Most of us are aware that plastic is becoming a major pollution problem around the world. Traces of plastic have been found in remote areas, and the Pacific Garbage Patch continues to grow in the middle of the ocean each day. One of the most significant plastic problems is disposable bottles. Research suggests that over 38 billion disposable plastic bottles are wasted every year, just in the U.S alone. So, if you are attempting to be more eco friendly, you may be tempted to try to get the most use out of your plastic bottles by reusing them, but there are some important reasons why this isn’t a good idea.

The Bacterial Risk

While the practice of refilling a disposable water bottle may seem safe, it actually can put you at risk of potentially harmful bacteria. An article published in the Practical Gastroenterology journal noted that the everyday wear and tear that results from repeatedly washing and reusing a plastic bottle could lead to the plastic to physically break down. This creates cracks and visible thinning that allows bacteria to harbor and create a potential health risk.

Releasing Harmful Chemicals

Additionally, when disposable water bottle plastic begins to break down, it can release chemicals into the water stored inside. Most plastic water bottle brands contain trace amounts of BPA or Bisphenol A. This is a synthetic chemical that has been linked to hormone imbalances even if only small doses are ingested.

In an Environment California Research & Policy Center review, 130 studies of BPA were assessed, and it was concluded that BPA could be linked to increased risk of developing breast and uterine cancer, impaired natural immune function and having a miscarriage.

Unfortunately, BPA is not the only chemical of concern that is present in disposable plastic bottles. Depending on the specific type of plastic and manufacturing process, your bottle could contain other forms of carcinogens. PET or Polyethylene terephthalate can allow the known carcinogen DEHP to leach into the water if the container is in less than optimum condition. Disposable bottles were not designed for multiple uses, and you could be compromising the water inside as the bottle degrades on your countertop or in your refrigerator.

A Haven For Germs

Finally, you don’t only need to worry about bacteria and harmful chemicals; you also need to think about the microbes that can build up on and inside your bottle. Every container you use for food or drink should be thoroughly washed after each and every use, but disposable bottles do not contain a spout to make washing easier. Even if you are very diligent, if you’re reusing a disposable bottle, you’re putting yourself at risk of becoming ill.

Germs can quickly accumulate on plastic bottles, particularly where your mouth comes into contact with the top. In a research study, several bottles, used by athletes and not washed, were found to contain over 300,000 colony forming units of bacteria on each square inch. This is like taking a drink off your toilet seat.

So, before you even think about reusing a disposable plastic bottle, think again. In fact, you should try to avoid buying them in the first place. While it may cost a little more, invest in an easy to wash stainless steel, reusable bottle and stay safe.

By Terry Reeh, EcoWater Systems of Nebraska. 

With more than 25 years experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Terry is a WQA (Water Quality Association) certified water specialist, LEVEL 3, as well as a WQA certified sales representative.  Terry currently sits on EcoWater Systems (a Berkshire Hathaway Company) national Peers committee, as a water treatment expert advising other water professionals with less experience on best trade and technology practices. EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is one of the biggest water treatment and water delivery businesses in the state.