The Launch of #BYORB – Bring Your Own Reusable Bottle to the Airport

Rows and rows of water bottles - Join the BYORB Campaign to get airport water fountains everywhere

Did you know that you can take an empty water bottle through security at airports?   Bringing your own bottle (BYOB) of wine or beer to a social gathering is quite normal, but when it comes to bringing a water bottle to the airport, most of us don’t bother.  We all know about the flight regulations which stop you taking any water through security, but many people don’t realise that you can take an empty reusable water bottle with you, to fill up once you get to the other side.  The amount of plastic waste that humans create every day is staggering, so anything we can do to avoid extra waste is vital!  So, I want to encourage as many people as possible to #BYORB to the airport.  Will you join me and bring your own reusable bottle to the airport??

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I pledge to never buy a bottle of water at the airport again!  If you would like to join us and pledge the same, please comment below to join the campaign to #BYORB!  The more of us who put pressure on airports and other transport services, the bigger the difference we will make. 

Why Do Airports Have the Strict Rules on Liquids?

The 100ml liquid rule was introduced in 2006 following a foiled terrorist attack.

Known as the 2006 Transatlantic Aircraft Plot, a group of terrorists planned to use liquid explosives disguised as soft drinks on a number of flights from the UK to the US and Canada.  They carried the liquid explosives in their hand luggage, along with a large number of batteries which alerted security staff and prevented the attacks.

That led to an immediate ban on any liquids being taken in hand luggage, until later that year when the current 100 ml restrictions were brought into effect.

However, the TSA has confirmed that bringing an empty water bottle through security is absolutely fine.

Security Measures in Airports include restricting liquids but not empty bottles
Security Measures in Airports include restricting liquids but not empty bottles

Why Am I Focussing on Water Bottles?

Flying has the highest carbon footprint of any form of transport.  The first solution to solve this issue would be to stop flying altogether, but that is harder to achieve when so many of us fly for business and pleasure.  There are plenty of other things we can do to reduce the carbon footprint of our flights, but bringing our own water bottle is an easy change that we can all make.  I mean, if we can stop using plastic straws then we can stop using plastic bottles. 

What Water Bottles Can You Bring Through Security?

Basically, any kind of water bottle is allowed through security, as long as it is empty.  The restrictions are on liquids, not on containers or other bottles so you can bring anything you like as long as it doesn’t break the other hand luggage rules.

Where Can you fill Them Up on the Other Side?

A lot of airports now provide water fountains where you can fill up your water bottle with potable drinking water.

However, many airports still don’t provide this simple service, so as part of this campaign, I will be contacting all British airports to confirm what water refill service they provide. 

Bear in mind that even if there is no airport water fountain provided where you are flying from, in the UK, regulations state that the bars or restaurants with water taps have to fill up your water bottle for you.  

In other countries, however, the rules aren’t so clear.  In Venice Marco Polo airport, for example, there are no water fountains, but asking at some of the food outlets you might get a refill even if you don’t buy anything.  After waving my bottle at a friendly lady behind the counter and saying ‘acqua’ I managed to get my water bottle filled up no problem.  But many people don’t feel comfortable asking for this, especially if you aren’t buying anything from the shop.

A solution could be to get a water bottle with a filter, such as a Water-to-Go bottle so you can fill up your bottle from the taps in the bathroom.  However, some bathrooms only have hot running water.  And why should we have to fill up a bottle in the bathroom?  We need to put more pressure on airports to provide water fountains so everyone can fill up their own reusable bottle. 

Although Manchester airport has water fountains, this one in Terminal 3 was not signed
Although Manchester airport has water fountains, this one in Terminal 3 was not signed

What I Plan to Do with #BYORB

From what I can see, there are several factors which come into play here.  The three main areas I want to focus on for the #BYORB campaign are:

  • Encouraging people to bring their own reusable water bottle to the airport
  • Putting pressure on airports to install drinking water fountains, and make sure they are well signposted
  • Contacting airport retailers to find other solutions to selling bottled water

I am based in the UK so will start the #BYORB campaign by concentrating on the UK, but if you are based anywhere else around the world and want to get involved please let me know.  I want to take the #BYORB message global so will need your help!

A reusable water bottle with a filter is essential for plastic free travel
A reusable water bottle with a filter is essential for plastic free travel

Assuming this first part of the campaign goes well, I also plan to contact airlines to see if they will agree to fill up people’s water bottles free of charge on flights, and take this campaign to other countries around the world.  We can do this if we all work together and #BYORB!  Here’s what I plan to do for the campaign:

Part 1: Encouraging People to Bring Their Own Water Bottle

I am so glad that the #waronplastic movement is gathering momentum.  We are more conscious than ever before about reducing our plastic use, so the time is right for more people to make this simple change and bring their own reusable water bottle to the airport – and everywhere they go! 

Buying a reusable water bottle will save you money and reduce plastic, it is a no-brainer! 

I want to spread the word and encourage more people to bring their own water bottle to the airport.  Many people don’t even realise that it’s possible, so I need your help to educate and inform everyone you know!  Please tell your friends and family, share this blog post on social media and encourage everyone to #BYORB.

According to data from Refill:

If every passenger in Heathrow departures lounge refilled a bottle instead of buying a single-use plastic bottle, Heathrow could reduce its plastic bottle consumption by over 35 million bottles a year!Click to Tweet

Imagine how much plastic we could save all over the world if we didn’t buy a bottle of water every time we went through airport security! 

Plastic waste is a huge issue all over the world
Plastic waste is a huge issue all over the world

Which Water Bottles Do I Recommend?

