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4 Dangers Of Reusing Plastic Water Bottles

Is It Dangerous To Reuse Plastic Water Bottles? - Almost Zero Waste

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If you are becoming more aware of plastic pollution, or you want to save money on water bottles, you are probably wondering if it’s a good idea to reuse plastic bottles.

If you care for the planet and your health, you should consider ditching plastic bottles at all costs.

Here it is why it is dangerous to reuse plastic water bottles – 

There are 3 main risks when reusing plastic water bottles – it can leach chemicals, it can grow bacteria and you increase the possibility of ingesting microplastics. Plus, a plastic bottle cannot be reused forever, which creates another rising environmental danger, which is plastic pollution.

Let’s look closely at each threat and why it’s best to avoid buying plastic water bottles. We will go through:

  1. Plastic bottles and the danger of chemical leaching
  2. Bacterial concerns when reusing plastic water bottles
  3. Microplastics in plastic water bottles
  4. Environmental dangers of plastic water bottles
  5. How to reuse a plastic bottle properly
    + signs if you shouldn’t reuse it
  6. Plastic-free water bottle alternatives
  7. Sum up

1. Plastic bottles and the danger of chemical leaching

Plastic bottles are usually made with a material called polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

On a positive note, plastic water bottles do not contain BPA, which is known to harm our hormones.   

Even though the US Food and Drug Administration stated that we could use PET substances for a single and repeated use, we should think twice before that.

HEAT 

While PET is generally “safe” and does not contain BPA, in the presence of heat, it can leach antimony.

That’s a potentially carcinogenic metal that is used during plastic manufacturing, which can leach into food and beverages.

Even though experiments, like this one, found that the leaching is always far below the amount believed detrimental to health, it can still cause vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach ulcers.

This study concluded that despite only a small fraction of the antimony in PET plastic bottles is released into the water, the use of alternatives, that do not leach antimony should be considered

Finding alternatives is even more important for climates where exposure to extreme conditions can promote antimony release from PET plastics.

SCRATCHES 

When we reuse plastic bottles, that also increases the chance of chemicals leaking out of the tiny cracks and holes that develop in the containers over time. 

Is It Dangerous To Reuse Plastic Water Bottles? - Almost Zero Waste

2. Bacterial concerns when reusing plastic water bottles 

Reusing a plastic water bottle over, and over again, can lead to the physical breakdown of the plastic, such as visible thinning or cracks. 

Scratches and cracks can not only leak chemicals, but they can be the ideal spot for bacteria growing.

Furthermore, the reuse of plastic water bottles can lead to bacterial contamination unless washed regularly. 

However, when bacteria and fungi grow in those small cracks, it can be more difficult to remove by cleaning.

In case you want to reuse a plastic bottle, make sure there are no visible cracks, and make sure to wash it after each use, with some soap and warm water.

3. Microplastics in plastic water bottles

Microplastics are literally everywhere – studies found small plastic particles in honey, beer, sea salt, fish & shellfish, and water bottles.

A study by Orb Media (2018) estimated that on average, a liter of a plastic water bottle (from brands such as Dasani, Aquafina, Nestle) contains roughly 10.4 plastic particles. 

Is It Dangerous To Reuse Plastic Water Bottles? - Almost Zero Waste

Another study (2018) examined samples of 259 plastic water bottles sold in several countries. The research found that 93% of them contained “microplastic” synthetic polymer particles.

The additional scary fact is that researchers found microplastic contamination in U.S. groundwater, too. 

But one is for sure – the chances of ingestion microplastics increase with frequent use of the same single-use plastic bottle.

Ultimately, microplastics in our food and water is a very tricky subject. The risks to human health need much more research since there is limited data. 

The fact that we don’t have enough information, doesn’t mean that the microplastics that we ingest are harmless. We should still try to avoid it.

Based on the information available – ‘microplastics in drinking water don’t appear to pose a health risk at current levels’. But it emphasizes that more research is urgently needed.

– World Health Organization by Beveragedaily.com
Is It Dangerous To Reuse Plastic Water Bottles? - Almost Zero Waste

4. Environmental dangers of plastic water bottles

“Fun” fact:

Across the globe, in just one year, more than 480 billion plastic drinking bottles were sold

Now take into consideration that the recycling rates in the US of PET were 31% in 2012, but it dropped to 29% in 2017.

So, what happens with the millions of plastic bottles? Most plastic, bottles end up in the ocean or in a landfill, or they are being burned. 

