Plastic Water Bottles : Can we reuse them?
by Robert Hing on May 18, 2022
The war on plastic bottles has accelerated in recent years with the move away from single use plastic bottles to reusable bottles. But why? Well, let's start with the environmental side. We’re hearing how wasteful single use plastic water bottles are. But to what scale does it exist and how wasteful is it?
Australians churn through more than 118k tonnes of plastic drink bottles every year. That’s around 373 million plastic water bottles for a population of only 25 million. To produce a single litre plastic bottle, you need 3 litres of water and one litre of oil. All for a product designed to consume and throw away after one use.
Of course, some are recycled. Roughly 20%. The majority end up finding a home in landfill where you will need the passage of father time to break them down.
When littered they often end up in the sea. Here they contribute towards giant garbage patches that span the width of entire nations or break down into microplastics that find their way into our food chain.
Continuing to reuse a plastic bottle that you’ve picked up from the petrol station might seem like an attractive option to ease that environmental guilt. Better to use them more than once right?
While it’s best to avoid them altogether, is it fine to reuse a plastic bottle? The answer depends on the condition of your plastic water bottle. To start with, what is your standard plastic water bottle made from? The majority of plastic bottles bought at the supermarket or petrol station are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
The FDA has declared that PET plastics are safe for single and repeated use. Studies have revealed miniscule amounts of antimony - a plastic used to make water bottles - exist in your plastic water bottle at a safe level even after months of use.
Great, perfect. I can reuse that Sunday morning blue gatorade as my gym water bottle from now on! Well, not exactly. Your single use plastic water bottle is designed for that purpose, single use. The major risk lies in the ability for your plastic bottle to break down and collect bacteria. The slightest damage, including signs of wear and tear, may lead to chemical leaching
Maybe you can keep your plastic bottle in perfect condition, reusing it every day as you handle it with knitted woollen gloves in an environmental crusade to reduce the millions of plastic bottles already discarded to landfill? Unfortunately, you won't be able to withstand the never ending march from bacteria. These single use plastic bottles are the perfect playground for microorganisms, who will joyously begin forming a biofilm in all types of nooks and crannies. Does anyone want E.coli forming in their water?
Alright, so you’ve also decided to thoroughly clean your plastic bottle anyway. Think again. While you would need to rigorously clean the bottle to avoid that growing bacterial army, you’ll need to be wary of any thinning or tearing of the plastic. Oh by the way, you can’t wash it with very hot water either - That may cause chemical leaching too!