Aluminum, stainless steel or plastic water bottles? What’s best? (+glass +copper)


A water bottle is only as good as its impact on three categories. If we really want to make a difference we need to take into consideration how the water bottle will affect our health, the environment, and the animals.

The best kind of water bottle will not have a negative impact on our health.

As we will find out in this article, not all bottles are created equal, and some do, in fact, have proven adverse health effects.

If we are able to recognize what separates the different bottles, we will know which ones to avoid.

Also, the impact of the bottle on the environment and the animals should be as minimal as possible.

For the past several years, we all have been becoming more and more aware of the importance of going green. And when it comes to choosing the best type of water bottles, it’s reusability is also an important factor. This will lead to less harmful impact on nature.

How to choose the best bottle for drinking water?

Here we will go through the most common types of water bottles that are sold and their pros, cons, and more.

The most common types of materials used for manufacturing water bottles are plastic, metal, and glass.

Some important details and aspects can differentiate them so. I will break them down in a few categories where needed, and we will explore their individual peculiarities and aspects.

Plastic water bottles

a man drinking from plastic bottled water

a man drinking from plastic bottled water

Plastic bottles are the most widely used type of water bottle in the world. And despite that, they have gained a negative image in the general public opinion.

However, are they really that bad?

As it seems, yes, and in more ways than expected. Let’s explore why exactly are they considered so bad.

1. Plastic water bottles contain chemicals and toxins.

bottled water factory

bottled water factory

One of the main reasons why plastic bottles have such a bad reputation is because they can be extremely dangerous to our health.

The main culprit is called Bisphenol A (or BPA). It is frequently used in the manufacturing of plastic bottles, and it is incredibly hazardous to us. It is considered an endocrine disruptor. And once consumed, BPA can act like a hormone it can really mess up our hormone balance and functions.

Hormones are responsible for virtually every process that happens in our body. So any unnatural change to their balance in the body may lead to negative health consequences.

Numerous studies have shown BPA to cause reproductive and infertility problems, developmental problems, and more. BPA is dangerous to humans of all ages, especially to children in developmental stages.

Being such a dangerous chemical, we should do our best to avoid ingesting it.

2. Bottled water is rarely different than tap water.

several plastic bottled water

several plastic bottled water

However, it is not just about the BPA found in plastic. The bottled water that we frequently buy is not any better than the tap water.

Some experts point out the fact that tap water is usually better regulated by the governmental authorities. And bottled water may go through very little if any regulation and testing.

Another significant disadvantage is that bottled water is a lot more expensive than tap water. And taking into consideration the fact that it may just be regular tap water will mean we may be paying a thousand times more than what we should.

3. Plastic bottles are incredibly dangerous to the environment and the animals

Plastic water bottles pollute ocean

Plastic water bottles pollute ocean

Plastic bottles are considered as one of the most polluting products that we consume on a daily basis. And there is a lot of data to back these claims.

According to some estimates, nearly 20,000 plastic bottles are bought every second. And these numbers are believed to continue rising. At the same time, a fraction of them is properly recycled.

Plastic bottles do not just take a long time to decompose; it is also believed that plastic bottles can take from 450 to 1000 years to decompose. This is not only dangerous to the environment, but it takes valuable space that we don’t really have.

Not only that but more than 1.6 million barrels of oil are being used for the manufacturing of plastic bottles each year. A valuable resource we don’t really have in abundance.

4. Even BPA-free plastic bottles can be bad for our health

bpa-free sign at the bottom of silicone bottle water

Drinking from a BPA-free plastic bottle may not be any different.

The problem is that despite being free of any BPAs, these bottles may contain other chemicals that can be just as dangerous to our health.

Since people got more aware of the adverse effects of BPA exposure, BPA-free plastic bottles became more demanded. Manufacturers managed to find a way to replace BPA with other chemicals. BPA is replaced by different chemicals like BPS, BPP, BPZ, BPF, and more.

The list is actually long.

I am sure you noticed that all these share a common trait they all have the BP part in them. Despite being different, they are a lot like BPA. There have been some studies that linked BPS, causing the same health issues as BPA in mice experiments.

Despite the lack of studies on all these substitutes of BPA, scientists believe they may all still pose the same health issues to us. And until we have such studies, I feel like it is better to stay safe and avoid using plastic bottles as much as possible.