Water-To-Go

I’ve had this bottle for the last year while travelling around Europe.  Granted, here the water is potable a lot more often than in South America, but having the filter means I can top up the bottle wherever I am, whether that is an airport bathroom or hiking by a stream in the countryside.  The filter works like a straw, and you suck the water through the filter to clean it.  I’m working on a full review of the Water-to-Go bottle but you can read more information about it on their website here.

For sports fans, Water-to-Go has also just launched a sports filter bottle, designed to fit a bike water bottle holder.

I have partnered with Water-to-Go to offer all Tales of a Backpacker readers and #BYORB supporters a 15% discount on the purchase of a Water-to-Go bottle so you can save even more money!  If you are based in the US or Canada, click here to order your bottle now, or if you are in Europe or Australia, click here.  Simply choose the water bottle you want to buy, and put in the code BYORB for a 15% discount on your purchase.

Hiking in Scotland with my Water-to-Go bottle
Hiking in Scotland with my Water-to-Go bottle
Lifestraw Water Bottle

I bought this bottle for my 10-month backpacking trip around South America, and another one came with me to Mexico.  It didn’t disappoint!  I filled up the bottle from bathroom sinks, outdoor taps, rivers and lakes, and was still able to drink clean water thanks to the filter.  At the top of the bottle is an air hole to allow you to suck out the water and replace it with air – this can leak a bit if the bottle is on its side or upside down, but you can certainly live with it. You can buy Lifestraw water bottles on Amazon here.

I’ve suggested these two water filter bottles as I have personally used them and recommend them, but any reusable bottle is better than buying single-use plastic every time!  

 


 

Part 2: Putting Pressure on Airports to Provide Drinking Fountains

Why Are Airports Not Doing More?

I’d love to know how much revenue airports earn from the sales of bottled water in departure lounges.  How much does a water fountain cost to install? Even in airports where there is a water fountain after security, often the signage is so poor that people simply don’t know it is there.  As part of this campaign, I will be reaching out to all UK airports to try and find out why they seem to not encourage people to bring their own bottles.

For the airports who have already gone to the trouble of installing a water fountain, why not add a sign after security telling people that they don’t need to buy a bottle of water, they can just refill at the water fountain located by the toilets (or wherever it is).  We have signs for toilets, baby changes, prayer rooms, why not water fountains?  Access to free drinking water should be on the same level as these other essential services, we all need water to live and we all have a right to access free drinking water, especially in European and other countries where the tap water is potable, or would be if it wasn’t heated up in the bathrooms!

I have to say here that there are several airports already doing a great job here; for example, apparently Heathrow airport has 100 water fountains across four terminals which are clearly sign-posted and located near toilets for anyone to fill up their water bottles.  However, most airports are not doing anywhere near enough, so I’ll be contacting them all to find out why. 

If you want to help put pressure on airports, I’ve created a petition on Change.org so you can show your support for the campaign.  Please sign the petition now and show airports that we want a change!

SIGN THE PETITION

This water fountain at Birmingham airport is not well signed!
This water fountain at Birmingham airport is not well signed!

Part 3: Contacting Airport Retailers 

As soon as we pass through security, we are bombarded with bottled water encouraging us to stock up with plastic before we get on the plane.  There are offers to encourage us to buy more, sometimes you get a free bottle of water when you buy a newspaper or buy two water bottles and get a discount.  Filling up your own bottle will save you money, not buying a newspaper that you don’t need. 

In the UK, retailers like WH Smith and Boots offer a convenient place to stock up on items before you board and get a drink while you are at it.  However, package offers like meal deals encourage people to buy a bottle of water if you’re getting a sandwich and a snack then why not get a drink to go with it.  In this case, why don’t they offer two snacks instead of a drink with the meal deal?  Or better yet, a piece of fresh fruit without any packaging whatsoever? 

More bottled water for sale at the airport
More bottled water for sale at the airport

What Can You Do?

If you already #BYORB to the airport, that’s great!  Please let me know in the comments and share this blog post to help raise awareness that it is possible to bring your own empty bottle through security.  Tell your friends and family, post it on social media and help spread the word about #BYORB.  

Have you heard about the #BYORB campaign to bring your own reusable bottle to the airport? Join me and pledge to never buy a single-use plastic bottle of water at the airport again! Click to Tweet

If you don’t have your own reusable water bottle yet, please get one.  A water bottle doesn’t need to be expensive, and if you use it for several trips it will easily pay for itself when you don’t need to buy bottled water!  

Don’t forget to sign the #BYORB petition on Change.org here!

If you work for an airport, airline or airport retailer and have more information on policies regarding bottled and drinking water please get in touch.

Offers such as giving a free bottle of water with a newspaper are not uncommon at airports
Offers such as giving a free bottle of water with a newspaper are not uncommon at airports

Further Resources

These extra resources are helpful when you are travelling to see which airports and locations where you can fill up your water bottle. 

Money-Saving Expert

I’ll be following up with all British airports to see if this information is still accurate, but this article from Money Saving Expert in 2018 lists the airports which do or don’t have water fountains available.

Refill 

Refill started in the UK so has a fairly comprehensive list of water refill points in the UK.  It isn’t as effective in other destinations but it is growing, for example in Venice there are lots of water fountains in the city but the app doesn’t register them yet.  However, it relies on user input, so the more people who use the app and add in new water refill points, the more effective it will be.  The app is free to use, and Refill also has partnerships with various businesses who offer free refills of water bottles all over the UK.  >>>Download the app here

Water at Airports

This website lists the water fountains available at airports all over the world.  It isn’t the best-designed website but you can search for your airport from the list by country and find posts from the website designer and members of the public who have added their input.  

What do you think?  Will you join the #BYORB campaign?  Please let me know in the comments below and show your support by sharing this post and spreading the word.  Together we can make a difference!

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Bring your own Reusable Bottle to the Airport

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Last updated: February 17, 2020

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