In the landfills and the oceans, plastics are harmful to our wildlife, and when burned, PET has an impact on emissions of gaseous pollutants, particulate matter* (PM) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons* (PAHs).

*PM – all solid and liquid particles suspended in air many of which are hazardous
*PAHs -made whenever substances are burned 

Additionally, PET plastic takes up to 400 years to naturally decompose. 

All in all, plastic bottles are not only a danger to our health, but they are harming our environment, and wildlife too.

The best option is to simply avoid buying plastic bottles and to look for better alternatives.

Is It Dangerous To Reuse Plastic Water Bottles? - Almost Zero Waste

5. How to reuse a plastic bottle properly and signs if you shouldn’t

In case you have plastic bottles that you want to reuse, you SHOULD:

  • wash it with warm soapy water after each use
  • keep the water in the fridge, since a study found that bacterial growth was markedly reduced at cold temperatures compared with room temperature

You SHOULDN’T reuse a plastic bottle IF: 

  • it is not from PET plastic
  • if it has scratches inside 
  • if it is super old

All in all, the plastic should not be subjected to extreme, hot temperatures or harsh detergents, and should be carefully inspected for physical damages. 

In case you want to reuse a plastic bottle, make sure there are no visible cracks, and make sure to wash it after each use, with some soap and warm water.

6. Plastic-free water bottle alternatives 

Now, I’ll quickly give you a few ideas, that can help you to avoid buying and reusing plastic bottles for the greater good 😀 

First, we will go through some cool plastic-free alternatives.

Then we will go through a few possible tricky situations, where you can still avoid buying plastic.

Remember to reuse what you already have! 

PLASTIC FREE WATER BOTTLE ALTERNATIVES:

1. Stainless steel water bottle

Easy & cheap swaps, that will save you some extra cash because you can reuse it over and over again.

Important notes: 

  • You have to wash it regularly, with soapy warm water. 
  • You can get a double-walled water bottle, which will keep your drinks cold/warm for 12-24 hours.
Dangers Of Reusing Plastic Water Bottles

2. Glass water bottle

There are tons of cool reusable glass bottle brands. Glass is a bit easier to break, but if you are careful, you can use a glass water bottle for a long time.

Important notes:

  • You can simply reuse a glass bottle, that you got from the supermarket! It is a good start, and it basically doesn’t cost anything.
  • You can also reuse a jar with a tight lid. 
Dangers Of Reusing Plastic Water Bottles

3. Charcoal sticks 

A traditional and 100% natural Japanese method to purify and improve the taste of water. This is awesome if you care about the water quality, and you want to drink purified, and clean water. 

Important notes:

  • A single charcoal filter can last about 3-6 months
  • A charcoal stick will filter the water for about 3-4 hours
Dangers Of Reusing Plastic Water Bottles

4. GRAYL water bottle

This one is incredibly handy if you travel to a country where the tap water is not drinkable. 

Important notes:

  • A simple, effective and quick way to improve taste, smell, clarity of water. GRAYL purifies & filters contaminated water in 8 seconds.
  • It is a bit pricey, but GRAYL offers 10 years of warranty, plus recycling program!
  • There are more ways to sterilize water – do your research & find the best option for you. 
Dangers Of Reusing Plastic Water Bottles
Image from: grayl.com

Related post: Healthiest Water Bottle: 9 Safe Options

TRICKY SITUATIONS:

Airport – Most airports are having water stations, so there is no need to buy plastic bottles at all. Just make sure your reusable water bottle is empty when you go through the Security Check. If there is no refill station, go to the toilet and fill it up (make sure the water from the tap is safe to drink!)

Nature – Here, a simple reusable water bottle will do the job. If it’s a long hiking trip, GRAYL will be a fantastic option, since you can simply filter the water for a river or a lake. 

Countries without clean water – The list of countries where you shouldn’t drink tap water is extremely long. If you are traveling often, or you are planning a trip to one of these countries, then a water filtration system, like GRAYL or SteriPen water sterilizer, will be the best option.

7. Sum up

Reusing your plastic water bottle may have some negative effects on your body, the environment, and our wildlife.

It is important to find better alternatives because wasting single-using plastic bottles isn’t good.

Glass bottles, as well as stainless steel bottles, are a much better reusable alternative. 

For more extreme situations, you can always get a water filtration system, like GRAYL.

If you want to see more options, you can check some of the best water bottles in my review here.

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