There are no real benefits in replacing one dangerous chemical with another harmful chemical.

5. Microplastics

Last but not least, I’d like to point your attention to microplastics.

Using plastic bottles may lead to us consuming microplastics. One analysis was carried out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that inspected the most common water brands. The investigation was done on 259 bottles from 11 brands. From the 259 bottles that were tested, just 17 appeared to contain no plastics in them.

In conclusion, more than 90% of the bottles had microplastics in them.

Even if you never buy bottled water and just use plastic bottles for storing water, you may still be exposing yourself to microplastics.

So far, we don’t really have any studies examining the long-term effect of microplastic consumption. However, having microplastic fibers in our body is definitely not something that sounds natural. And even without studies to confirm it, we can safely guess that they are possibly not healthy in any way.

Scientists have been finding traces of fiber plastics in marine animals for some time now, and recently they were found in humans too.

6. Advantages of plastic bottles

a girl drinking from plastic bottled water

a girl drinking from plastic bottled water

Despite being harmful in many ways, plastic bottles do have their advantages. It is not a consequence that they are so widely used.

Plastic bottles are generally a lot cheaper than any other type of water bottle. They are very lightweight, which is making them extremely easy for carrying around.

Everybody may find themselves in a situation where they just have to buy a plastic water bottle. If you find yourself in a pinch, a plastic water bottle can be very useful and usually it can be used more than once.

A better option is to get yourself a reusable plastic water bottle. This is a great way to reduce the plastic waste that is continuously being generated.

One of the advantages of the reusable plastic bottles is that because their main purpose is to be used for a long time, they usually are BPA-free. As I mentioned earlier though they may still contain other chemicals, so make sure you inspect thoroughly what they are made of.

7. Plastic Bottles Summary

Human Impact: Health-wise plastic bottles should be best avoided. They are dangerous to our health on many levels. However, they are convenient and easy to be carried as they are usually very lightweight.

Animal Impact: Microplastics are being found in animals, and millions of animals die every year due to plastic waste.

Environmental Impact: Plastic products account for the majority of the plastic waste that is polluting the oceans. They take a lot of time to degrade and take a lot of space. Even after degrading, they still leave traces of microplastics and toxins that may never fully disappear.

Aluminum water bottles

aluminum bottle water on the grass

aluminum bottle water on the grass

If you buy a metal water bottle, this doesn’t mean it is made of stainless steel. Some metal bottles are made using aluminum alloy.

Knowing what your water bottle is made of is very important. The materials used may or may not have certain drawbacks that are very specific to them.

1. Advantages of aluminum bottles

Aluminum bottles are typically very lightweight. This is making them easy for carrying and are ideal for long trips and hikes.

They are also cheaper than the other types of bottles.

Aluminum bottles are a better long term solution. They are a good option if you want a reusable water bottle that can last you a long time.

2. Disadvantages of aluminum bottles

Nevertheless, aluminum bottles are not without their own drawbacks.

Aluminum is generally considered safe as it is a food-grade metal.

With that being said, aluminum can react with acidic beverages and foods. And in fact, it can be considered highly reactive to any acidic substances.

I believe it is also imperative to mention that this applies to aluminum foil and other aluminum containers and utensils, that we may use, too. If you pour an acidic drink, say an orange juice or cola, for example, this will cause aluminum to leach into the juice.

In the context of aluminum bottles (and cans) in order to combat that manufacturers place a tiny layer of epoxy resin or enamel. This tiny layer severs the purpose of separating and stopping any liquids from interacting with the aluminum.

At first thought, this is a good thing, as we will not be drinking liquids filled with extra aluminum in it. Unfortunately, this seems to have a significant downside to it. In some cases, this tiny protective layer may contain dangerous chemicals like BPA.

And when you clean your aluminum bottle, depending on how you do it, you may scratch this tiny layer exposing the liquids in the bottle to the aluminum.

Always make sure to check what your metal bottles are made of and whether or not it contains BPA. Aluminum bottles with a copolyester lining are usually a safe BPA-free alternative.

3. Aluminum Bottles Summary

aluminum bottle water without cap

aluminum bottle water without cap

Human Impact: Aluminum is highly reactive with acidic liquids and foods. This may lead to aluminum leaching into the water you are storing in the bottles. In order to prevent this, manufacturers use different resins or epoxy, which frequently can contain BPAs.

