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Why You Shouldn’t Refill Disposable Water Bottles


Plastic water bottles are not our favorite product at Pelican Water – more than 38 billion disposable water bottles are wasted each year in the United States alone. Buying disposable plastic water bottles contributes to global problems like the Pacific Garbage Patch that grows in size every day in the middle of the ocean.

So it’s no surprise that several consumers, in an attempt to be more environmentally conscious and economical, will try to get the most use out of a plastic water bottle by refilling it and using it several times before discarding it. This practice may seem safe, but the truth is that refilling disposable water bottle is hazardous to your health.

Before we even delve into the health issues associated with reusing plastic water bottles it should be noted that the manufacturers themselves discourage consumers from reusing said bottles. A journal article in Practical Gastroenterology notes that “everyday wear and tear from repeated washings and reuse can lead to physical breakdown of the plastic, such as visible thinning or cracks. Bacteria can harbor in the cracks, posing a health risk.”

When the plastic of a disposable bottle cracks and breaks down it can release harmful chemicals into the water it stores. Most brands of plastic water bottles that you’d purchase at the supermarket contain trace amounts of Bisphenol A (BPA). This synthetic chemical can create hormonal imbalances in your body if ingested in small doses.

The Environment California Research & Policy Center reviewed over 130 studies of BPA and concluded that BPA is linked to an increased risk for developing uterine and breast cancer, having a miscarriage, and impairing your natural immune functions.

BPA isn’t the only concerning chemical present in plastic water bottles. Depending on the type of plastic used in the manufacturing process your plastic bottle could contain other carcinogens. Bottles that use plastic #1 (polyethylene terephthalate, or PET) can leach the known carcinogen DEHP when they are in less than perfect condition.

Disposable water bottles were not constructed to support multiple uses, and if you’re keeping that bottle out on the counter or in the refrigerator you will compromise the water inside as the bottle itself degrades.

In addition to the dangerous chemicals found inside the plastic is the litany of microbes and bacteria that will build up on the bottle. All containers should be thoroughly washed after every use, but most plastic bottles do not contain spouts that are conducive to washing. If you reuse these bottles you are putting yourself at risk for developing an illness.

Germs quickly build up on plastic bottles, especially at the top where your mouth comes into contact with a bottle. Several bottles used by athletes that were not being washed were found to contain more than 300,000 colony-forming units (CFU) of bacteria per square inch, which is notably more than the amount of bacteria found on your toilet seat!

The answer is simple: you should not use plastic water bottles more than once. In fact, you shouldn’t be buying them at all. Invest in a reusable stainless steel bottle and fill it up before you leave the house. Reusable bottles made of stainless steel are easy to wash and perfectly healthy to use.

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