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Travel tips: LAX just banned an item tons of travelers carry (but you can recycle it!)

Guess you'll just have to buy a beer at the airport bar

exterior of LAX airport with multiple grounded airplanes
466654/Pixabay / Pixabay

Here’s a travel tip for anyone traveling to or from Los Angeles: add reusable water bottles to your packing list. In an effort to support the California city’s continued commitment to sustainability, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has bid farewell to single-use water bottles. That’s right — travelers will no longer be able to purchase plastic bottled water at LAX. Here’s what you need to know.

plastic water bottle with a blue lid laying on its side

Why did LAX ban plastic water bottles?

This decision to remove plastic water bottles from LAX is part of the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) commission’s broader sustainability initiative, aiming to make all of its airports zero-waste by 2045. The ban took effect on June 30 after a two-year phase-out period that allowed airport vendors and businesses time to use their remaining water bottle inventory and fulfill any contracts already in place prior to the switch. 

LAX has strategically implemented additional water bottle refill stations, all the while emphasizing the need for travelers to contribute by bringing their reusable bottles through media outreach, including posts on their various social pages. Justin Erbacci, CEO of Los Angeles World Airports, encourages guests to join the airport in its quest to eliminate plastic waste, highlighting the importance of utilizing the newly installed hydration stations. “Eliminating single-use plastic water bottles is essential to improving our environment and enhancing sustainability across our airports,” Erbacci said in a press release.

The initiative aligns with the city of Los Angeles’ broader plan. Both LAX and Van Nuys Airport (VNY), part of LAWA, have jumped on board with L.A.’s Green New Deal, a city-wide initiative launched in 2019 to propel the city toward a low-carbon, green-energy future, targeting complete carbon neutrality by 2050.

Four reusable water bottles of various shapes and sizes

What travelers need to know about the LAX airport water bottle ban

The announcement for LAX hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing. A Facebook post from June 30 generated a whirlwind of comments, with many travelers expressing concerns about the practicality of the ban. Some travelers pointed out that the airport, a significant carbon emitter, hasn’t adequately addressed the need for water bottle filling stations, particularly in Terminal 6. Complaints ranged from non-functional bottle fillers to questions about the sanitary conditions of the stations, raising questions about the ban’s feasibility.

But what happens when you forget your reusable water bottles at home? Thankfully, you can still purchase water in recyclable aluminum or glass at LAX — it’s just single-use plastic bottles that you won’t be able to buy. And don’t worry, you can still get plastic bottled water in-flight, according to the LAWA press release.

If you’re looking for a soda or sports drink, those will still be available for purchase inside LAX terminals. But a ban on those single-use plastic beverage containers may come later, should LAX decide to follow in the footsteps of San Francisco Airport, which implemented its expanded ban to include all beverages in plastic containers back in 2021. Other airports worldwide have also embraced the trend of eliminating single-use plastic bottles. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport boasts over 50 water bottle refill stations, showcasing a growing commitment to environmental consciousness in the travel industry.

Despite the initial backlash and uncertainties for the future of bottled beverages in Los Angeles, the ban’s bottom line is clear: no more plastic water bottles at LAX, even in vending machines or airport events. Maybe don’t think of it as a ban, but instead, look at it as every LAX traveler’s tiny role in a more sustainable future for air travel. So, remember to pack that reusable bottle next time you’re at LAX because you’re part of the solution.

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Ashley Jones
Ashley is a freelance journalist with bylines across a range of online and print publications.
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