Plastic water bottles are actually manufactured with the intention of making it to be a single-use product. However, many of us tend to re-use them and refill them as it is convenient and some of us care about the environment and do not throw them away. But before you take a sip from your old plastic water bottle, you need to know how safe it is reusing them. Let’s find out about that, but first let us understand the different types of plastics used and their concerns.
Plastic Bottles and Their Types(1,2)
Majority of the water bottles will have a number printed on its packaging that indicates the type of plastic it is made of and whether it is re-usable.
Water bottles are commonly made of the following 3 types of plastics:
- Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE): If there is the number “1” printed on your bottle then it is made of polyethylene terephthalate. It is a lightweight plastic and is used for not only making water bottles, but also containers like nut butter, sauce bottles and other packaging for food items.
- HDPE or High-Density Polyethylene: If there is the number “2” printed on your bottle, then the plastic used is high-density polyethylene, which is more durable and sturdier. For this reason, this type of plastic is often used for manufacturing soap bottles, detergent bottles and gallon-size liquid containers.
- Other Types: If there is the number “7” printed on your plastic bottle, then this means that the plastic type is not of any specific category. A few of the plastic water bottles from this type can have bisphenol A (BPA), which is a chemical that can potentially cause endocrine system disruption and is avoided by many people because of this seeing it can disrupt your hormones.(4)
Should You Be Re-Using Your Plastic Water Bottles?
Well, it is overall better to avoid reusing water bottles made of plastic. However, if you are hell bent on using your plastic water bottles, then there are a few things to keep in mind, such as:
- Always, always wash your plastic water bottles thoroughly.
- Store your plastic water bottles at room temperature only.
- Do not keep your plastic water bottles under the sun or near high temperatures.
- Throw away your plastic water bottles if they are damaged, cracked etc. With the use of plastic water bottles, there is a concern of chemical leaching and bacterial growth in it. If the bottle is damaged, then this concern increases.
What is Chemical Leaching and How to Prevent It? (4,5)
Chemical Leaching: Now this is a common concern attached with the reuse of water bottles made of plastic. Chemical leaching is a condition where there is secretion of the chemicals from the plastic that gets mixed with the liquid in the bottle. However, with single-use plastic bottles and if the plastic type is good and with correct storage, chemical leaching shouldn’t be a problem
Good News: According to The FDA, type-1 bottles or PET plastics are considered safe for single use, as well as re-use.(3)
However, when you keep this plastic type in extremely high temperatures, there is a concern for antimony leaching. Even then, if the PET bottles are stored in a correct manner, then the risk of chemical leaching is considerably less. It is also highly recommended to avoid keeping these bottles in the sun and to keep them at room temperature to prevent any leaching.
Should You Be Reusing Type-2 Plastics (HDPE Plastics) Bottles?
If the water bottle you are using has “2” printed on it, then it can be reused as long as it’s not damaged and is washed well. This plastic type has a lesser risk for chemical leaching.
Should You Be Reusing Water Bottles Made Of Type-7 Plastics?
Some of the plastics categorized as “7” can have BPA, but not all do. This category also contains Polycarbonate bottles. According to a study, people drinking from polycarbonate bottles for a week had a considerable increase of BPA upon testing of their urine sample. As mentioned before, there are a few bottles in this plastic category that can potentially leach BPA, so it is better to avoid polycarbonate bottles.
Plastic Bottles and Bacterial Growth(6,7,8)
Plastic bottles are a good home for bacterial growth and this is the reason why the manufacturers urge that they be used only once. Fact of the matter is, bacterial growth in water bottles is more likely to occur and is more concerning than chemical leaching.
The growth of bacteria can be very rapid starting from touching the bottle to your mouth when taking a sip. Keeping any of the leftover beverages at room temperature can result in rapid growth of bacteria throughout the day.(7) So, it is highly recommended to re-use water bottles sparingly and when re-using them, it is important to store them properly and wash them thoroughly to prevent bacterial growth and spreading of the germs.
Other than this, if your plastic water bottle is damaged with cracks or dents in them, then this can cause more bacteria to grow in these damaged areas.
Are There Any Alternatives to Plastic Bottles?(9)
One of the best alternatives to plastic water bottle is reusable glass bottle or stainless-steel bottle. These bottles are easy to clean and the concern for the bacterial growth is less and you don’t have to worry about chemical leaching. To top it all, glass bottle or stainless-steel bottles are so much better for the environment than plastic water bottles. Other alternatives to plastic water bottles are boxed water, ceramic bottles or containers and even plant derived plastic.
So, it is not recommended to re-use plastic water bottles for the fear of bacterial growth and chemical leaching. Stainless steel and glass water bottles are a great alternative to plastic water bottle. However, if you want to reuse your plastic water bottle, then you have to store it and wash it properly. This is an important step towards safety of reusing plastic water bottles.