Get rid of plastic water bottles

Photo: istockphoto.com/Doug Cannell

Are you one of the 88 percent who throw their bottle out? Collectively we are dumping 40 million plastic water bottles per day. Stop using plastic water bottles and reduce your carbon footprint. (You'll also save money.)

A good job of selling
True be told: 40 percent of bottled water starts out as tap water. Companies, like Coca Cola and Pepsi, take the water for free, running it through some filters, pour it into a bottle with a fancy name and then sell it back to us at a price 240 to 10,000 times higher than tap water.

Illusion of health
Clever marketing has made us believe that bottle water is healthier and much more pure than tap water. But a four year study by the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) found plenty of bacteria and chemicals in bottled water. Since there are currently no regulations in place for bottled water it's hard to know exactly what you are buying.

Check the label of your bottled water. If it is says "from a municipal source" or "from a community water system" it's plain old tap water.

Go with stainless steelSave money and reduce your carbon footprint: buy a water filer for home use and fill up your stainless steel bottle, which won't leak any chemicals. Some tried and true companies include:

  • Gaiam, stainless steel water bottles. You can buy direct from their website.
  • Klean Kanteen: Although manufactured in China, the company guarantees their product is safe and created in a factory with fair working conditions. Pick up yours from Life Without Plastic.
  • Multi-Pure's stainless steel 500 ml, 17 fl oz, H20 On the Go is another reusable bottle that's a great alternative. (Thanks to our reader, Laura, for the tip on them! )
  • New Wave Enviro Products: Founded in 1993, this company offers several styles of stainless steel bottles.
  • Triple C Sports: sells stainless steel water bottles with your favourite team logo on them.
  • Check the triangle
    If you still want to go with plastic then choose the safest kind. Check the bottom of the bottle for a triangle with a number in the middle. This tells you what type of plastic used to make the bottle. Check our handy chart to find the healthiest plastic.

    Quick reference: 2,4,5 = safe, 1,3,6,7 = unsafe. As safe as plastic can be
    Certain numbers are safer than others:

  • #2 HDP or HPDE (high-density polyethylene): This high density plastic is the most resistant to chemical leaching. Most commonly found in milk jugs, detergent and shampoo bottles. Easy to spot because it will be semitransparent or a solid white color. It's never clear.
  • #4 LDPE (low density polyethylene): Although resistant to leaching, it's almost never used in water bottles but is found in sandwich bags, cling wrap and grocery bags.
  • #5 PP (polypropylene): This semi-transparent or white plastic is also resistant to chemical leaching. More used in syrup bottles and yogurt containers.
  • Avoid whenever possible
    Try your best to turn your back on these plastics:

  • #1 PET/PETE (polyethylene terephthalate): Made for one time use, these bottles should be avoided since they more than likely leach the heavy metal antimony and the hormone disrupting chemical BPA. Don't reuse these bottles and don't purchase if they are over six months old.
  • #3 PVC (polyvinyl chloride): Known to leach two toxic chemicals, DEHP (di-2-ehtylhexyl phthalate) and bispehonal-A that are both known endocrine and hormone disruptors, this is the most common plastic used in water bottles, baby bottles and cooking oil.
  • #6 PS (polystyrene): Known to leach styrene, a carcinogen that causes headaches, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, drowsiness, this plastic is most commonly used in disposable coffee cups and take out containers.
  • The winner for worst plastic goes to…#7 PC/PLA: Polycarbonate: Since this plastic is made with BPA, it's going to leach and is probably the worst plastic to use. Unfortunately it's found in baby bottles, reusable water bottles, 5-gallon jugs (used for the office water cooler) and food-storage containers.
  • Tips for bottled water

  • If your water smells like plastic, even just a hint, don't drink it. Dump it or return it.
  • Keep your bottled water away from heat or sunlight. Hot plastic leaches chemicals more easily.
  • Don't buy water that has been on the shelf longer than six months. Ask the store how long it's been on the shelf. Dust is usually not a good sign.
  • Don't reuse bottles made for single use. They are breeding grounds for bacteria and will also start to break down quickly, easily releasing chemicals
  • Go with stainless steel or glass whenever possible.
  • Buy in bulk and stay away from the individual bottles.
  • Drink tap water. Buy a home water filter and start carrying tap in your stainless steel bottle. Save money and the planet.