Animal Impact: Aluminum bottles should always be recycled. Thrown out in the wild may pose a danger to certain animals which may mistake them for food.

Environmental Impact: Aluminum takes about 80 to 100 years to decompose in the wild, depending on the environment. However, it is not biodegradable since it is a metal. Because of that, it is important to always make sure we recycle any aluminum bottles and cans we have. Recycling Aluminum is a lot easier on the planet and the resources and energy needed for producing new aluminum products.

Stainless steel water bottles

stainless steel bottle water on the grass

stainless steel bottle water on the grass

When it comes to water bottles made from metal, stainless steel is considered one of the best materials to go for.

1. Advantages of stainless steel water bottles

One of the main benefits and things that separate stainless steel bottles is the fact that they are extremely durable. Since they will not breaker as easily, they can serve you well for a long time. We can be looking at more than 10-12 years of use, if not more.

They are ideal for people that want a bottle that can withstand a lot of use. Any hiker or traveler will appreciate the durability of these little fellows.

Even if someday in the near future you decide to replace your stainless steel bottle, it can still be easily repurposed and used in other ways.

They are usually a bit better at keeping your drink a bit cooler or hotter for a longer time.

If you are wondering, stainless steel bottles are usually easier to clean too, as most of them can be used in the dishwasher.

2. Disadvantages of stainless steel bottles

black stainless steel bottle water without cap

black stainless steel bottle water without cap

One of the main cons is that a stainless steel bottle is always going to be more expensive than the other types of bottles. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Initially, they may seem like a big investment, but due to their long life, they will end up saving you a lot of money.

But how safe are stainless steel bottles?

Generally speaking, stainless steel is considered to be the least reactive to acidic foods. And usually, it is deemed to be safe for water storage.

This means that it also doesn’t have any epoxy or other types of layers that may contain BPA. However, if your stainless steel bottle is lined with resin, it may contain BPA’s that can leach into your water. So always make sure to go for uncoated stainless steel bottles and avoid using it for storing any acidic drinks.

Another very notable downside of stainless steel bottles is that they can leave a very specific metallic taste.

And this may pose some serious problems for some people.

In one study, it was found that cooking and storing acidic foods or liquids in metallic containers can lead to certain metals leaching into the food and liquids. As a result this may increase the dietary intake of these specific metals, namely chromium, nickel, and iron.

3. Stainless steel bottles summary

Human Impact: They are generally a safe choice as they do not contain any BPA or harmful chemicals that can leach into the liquids. Certain bottles may still have BPA thought.

Animal Impact: Metal bottles do not necessarily hurt the animals unless thrown out in the wild.

Environmental Impact: Stainless steel is 100% recyclable, making it one of the best water bottles due to its low-impact on the environment. Producing just one stainless steel bottle takes a lot more resources and energy than a plastic bottle. However, it can be used for a lot longer.

Glass water bottles

Reusable glass water bottle

Reusable glass water bottle

Glass is considered one of the ideal materials for storing liquids. In fact, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is one of the only packaging materials that fall under the category of Generally Regarded As Safe (GRASS).

If a specific material is labeled as GRASS, this means that experts agree that it is completely safe for food and liquid storage.

1. Advantages of glass water bottles

Have you ever wondered why the best brands of alcohol always use glass bottles?

The reason is that glass does not alter the taste. It can even make the taste of your water feel fresher.

You can even do a small test yourself. Pour water in a plastic bottle and a glass bottle and leave it to sit for a week or two. Then drink the water. I am sure the water in the glass bottle will taste fresher.

The good things about glass bottles don’t stop here.

Glass is 100% recyclable. It is made from sand and just by melting it can be used again for the manufacturing of new glass products. And this process of recycling does not alter the quality of the glass in any way.

Glass is a food-grade material, and it has no chemicals or toxins that can leach into your water. And if you use other drinks like smoothies and juices, it will not retain odor or taste.

Glass is easy to clean as it is usually dishwasher safe.

2. Disadvantages of glass water bottles

a glass water bottle

a glass water bottle

Out of all the other types of water bottles, glass is probably the easiest to break. If you are hiking a lot, or you just know that your bottle will need to withstand a lot of abuse, maybe the glass is not the best way to go.

