Water Bottle Rundown

Stainless Steel Water Bottle

Stainless Steel Water Bottle. Photo: Roi Brooks

I’ve been doing a lot of research recently on reusable water bottle options, and thought it was worthwhile sharing.

Many of us have already adopted a reusable tumbler or water bottle that we bring along with us every day. So first off, let me say “thank you!” to those who carry their own.  It’s a great habit.  It saves resources and energy, and if you are drinking tap, supports public water.

There is a disconcertingly large array of water bottle/drinkware options out there. I’ll state right up front that I believe in the Precautionary Principle, and I can only in good conscience recommend the safest and most environmentally responsible options. Here goes:

Don’t buy plastic. Tritan, you say?  I know, that’s the “latest and greatest” plastic and yes, I believe it’s completely BPA-free as advertised. But you’ll never know the closely-held secret recipe for Tritan, and what you don’t know can harm you.  Bluntly, plastic leaches chemicals, lingers on our Earth forever, and recycling (where possible) just transforms it temporarily on its way to the landfill or incinerator.

Don’t get aluminum. Aluminum is light-weight, doesn’t break, and is recyclable, but all aluminum bottles are lined on the inside with plastic. Leaching from that plastic may be minimal, but leach it will. (Cleaning it with a brush probably makes that even more likely.)

Don’t get borosilicate glass (aka pyrex or “tempered” glass).  This seems to be the latest fad in China. It’s inexpensive, it’s inert; both count in its favor. But alas, borosilicate glass contaminates the regular glass in your community recycling programs because it melts at a much higher temperature.  As a California waste and recycling executive bemoaned, “How are we going to get to zero waste if we keep allowing things that can’t be recycled?”

Don’t get a bottle made of 200 series stainless steel.  It’s less expensive and looks just like 300 series stainless steel, but it’s not food grade, and it doesn’t have enough chromium and nickel in it to ensure long term use without corrosion.

So what are the best choices?

Use plain old glass. Any bottle or jar will do. It’s the choice of No Impact Man Colin Beavan, whose blog extolls the virtues of this inexpensive, easily available and completely inert vessel. Granted, glass can break.  You can knit a cozy, or if you aren’t the crafty type, buy one on Etsy. (Note: Metal bottle tops are often coated on the interior with plastic resin, so while the glass is inert, the cap may not be.)

Use a food grade 300 series stainless steel bottle. Not really breakable. And it’s inert, like glass, so it won’t interact with your drink. Make sure your bottle is from a reputable source, otherwise you may get lower quality stainless steel masquerading as the corrosion-resistant 300 grade you want. Stainless steel bottles are recyclable except for the plastic cap.  Klean Kanteen now offers the option of a handsome 100% stainless steel cap, for a fully recyclable product.

To sum up:

1) Carry a water bottle that’s safe for you, one that doesn’t introduce chemicals you don’t need to ingest. If you are buying one, buy from a reputable source so you know the product is as promised.

2) Consider the product’s end of life. If the bottle is both safe and capable of closed- loop recycling, you’ve found a winner.

I raise my reusable water bottle to you! Keep modeling those excellent BYOR habits!

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