security checkpoint or cause a delay in line, so I’ve gotten out of line and emptied it in a drinking fountain or restroom sink.

After making it through the security checkpoint it can be difficult to find a public drinking fountain to refill my reusable water bottle, especially in an unfamiliar airport. Filling a water bottle with the trickle that most drinking fountains seem to produce is not easy.

Waste Reduction

Per a survey by AAA, holiday air travel is expected to increase 4.5 percent over last year to 5.6 million travelers in 2012. Even if just 50% of the travelers purchased a 16-ounce bottle of water at the airport, that would be 2,800,000 plastic bottles which is a lot of plastic waste to deal with for only one item and over just a 2-week period. Imagine how many plastic bottles are thrown away in a year. Even if people throw the empty bottle in the recycling bin, the airport still has to deal with collecting it and disposing of it.

Water Bottle Refill Station at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson AirportThe main reason airports are installing water bottle emptying and refilling stations is to encourage people to bring and use reusable water bottles and thereby reduce plastic bottle waste. The benefit for airport users is secondary.

The Chicago Department of Aviation estimates that each refill station will be used to refill approximately 100,000 water bottles annually, saving approximately 29 tons of trash from going to landfills, and saving approximately 17,000 pounds of CO2 emissions. Some refill stations have counters to let users now how many 16-ounce plastic bottles have been saved from landfills.

Save Time and Hassle

Liquid Disposal Station Chicago O'Hare AirportWater bottle emptying or liquid disposal stations are placed near security checkpoint line entrances. This makes it fast and easy for passengers to empty their reusable water bottles and other liquids. The upfront reminder to empty liquids helps minimize delays and hassles that are caused by passengers carrying liquids in containers over 3-ounces.

For relatively low cost, water bottle refilling or hydration stations can be installed near the exit of security checkpoints or existing drinking fountains can often be retrofitted with refill units. Most refilling stations offer easy hands-free use. Users place their empty bottle on the unit in front of a sensor and it is automatically refilled.

On a future trip, I look forward to trying out water bottle emptying and refill stations. A growing number of airports are installing the units in New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Chicago to name a few.

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

One thought on “Green Travel — Airport Water Bottle Empty and Refill Stations”

  1. Now that is GOOD NEWS. I travel infrequently so might not come across the bottle emptying/refilling stations that hopefully will be installed at all airports but will certainly share this info with friends. The airlines could help spread the word by sharing this info on all the E tickets that are processed. The more people who are aware the more likely the airports will pursue the idea. It is mind boggling that each station could service 100,000 bottles per year. Goodby bottled water should be the cry of the land.

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