Think it’s OK to reuse disposable water bottles? Think again!
Reusing disposable plastic water bottles might make you feel better about the environment. It makes buying water seem not quite so bad. “At least they’re being used a few times”, you might think.
It’s the same feeling you might get from lining the bin with a plastic bag from the supermarket. But the plastic still ends up polluting the planet. Best to avoid them altogether.
And anyway, what’s the deal with “BPA” and “PET”? And all those curious “plastics” labels? Is it actually safe and healthy to use those water bottles?
The answer is that it depends on what type of plastic the bottle is made of and how long you continue to use it for. It also depends on how thoroughly you wash it after each use. The small “neck” can easily attract harmful bacteria.
Most “single use” water bottles that you buy at the petrol station or supermarket are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). It’s a cheap and lightweight plastic. Although deemed safe for single use, there is evidence to suggest that the bottles release harmful ingredients when exposed to sunlight and heat. In addition, repeated hot-water washing and handling of PET water bottles may break down the plastic, leaching toxic compounds, such as DEHA, into the drink inside.
Repeated use of PET water bottles has been shown to increase harmful bacteria levels. Bacteria from your hands and mouth, for example, accumulate when the bottle isn’t washed between uses. But then, repeated washing risks toxic ingredients being leached.
There are even more sinister concerns resulting from less commonly used plastics such PVC which leaches phthalates, shown to cause developmental and reproductive damage. (View PVC: The Poison Plastic article from greenpeace.org) Polystyrene which leaches styrene and can cause nervous system effects and liver damage. Polycarbonate has been shown to leach Bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone disruptor that mimics estrogen.
Why would you risk toxic compounds in your water or harmful bacteria lurking around the mouth of the water bottles? The simple solution is to drink water fresh from the tap or drinking fountain, or use well designed, hygienic water containers specifically intended for repeated use.