We are all about recycling – and that is exactly what you should do after drinking from a plastic water bottle. Though the common slogan of “reduce, reuse, and recycle” may seemingly encourage you to refill a disposable plastic water bottle, it is often not a good choice.
Why you should be careful refilling plastic bottles
Plastic bottles pose a health threat because of the potential they have for contamination. Simply cracking or dinging the plastic bottle can allow chemicals to seep into the water. The more you refill a plastic bottle, the more likely it is to be cracked and thus contaminated.
While these chemicals can be dangerous in large quantities, fortunately, exposure from cracks is in very small amounts. It would likely require a pattern of repeated refills for any noticeable concerns to catch up with you.
Yet even while the FDA deems this exposure to be minimal, you should avoid this. If the chemicals from the plastic are not concerning enough, the build-up of bacteria from not washing these bottles should make you think twice.
If you do want to reuse a disposable plastic bottle, be sure it is clean, crack-free, and maintains its original shape.
What do the numbers on plastic bottles mean?
If you are refilling a plastic water bottle, pay attention to the number on the bottom, 1 and 2 are the most common safe options for plastic water bottles. These numbers indicate the type of plastic the bottle was manufactured with.
National Geographic has an easy-to-read plastic guide that covers each type of plastic. Number 7 plastic in particular is not only difficult to recycle, but its negative health effects continue to be studied. It is unlikely you would find number 7 plastic used in a disposable water bottle though.
What’s the safest option for you and the environment?
Purchase a stainless steel reusable water bottle and simply use that each day. It is more cost-effective than buying bottled water, keeps your drink colder, and (so long as you wash it) a safer option. As an added bonus, you will not need to worry about recycling as you will be able to simply cut out your plastic bottle use altogether.