The world is filled with plastic and as a result, you might feel a little guilty tossing your plastic water bottle into the trash after drinking it.
If you are anything like a vast majority of the population, you like to have a plastic bottle available at all times, to drink water from.
This makes most of us part of the plastic problem instead of the solution. But what do you do?
How do you deal with the moral dilemma and what exactly are your options?
Many people have adopted the habit of reusing their plastic water bottles or boycotting bottle water companies by investing in a reusable water bottles and water filters.
Is reusing your plastic water bottle really a viable option in this day and age where there is talk of chemicals and health risks associated with it?
It can be hard to choose between the environment’s health and your own.
How to know if a water bottle is reusable: you can determine if a plastic water bottle is reusable or not by knowing what type of plastic it is manufactured from.
This is printed on the label of the bottle or at the bottom of the bottle.
Checking the plastic number designation printed on the bottle is the only way to know if it is safe to reuse or not. Generally, plastics made from number 2, 4, and 5 plastics are safe to reuse and bottles made from 1, 3, 6, and 7 are not safe to reuse.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of conflicting information out there about plastic and whether it should or should not be reused.
Some people will chastise you for throwing plastic bottles in the trash and others will berate you for reusing plastic bottles, for “health reasons”.
So, how do you know what is right and what is wrong when it comes reusing, recycling, and re-purposing plastic bottles?
Will you be negatively impacting your health if you try to put the environment first and reuse your plastic water bottle? And more importantly, how do you even know if your water bottle is safe to reuse, long or short term?
Only buying plastic water bottles that are safe to reuse is a step in the right direction, but which plastic water bottles are “safe”? These are questions, among others, that need to be answered.
Questions Regarding Plastic Water Bottle Reuse That Beg To Be Answered
It is important to know just how safe or unsafe plastic water bottles are before you buy your drinking water in them. What if you have a plastic water bottle made from number 1 plastic and you want to reuse it just once while you are in a hurry or away from home?
Is it absolutely unacceptable or is it okay for a few reuses?
What if you have a plastic bottle in the house and want to use it for water, but you are not sure if the plastic is food grade or not?
Will using the bottle have a negative impact on your health?
The only way to know if you can safely reuse a plastic water bottle and for how long is to have a clearer understanding of all the plastic water bottles on the market.
Below we take a closer look at each of the types of plastics used for creating plastic bottles and water bottles
- More information; How to know if a Water Bottle is Reusable?
- More information; How to know if a Water Bottle is Reusable?
. Find out if you can safely reuse your plastic water or not below.
Is My Plastic Water Bottle Safe to Reuse?
You might have heard people say that there are some plastic water bottles that can be safely reused and others that you should never reuse.
Why do people say this? Is there any truth to it?
Yes, there is a lot of truth to this and you should certainly be careful when deciding which plastic water bottle to reuse and which to throw away.
Some plastic water bottles are a double whammy in that they cannot be reused and they also are not readily recycled. That being said, let’s find out where you stand with your plastic water bottle:
Plastic Water Bottles Made from Number 1 Plastic: Can Be Reused But Not Entirely Safe
Okay, here is the deal with number 1 plastics; they can be reused relatively, but they are not entirely safe over the long term.
You are not supposed to reuse them, but if you keep them hygienically clean, you can reuse them a few times.
The reason that they aren’t particularly reusable is because they are made from polyethylene terephthalate, which is also referred to as PET or PETE in the plastic industry.
Unlike some other plastics that are not meant to be reused because of chemical dangers, these bottles are typically unpopular for reuse because of their penchant for growing unhealthy bacteria.
You would need to be particularly dedicated to disinfecting and cleaning your water bottle every day, for the sake of your health.
The number 1 plastic bottles also tend to degrade fairly quickly, especially if they are exposed to the sun or heat for extended periods of time. They can also start to leach chemicals over time.
Again, the point is that these bottles can be reused only a few times.
Plastic Water Bottles Made from Number 2 Plastic: Safe to Reuse
If you are looking for the safest type of plastic to reuse for drinking water, this is it. Unfortunately, not many plastic water bottles are made from number 2 plastic. You might be wondering what sets number 2 plastic apart from number 1 plastic in terms of safe reusability. For starters, these bottles are made from a safe type of plastic called HDPE (High Density Polyethylene). When the reusability of a plastic bottle is considered, it is chemical leaching that is a top factor. Number 2 plastics do not contain plasticizers, which are chemicals that typically leach into water when the bottle is heated or washed at high heat. This can even start happening when some plastic bottles are left standing in the sun. Because these bottles do not contain these dangerous chemicals, chemical leaching is not something to be concerned about and that makes them a safe choice for reuse.
Plastic Water Bottles Made from Number 3 Plastic: Not Safe to Reuse
Unfortunately, number 3 plastic is not the safest of plastic to use in your daily life. Plastic products with the number 3 designation are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and are considered only safe for one-time use. It is surprising how many food containers and children’s toys are made from this type of plastic. Products that are made from this plastic can be repurposed, but should not be recycled or reused for storing drinking water and other food products. PVC is actually called the “poison plastic” in some areas. This is because it has a high toxin content that tends to leach throughout the plastic’s lifespan. This is probably the most unwanted plastic product in your home – avoid it as much as you can.
Plastic Water Bottles Made from Number 4 Plastic: Safe to Reuse
Here is another type of plastic that is a top contender for the safe list. Number 4 plastic bottles are made from low density polyethylene (LDPE) and are quite safe to reuse. The fact that they are not commonly recycled is unfortunate, but it also makes it quite acceptable to reuse them for as long as possible. Many people reuse and repurpose food containers and bottles made from number 4 plastics as they are quite safe for the whole family, but are also quite durable. LDPE is generally considered less toxic in comparison to other plastics and does not leach chemicals. You should still keep the bottle out of the sun and try to keep it cool to avoid the potential for leaching. Reusing this bottle will require you to keep it hygienically clean, so wash it out every night – inside and out as bacteria growth is still a risk with this type of plastic.
