Although many of us strive to live environmentally-friendly lifestyles, it is difficult to live in the developed world today and never consume water from a disposable plastic water bottle. In order to live out the “reduce and reuse” philosophy, we might be tempted to continue to reuse those disposable plastic water bottles. However, repeated usage of those plastic bottles may actually do more harm than good.
Plastics can leach toxins and harbor bacteria
According to water bottle manufacturers, disposable water bottles were meant to be used only one time and then disposed of or be recycled .
The problem is that the types of plastics that are most commonly used to make these bottles, such as PET/PETE (polyethylene terephthalate, Plastic #1), can leach harmful chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) or DEHP [2,3].
These chemicals may not only produce negative hormone-altering effects on the human body (especially on developing children), but some are now considered to be probable human carcinogens .
BPA, in particular, has been linked to breast and uterine cancer, an increase in miscarriage risk, and decreased levels of testosterone.
When these single-use disposable plastic bottles are reused and washed multiple times, they can break down under normal wear and tear conditions, as well as in the sunlight and through the process of washing the bottles . Once the plastic bottles start to break down, they can leach the harmful chemicals into the liquid that is being stored in the bottle.
Not only that, but after repeated uses, these plastic bottles will get scratches and cracks in them. The scratches and cracks can then harbor bacteria that over time have the potential to make people ill, especially if the water bottles are not washed regularly.
Polypropylene is a “safer,” non-reactive type of plastic, but it is difficult to know which plasticisers or other additives may be in them.
Better alternatives exist
The best alternative to reusing disposable water bottles is to purchase and use a reusable water bottle that has been designed specifically for this purpose.
Stainless steel and glass water bottles are the best materials for this purpose, since they will not leach chemicals into your beverages, can be reused for years, and then can easily be recycled at the end of their useful life.
If you still prefer plastic reusable water bottles, high-density polyethylene (HDPE, Plastic #2), low-density polyethylene (LDPE, plastic #4), or polypropylene (PP, Plastic #5) should be safest options .