Plastic water bottles are everywhere. We mean everywhere. You can’t stop at a gas station, supermarket, or convenience store without spotting a supply of H2O encased in plastic. These portable drinks are a staple of travel, picnics, workouts, and tons of other daily activities. Plastic water bottles have even been to outer space.
In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated we use 50 billion water bottles per month (that’s 13 per person per month). But although snagging a disposable bottle is clearly convenient, doing so comes at a cost to the environment, your health, and your wallet. Choosing a durable, reusable bottle is a better investment that could end up protecting the planet, reducing health risks, and saving you cash.
On the fence about switching to a reusable bottle? Read on for the compelling reasons to ditch plastic.
Health Risks of Plastic Water Bottles
Most of us know that plastic water bottles aren’t the most environmentally-friendly products. What many people don’t realize is that using (and reusing) plastic water bottles also carries some surprising risks for health. Some research has shown that chemicals from plastic bottles can leach into the water they contain.
Plastics can impart bisphenol A and phthalates—two known endocrine disruptors—into drinking water. Over time, these disruptors can affect the reproductive system, alter thyroid function, and potentially stunt growth in children.
Additionally, in a 2022 study in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, when researchers tested tap water that had been stored in reusable plastic bottles, they found it contained several hundred chemical substances, many of which may be hazardous to human health. Washing plastic water bottles increases their health risks, too.
The higher the heat used on them—such as in a high-heat dishwasher setting—the more likely they are to release chemicals. This can also occur when water bottles are left out in the heat or in a hot car—which tends to happen often, considering the times and places you want to stay hydrated.
Environmental Impact of Plastic Water Bottles
After you take the last sip of Evian or Dasani, your bottle has to go somewhere—and typically, that means a landfill. But even when properly disposed of, plastic bottles aren’t harmless. In landfills, plastic bottles release particles into the soil, ultimately making their way into the food chain via plant life.
Plenty of bottles also end up in waterways. At least 14 million tons of plastic land in oceans every year. And because plastics take around 450 years to decompose, it’s no wonder many experts have called this an environmental crisis.
Not only do bottles litter and congest oceans, but marine animals like seabirds, whales, fish, and turtles may mistake plastic waste for prey. When these animals ingest plastic, they can die from internal lacerations, infections, or reduced ability to swim.
Besides the fact that water bottles end up polluting the planet, they take quite a lot of resources to create in the first place. Plastic water bottles are made from a petroleum product called polyethylene terephthalate. This substance requires large amounts of fossil fuels to create. And, of course, there’s the environmental impact of the transportation of water bottles from their source to your local store.
Sustainability and Waste Reduction
Living a more sustainable life can happen in many ways, and sometimes even seemingly small changes can add up to a significant personal planetary impact. Choosing a reusable water bottle instead of plastic ones is one such change.
By opting out of plastic waste, you’ll keep plastics out of landfills and oceans, leaving a smaller waste footprint—and potentially benefitting marine life. You’ll also reduce your overall consumption of fossil fuels—a worthy goal, since the use of these fuels is by far the largest contributor to global climate change. The United Nations (U.N.) reports that fossil fuels account for more than 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90% of all carbon dioxide emissions.
While you’re going green, how about saving a little green, too? No one can argue with the financial benefits of switching from plastic water bottles to reusable ones. Consider this: Reports on the average wholesale price of domestic still bottled water range from about $1 to $2 for a 16-ounce bottle.
Investing in a sturdy, reusable water bottle for around $10 to $20 yields the same amount of hydration for the cost of about 10 plastic bottles. It’s a near guarantee you’ll fill a reusable bottle at least 10 times.
As for the water itself, you can make your drinking delicious and cost-effective by purchasing a filtered pitcher, such as Brita or Pur. Many come with a price tag of $20 or less. Or, if you’d like purified water immediately on demand, consider installing a reverse osmosis system in your home kitchen.
Any time you want to fill up your bottle, you’ll have clean, filtered H2O on tap. Countertop Reverse Osmosis systems can range from about $300 to $500. The cost may sound steep, but it’s about one year’s worth of plastic bottles!
Convenience and Accessibility
Even though plastic water bottles are available at every corner store and pit stop, it’s not always convenient to continually purchase them. Having your very own bottle on hand saves you the hassle of perpetually looking for the next disposable one.
Then again, it’s understandable if you’re worried you won’t be able to find a spot to refill your bottle while out and about. If this is a concern, consider a reusable bottle with a built-in filter. These range in price from about $15 to $100 and can turn even gas station bathroom water into an enjoyable drink. Take stock, too, of locations near you (such as your local grocery store or water and ice store) that offer water refill stations. Each refill typically costs a fraction of store-bought bottles.
Investing in a reusable water bottle instead of staying in an endless plastic bottle loop is a small-but-powerful step toward a more sustainable lifestyle—both in terms of the environment and your finances. Plus, opting out of plastic ensures you won’t encounter potentially harmful chemicals leaching into your drink.
Choosing your favorite bottle is even a fun opportunity to express your personal style. Take your time to find a receptacle that features your favorite colors or a meaningful quote. Do it for your style, do it for your health, do it for the planet!