Plastic Water Bottles Made from Number 5 Plastic: Safe to Reuse
Yet another type of plastic that can go on the “safe” list is number 5 plastics! Bottles that are marked as number 5 plastic are made from polypropylene and are considered safe to reuse for food and beverages. While this type of plastic is recycled, only a very small percentage of it is. This unfortunate fact makes these bottles a viable option to reuse until they degrade to the point of no longer being useful. These plastics are commonly used for food storage and do not leach chemicals. They are also durable and have excellent heat resistance. That being said, if you choose to reuse your number 5 plastic bottle, make sure that you avoid bacteria growth with daily cleaning and that you keep the bottle out of the sun.
Plastic Water Bottles Made from Number 6 Plastic: Not Safe to Reuse
You probably will not find a plastic water bottle made from number 6 plastic which is polystyrene. Polystyrene is made from monomer styrene which is considered a human carcinogen and not safe for reuse. Polystyrene pollution is a massive problem in many countries as it cannot be readily recycled. It litters many shore lines and curbsides across the globe. While you might not find a number 6 plastic bottle, you may be offered a polystyrene cup for drinking water and other beverages. It is best to avoid using this type of plastic product.
Plastic Water Bottles Made from Number 7 Plastic: Not Safe to Reuse
Number 7 plastics are not made up of one specific plastic. The range includes polycarbonate and other plastics where there are no industry standards or recycling protocols in place. Many people in the plastic industry consider number 7 the rating for a “catch all” category of various plastics. It also means that you are not guaranteed what sort of plastic you are using and therefore, it is better to avoid reusing them. If you have a plastic bottle that is made from number 7 plastic, it is best not to reuse it for drinking water or food products.
Why Are Plastic Water Bottles Safe for Single Use and Not Reuse?
Many people want to know why so many sources say that plastic water bottles pose health risks, but bottled water is readily sold in those very bottles. What makes these bottles safe to use once and not again? It can be quite difficult to understand the concept behind this, but it all comes down to the “sell by” date. The problem really comes in the lifespan of the bottle. You will see that even bottled water has a “sell by” date on it and this is there for your health and safety. This is not because the water itself is going to go off, but the product is no longer considered safe to consume and the plastic bottle has a hand to play in that.
There are two things that can happen that are dangerous to your health when you reuse a plastic water bottle. These two things are:
Bacteria grow on and within the bottle.
Unfortunately, the places we tote our water bottles to are teaming with bacteria and germs. Most people tend not to think about it because germs and bacteria can’t be seen. You probably take your water bottle to the gym, the office, the playground, the pub, public bathrooms – just about everywhere. You also put your bottles to your lips constantly and might even backwash from time to time when drinking. This creates a breeding ground for germs and bacteria. Of course, this does not mean that you cannot reuse your water bottle. It just means that if you want to keep reusing it, you have to keep it hygienically clean. Most people never think of cleaning their reusable water bottle. All they do is refill it with water without giving a second thought to germs and bacteria.
If you want to reuse the bottle continuously, you need to wash the bottle each and every day. Some plastics cannot withstand the heat of a dishwasher and will lose their integrity and shape when exposed to such hot water, so it is not a good idea to pop your plastic water bottle in the dishwasher. Therefore, washing the inside and outside of the bottle by hand with warm soapy water is a daily requirement. You could alternatively opt for a diluted solution of lemon and water or vinegar and water to keep the bottle clean. If you can keep your water bottle clear of bacteria and germs, there is every reason for you to keep reusing it, but then again, only certain plastics are safe to reuse even if you do keep potential bacteria growth at bay.
Chemicals leach into your water.
Chemical leaching is a serious concern as your plastic water bottle could be slowly poisoning you. As plastic bottles age, the chemicals in the plastic, can start to leach into your water. This is why there is a sell by date on your plastic bottle. It is never a good idea to keep bottled water for months and years on end because of chemical leaching. Chemical leaching can happen naturally the older the plastic bottle gets, but it is also boosted by the bottle being heated or exposed to direct sunlight. Chemical leaching is no joke – it can cause some serious physical reactions such as diarrhea, vomiting, and general nausea. One particular chemical called Antimony is known to be a human carcinogen and can lead to certain cancers. If you want to reuse your water bottle but want to avoid chemical leaching and illnesses, do not reuse your plastic water bottle for more than 3 months. There will always come a time when it needs to be repurposed, recycled, or sadly; trashed.
Best Reusable Water Bottles
There is an alternative solution for those who need to have water on hand at all times, but do not want to contribute to the global water dilemma; reusable water bottles.
There are various types and kinds of reusable water bottles manufactured today that totally eliminate the use of plastic. The best reusable water bottles, that are absolutely safe to use for a lifetime, are:
- Stainless steel water bottles,
- Copper water bottles,
- Silicone water bottles,
- Glass water bottles.
Some top brands of reusable water bottles include Klean Kanteen, S’well Bottle, Hydro Flask, Yeti Rambler, KURO-Bo Go Eco Glass, and bkr Silicone sleeves, to name a few.
How do you know if a water bottle is reusable? Simply turn it over and take a look at the sticker, stamp, print or marking on the bottom of the bottle – sometimes the number is printed on a sticker on the main part of the bottle. Check for the plastic number and determine if it is safe to use or not. Alternatively, rest assured that glass, copper, silicone, and stainless steel water bottles are in fact safe for long term reuse.