Glass bottles are usually very sturdy, but even tempered glass can be broken. This means that extra care should be taken when using a glass bottle as broken glass can be dangerous.

Additionally, glass bottles are usually a lot heavier and more expensive.

3. Glass bottles Summary

Human Impact: Glass is one of the cleanest materials that will not alter the taste of your drinks and will not leach any toxins or chemicals in the liquids. The only negative aspect of glass bottles is their fragility.

Animal Impact: Glass may be dangerous to animals if thrown in the wild. That’s why it should always be recycled appropriately.

Environmental Impact: Glass is 100% recyclable. This makes it one of the greenest bottles out there. However, if thrown in the wild it will erode with time but may never decompose. Some scientists argue that even if it degrades, we may be looking at at least 1,000,000 years from now.

Copper water bottles

Copper Water Bottles with green background

Copper Water Bottles

Drinking water from copper bottles is said to be accompanied by a lot of health benefits.

Storing water in copper containers has been used for centuries in Ayurveda. And it seems that as of late the interest in the benefits of copper bottles is increasing.

1. Advantages of copper water bottles

Unfortunately, there are no studies that prove the majority of the health benefits claimed by people about the copper bottles.

However, some of the benefits of the copper bottles have been proven.

Few studies have shown that storing water in copper containers does, in fact, have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Copper containers can be used for purifying water.

But does copper leach into the water?

The amount of copper that leached into the water was minimal throughout all the studies and within the World Health Organization (or WHO) guidelines.

Interestingly enough storing water in copper containers tends to increase its alkalinity with time.

Alkaline water has been a somewhat controversial topic. Many people claim it has numerous positive health effects while there are not enough studies done on the subject. Some studies have suggested that drinking water with high pH may help with acid reflux, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, and blood flow.

2. Disadvantages of copper water bottles

copper water bottle and the copper glass

copper water bottle and the copper mug

Using acidic drinks and foods should be avoided as copper do react with the acids. This may lead to higher amounts of copper leaching into the drinks. The same holds true for any acidic food stored in copper containers.

Excessive copper intake can lead to some gastrointestinal problems, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting in some people.

While leaving regular drinking water in a copper vessel overnight may be considered safe according to the studies mentioned above, doing that with acidic liquids may be dangerous to our health leading to high amounts of copper to leach into the liquid.

3. Copper bottles Summary

Human Impact: Copper has been associated with antimicrobial and antimicrobial effects.

Animal Impact: Copper should be recycled as thrown out in the wild may pose a danger to some animals.

Environmental Impact: A lot of the metals are not biodegradable, and we should be careful not to throw them out in nature. Luckily copper is recyclable and recycling copper is a lot more energy and resource efficient than mining and producing new copper products.

What is the best kind of water bottle?

stainless steel bottle water on the grass

Some water bottles choices. which one do you prefer?

Almost every single kind of water bottle has certain drawbacks

.

It seems like the perfect bottle doesn’t exist.

However, there is a certain type of bottle that I feel like stands out from the rest.

1. Plastic is just bad

So far, we have examined the inherent risks of using a plastic water bottle. It has an adverse effect on our health, the environment, and the animals. So plastic is definitely out of the question. If we really want to stay healthy and have a positive impact on the environment, plastic is not the way to go.

2. Metal is a tricky topic

Aluminum is widely used for the production of soda cans, bottles, and more. It is cheap and lightweight material. However, it can have a negative effect on our health in some cases. Since aluminum reacts with acidic drinks and foods, it may contain BPA.

Another type of metal that is used is stainless steel. Although more energy and resource-demanding it certainly has excellent overall characteristics making it a possibly safer choice. However, it certainly isn’t without its drawbacks that need to be taken into account.

In some instances, it can leach metals into our drinks, or it may even contain BPA.

Then we have water bottles made from copper. Copper has an unique characteristic that is not found elsewhere – it can reduce the microbe and bacteria content in the water that is stored in it.

3. Glass is fragile but healthy

The other type of material is glass, which seems to be the best way to store liquids and overall, the best way to drink water.

Glass is not going to have any negative effects on your health and is generally considered a green and environmentally friendly material.

The only downside is that we need to be careful handling the bottles as they can be very fragile and easily broken.

Resources I used:

  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0890623813003456
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