Bottled Water: Reduce Use, Don't Reuse, and Recycle!

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Water. We all need it and understand the importance of keeping hydrated throughout the day, however, instead of using our own water bottles made of stainless steal or some other non-plastic, many of us are using store-bought plastic water bottles like Dasani or Aquafina, multiple times a day. Some quick facts:

  • The members of the United Nations estimate that if the world took half of what it currently spends on bottled water ($100 billion annually) and invested it in a water infrastructure and treatment, everyone in the world could have access to clean drinking water.
  • Is bottled water cleaner? The FDA’s standards for bottled beverages are NOT as high as the EPA’s quality standards for tap water and ~40% of bottled water is actually just tap water.
  •  How much oil is used to produce plastic for water bottles? 1.5 million barrels!! That is enough fuel to run 100,000 cars!!
  • Why aren’t we recycling?? Only 14% of plastic water bottles are recycled, according to the Container Recycling Institute.
  • A water bottle in a landfill or lying around as litter will take >1000 years to biodegrade. RECYCLE!!

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THREE REASONS TO AVOID REUSING PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES:

Get yourself a cute new stainless steel water bottle!

  1. The majority of water bottles are made of plastic type #1 (found in the recycling triangle at the bottom of ALL plastics), or polyethylene terephthalate (PET). This type of plastic is intended for single use purposes only because scientists believe that after multiple uses, chemicals in this light weight, shatter resistant plastic will leach in to the water they contain. One study was conducted by a University of Idaho Graduate Student for his master’s thesis, arguing that toxins from plastics #1 (water bottle plastics), leach in to drinking water. In 2006, this student’s project revealed 88% of bottled water users reuse their bottles for weeks, even months, at a time before recycling them.  Over this length of time, bottles are exposed to heat, light, and manual pressure, all of which cause the plastic to release unhealthy compounds, like the carcinogen di (2-ethylhexyl) or *DEHA, in to the water. To limit this type of chemical exposure, the study recommends limiting a plastic water bottle’s life span to less than a week and keeping it out of the heat and sun. In fact, most bottled water labels state to keep them in a cool, dry, and clean place, away from light. Do not refill. Seems easy enough.
  2. BACTERIA.  In 2002, the University of Calgary, published a study in The Canadian Journal of Public Health that showed alarming levels of bacteria (including fecal matter), in water bottles that were reused without being cleaned. Bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments, and this is another reason to avoid reusing plastic water bottles.
  3. Bottled water might not be more pure or clean than regular tap water. Some studies have shown that municipal water or tap water is actually the source of a significant amount of bottled water sold in this country.

While I am not suggesting to get rid of plastic water bottles completely, I would like to send a friendly reminder to help out the environment and avoid daily usage. If you’re at the mall and it’s between a soda and bottled water? Go for the bottled water. But if you’re at work and you can easily bring filtered tap water from home in a stainless steel water bottle, than go for it! The environment and your health will thank you!

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Safer Plastics:

  • #2 HDPE (high density polyethylene): used in opaque food bottles like milk or water jugs and the safest choice if you are using plastic!
  • #4 LDPE (Low density polyethylene): used in food storage bags and some soft bottles, a good choice if using plastic.
  • #5 PP (polypropylene): Used in rigid containers, including some baby bottles, cups, bowls, and food storage containers, a good choice if using plastic.
  • #1 PET (polyethylene terephthalate): Most clear beverage bottles used by Dasani, Crystal Geyser, Aquafina. etc), recycle after one use, use in moderation!

AVOID:

  • #3 PVC (polyvinyl chloride aka vinyl): food containers, some plastic or cling wraps, some soft bottles: avoid as best you can, if using plastic wrap, don’t let it touch your food!
  • #6 PS (polystyrene): Styrofoam, used in take out containers, meat and bakery trays, clear take out containers and some plastic cutlery: AVOID: it leaches chemicals in to your food, some of which can disrupt normal hormonal functioning.
  • #7 (polycarbonate or Lexan): used in 5 gallon water bottles, some baby bottles, and some metal can linings: AVOID: polycarbonate can release BPA, a suspected hormone disrupter that may cause chromosomal disruption, miscarriages, and birth defects!

*Side note: While the EPA no longer lists DEHA as a toxic chemical, the evidence is just not convincing enough for me to not be concerned about it. Why would a chemical, formerly deemed toxic, suddenly not harm us?

QUESTION: DO YOU TAKE A WATER BOTTLE TO WORK or SCHOOL? What kind? DO YOU RECYCLE?

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22 comments to Bottled Water: Reduce Use, Don’t Reuse, and Recycle!

  • Matt

    Although it certainly makes environmental sense to switch to Britta over bottled water, the idea that you shouldn’t reuse a plastic water bottle due to chemical leaching into the water is generally considered to be an urban legend (e.g. http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/plasticbottles.asp ). So if you’re going to buy bottles anyhow, at least reuse them (after washing with soap/hot water and drying them).

