The reputation of bottled water is lying bleeding in the gutter, which probably isn’t a bad thing.
While the product certainly does have its place, disposable plastic water bottles have become a blight on the planet due to the levels of consumption of bottled water products.
The plastic in disposable water bottles can be recycled, but where there is no deposit system such as we have in South Australia, the majority of the bottles wind up in landfill.
According to statistics from the International Bottled Water Association, in 2000 Americans consumed 4.7 billion gallons of bottled water, which represented less than 9 percent of total beverage consumption. By 2008 bottled water consumption increased to almost 8.7 billion gallons.
However, after the bad press bottled water received regarding plastic waste and water quality a couple of years back, an interesting thing took place.
In 2007, Americans were drinking on average 29.0 gallons of bottled water a year; a 5.3% increase on the previous year. In 2008, that had dropped to 28.5 gallons; a drop of 1.8% and the first drop in over a decade.
The International Bottled Water Association acknowledges that environmental concerns may have played a role in the drop.
People didn’t stop drinking water, so what happened?
Refillable water bottles did.
Aside from the environmental benefits of using a refillable water bottle, I ran some quick calculations for my article “Is water too cheap?” and found that the water we get from our taps here in Australia costs about USD 0.4 cents per gallon. I have only ever bought one bottle of water a few months back and that quart cost a few bucks!
With the addition of a home water filter, you can have water as good, if not better than many bottled water brands – as some of the bottled water brands pull their water directly from municipal supplies and at times don’t even bother filtering it.
So, a reusable water bottle is definitely the go.. but what type of bottle should you buy?
Reusing PET based disposable bottles
You could always use a PET based disposable water bottle over and over (which I’ve been known to do) ; but this can present some health risks from bacteria and chemicals from the plastic leaching into the water; although the latter is still being hotly debated.
Polycarbonate water bottles
Polycarbonate water bottles used to be quite popular as they were lightweight, strong and flexible, but they’ve been shown to leach Bisphenol A, commonly abbreviated as BPA, into the water. Bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor, a substance that acts like hormones in the endocrine (glandular) system.
Glass can be recycled and while a cold beer in a glass bottle is a truly wonderful thing, for dragging around the place, glass bottles are a little weighty and prone to breakage.
PVC water bottles
PVC can contain DEHP, DEHA and softening phthalates that are reportedly not very liver and kidney friendly. PVC water bottles are also difficult to recycle.
Polystyrene water bottles
Polystyrene, like most plastics, is made from fossil fuel. It’s highly flammable and a chemical called benzene, which is a known human carcinogen, is used in its production.
Stainless steel water bottles
A good stainless steel bottle will last you for life. They are lightweight and with the addition of a wetsuit style sleeve commonly referred to as a tote, will keep your water cool for ages. Stainless steel will not affect the taste of the water.
Aluminium water bottles are also recyclable and long lasting, but remembering back to my old aluminum water canteen, it certainly added a taste to the water. That’s why many modern aluminum reusable water bottles have a plastic liner I guess.
A word of warning
While stainless steel or aluminium would seem to be the best choices, these bottles will usually have some sort of plastic cap or seal and may even have a plastic liner in the case of aluminum. It’s important to determine that the plastic used doesn’t contain Bisphenol A. Look for co-polyester, water-based liners that are BPA and phthalate-free.
A major manufacturer of metal water bottles was brought to task on this recently after declaring their product didn’t leach BPA, when it in fact it contained the substance – it was a case of marketing sleight of hand. Needless to say, when the BPA content became public knowledge, the repercussions were huge.