  • great post, thanks for the info Erin! i rarely drink bottled water (bad for the enviro!), Brita is how we do it at our home. ;)

  • [...] Bottled Water: Reduce Use, Don’t Reuse, and Recycle! [...]

  • Good post; requesting a slight correction for accuracy (and credibility) – 1.5 MILLION barrels, not BILLION are used to make plastic bottles each year. That’s still a high number (and 1.5M does translate to 100,000 vehicles worth of fuel consumption).

  • You’ve definitely convinced me to kick the plastic water bottle habit! These statistics are frightening! What resonates most is that “if the world took half of what it currently spends on bottled water ($100 billion annually) and invested it in a water infrastructure and treatment, everyone in the world could have access to clean drinking water.” <–Wow.

    I rarely re-use a plastic bottle, but I drink lots of Vitamin Water 0 (or SoBe Lifewater), and generate a lot of waste doing so. It would be much better for the environment to filter my own water and add flavoring on my own (for some reason, I don't like the "taste" of plain water). I think it's time to ask Santa for another Sigg bottle!

  • Being a water phanatic, it was very hard for me to beak the bottled water habit. I even wrote a post on this subject over a year ago…and about all the plastics, BPA, PET, etc. I go through my Brita and my Reverse Osmosis water jug like it’s nothing…and I can’t get my hubby off the bottles habit (he for some reason can only drink bottled, he hatted Brita…will drink the RO water if I have lemons to put in it–so weird). You’re right though, we all need to kick the habit and use only in moderation!!! I have a few of the aluminum water bottles that I carry around every day!!! They are great!

  • I have a reusable bottle that I love! This is such a great reminder post :)

  • Wow! Great post Erin! I actually thought that by re-using my water bottle over and over again would be the least I could do for the environment, Turns out I am completely wrong not too mention it is horrible for myself. Purchasing something more environmental friendly tomorrow. So informative. How do you pick the topics for your blog?

  • Thetreadmilldiaries

    I admit to using more bottles of water than I probably should because tap water freaks me out. I do recycle though. My hubby’s been trying to get me to change on this – and I’m considering it provided that I can get a good filter system set up n

  • Suuuuuuuuch a wonderful post! My husband got REALLY lazy with water bottles for awhile and started taking a bottle of water to work every day. I bought us both Starbucks plastic tumbler knock-offs that come with a straw. They are awesome! I love that they plastic is safe and they are insulated without sweating, and stay REALLY cold all day long. I fill it with ice in the morning and the cubes are going strong by noon. I am in love with the silly thing and I am drinking more water because of it, too!

  • Thanks for the info! I always bring a water bottle to school with me :)

  • I reuse my water bottles as much as possible before recycling them. Otherwise I’ll carry a reusable bottle. I’m a firm believer in the three R’s!!

  • HUGE Fan of my Sigg. I have such a hard time with seeing the waste daily with bottled waters.

    Great post!

  • AMEN! I bought my own water bottle a few years back, and I never buy the plastic kind anymore. I am going to send this to my sweet sister because she still buys huge packs of water each week. We are so lucky to have access to so much clean and safe drinking water, but so many people in the world are not as fortunate. We need to preserve our sources for future generations. Thank you so much for sharing. I hope you have a festive Tuesday!

  • We have a gallon jug that we refill with tap water and keep in the fridge. I pour from that through the day to fill my Camelback water bottle. It tastes just as good as bottled to me and I don’t have to buy/waste a ton of plastic bottles. AND I can keep track easily of how much water I’m drinking. I shoot for a gallon a day and having a fresh gallon each morning motivates me to drink as much as possible of it through the day. :)

  • Great post. Thanks for all the fact-checking. I am trying to ‘wean’ myself off off buying plastic water bottles b/c I know they’re no good. I usually use my own bottle for sports but I’m curious to know if it really doesn’t contain the phthalates. Thanks for sharing!

  • The boys have reusable water bottles that they take to school. I am totally grossed out by the fecal matter one that was mentioned. I am a germ freak and clean everything!

  • I use a SIGG bottle, but it is from pre 2008 and has a BPA liner. Although, since I’ve had it for 2 years my engineer friend explained that there probably isn’t an BPA left in it to leach out and I’ve probably consumed all the BPA by now. Awesome. :/

  • I have 2 reusable bottles which are stainless steel. One is for home/going out and the other is for the gym. At work, I usually drink out of a glass that I keep in my office, or out of a mug. Although recycling can be a bit of a pain, my house (myself and roommates) still do it because we were all brought up in families that did… just feels like the ‘right thing’ to do I suppose! :)

  • I try and always use my own water bottle. My dad is a freak with statistics and facts, so he’s been telling me the dangers of bottled water for years. The only time I buy bottled water is when I’m super desperate because bottled water scares me.

  • I use a reusable water bottle most of the time:) Thanks for the reminder about not reusing!- I usually remember, but it can slip my mind.

  • I have a reusable bottle that I use at work during the week. My only problem is when I forget it at home… and that’s when I have to resort to buying a bottle of water… boo!

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