Plastic, Stainless Steel, Aluminum or Glass Water Bottle?

Categories: glass water bottle

With the mounting body of evidence and growing awareness surrounding the bottled water scam, you have consciously made the decision to “Drop” the purchase of those plastic water bottles. You will no longer be a contributor to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and to the privatization of municipal water in local communities.  So, the first logical step towards realizing this personal goal would be to find a replacement–you still need to hydrate yourself, after all. Off to find a reusable bottle! The only problem? There are too many choices and you have no idea where to even begin.

We have compiled a list of pros and cons to help you make a more informed decision over the four most common types (materials) of the reusable bottles: plastic, glass water bottle, stainless steel and aluminum.

Plastic

Stainless Steel

Aluminum

Glass

Pros

  • Durable

  • Light

  • Inexpensive
  • Durable

  • 100% recyclable, accepted in curbside recycling

  • High post-consumer recycling usage

  • Warm-hot and cold drinks usability, depending on design

  • Little to no odor

  • Light

  • Easily, 100% recyclable

  • High post-consumer usage

  • Keeps beverages cold

  • Made of abundant natural resources

  • Holds taste of substance better than any other material
  • Low energy inputs for manufacturing, esp. compared to metal and plastic

  • Infinitely recyclable (for accepted glass)

  • Warm-hot and cold drinks usability, more consumer friendly with use of accessories

  • No taste/odor

Cons

  • Made from oil

  • Low recyclability

  • Chemical leaching possibility

  • Plastic taste

  • Energy intensive extraction/manufacturing

  • Not microwaveable

  • Prone to denting

  • Chemical leaching possibility, with certain lining

  • Metallic taste

  • Not microwaveable

  • Breakable

  • Weight and durability tradeoffs

Plastic

Reusable plastic water bottles might be the most common type found in the marketplace. They’re durable, lightweight, and come at a wider price range because of the variety of manufacturers, anywhere from $4.99 to $20.00, and about $30.00, on the higher end and with a built-in filtration. Average BPA-free bottles will cost about $10.99 to $14.95, mostly from the big companies commonly found in outdoor gear stores.

Most of the harder plastic ones are now made of a polycarbonate; however, there are still many made of BPA-leaching polycarbonate–any sort of hard plastics that do not label themselves as BPA-free, you can assume to have some liability of leaching. Some precautions to minimize or avoid the increased likelihood of leaching: avoid hot liquids/heating it, acidic foods and harsh chemicals to clean it.

Once, however, they reach the end of their usability due to whatever reasons, they are more difficult to recycle than the other  materials available. The more durable plastics are usually labeled and identified with #7, which is made of a catch-all resin. The good news is that they are becoming more accepted in community recycling programs, but their recyclability is limited compared to the other types of plastics and the grade of the resin is a huge factor into its reusability. In other words, there is a limitation to the amount of times plastics can be recycled. Another factor to consider is the input of energy and resources that goes into manufacturing or producing these bottles. Plastics in this case are usually made from oil, and some recycled resin, if any. The amount of energy expended to create the products require additional sources of energy and resources, including water.

 

Stainless Steel

aluminum bottle

Stainless Steel also went through a golden period in the late 1800s to early 1900s, when it was the standard for buildings and a sign of economic growth. Today, steel has found its way to reusable bottles.  Like glass, Stainless Steel bottles are a bit more expensive than plastic ones, so the price ranges are higher: $8.95 to about $34.95, with average running around $15.00 to $19.00.

Out of the four, steel is probably the most energy intensive to make, from the extraction of the metals to the actual manufacturing. On the other hand, you can be sure that it will last you a lifetime and can withstand daily wear easily, though some may dent easier than other. In the offhand chance that it becomes unusable, steel is 100% recyclable and is accepted in curbside recycling.

Stainless Steel’s properties allow it to be a very effective insulator, so, depending on how it is designed, it can keep your beverage cool or warm for long periods of time without burning your hands. Unlike aluminium ones, Stainless Steel bottles are usually unlined–no chemical leaching–and does not affect the taste of the drink.

Aluminum

Aluminum has a variety of applications, but today, you’ll most likely encounter it through the purchase of drinks/beverages, for the packaging of soda, beer, tea and other drinks.  Aluminum bottles are in between the prices of plastic water bottles and Stainless Steel and glass: from about $8.00 to $28.00, on average towards $15 to $25.00.

An analysis of the raw extraction for aluminum would tell you that it is also an energy intensive process. Most of the aluminum used today, though, are recycled over and over, which means that there is a lower need or demand for raw extraction. Because there is such a high recycling rate of aluminum, you can rest a little easier when you have to part ways with your bottle.

Some drawbacks to the aluminum bottle include some recent findings of BPA-leaching from the bottles’ linings, though there are now new linings, EcoCare in particular, that are BPA-free. In addition, they are usually discovered to dent a bit easier than Stainless Steel ones. Some also find theirs give off a bit of a metallic taste..

Glass

Bottle_revised2

Before the advent and availability of plastics, glass was the “go-to” material for all household packaging needs, from milk containers to perfume. And with increasing concerns over leaching of chemicals in plastics and interests in sustainable products that are also ecologically sound, glass is most certainly back. The demand has driven the supply end, and there are many reusable glass bottle options available now, such as our own BeCause Water bottle. Pricing options for glass bottles are about the same as for Stainless Steel, most falling between $15.00 and $25.00.

As demonstrated by the variety of its uses in food packaging in the past, glass is odorless and tasteless. As demonstrated from its wide applications, from sterile medical equipment to cooking, glass is the most neutral of the four in terms of taste and smell. With the help of sleeves and additional “walls,” glass bottles can be safely and effectively used with both hot and cold drinks, retaining insulation without any possibility of chemical leaching.

Glass is infinitely recyclable and with its incorporation into curbside recycling, collection has also risen, which should allow for increased use of recycled glass materials instead of reliance on raw materials. So, when your bottle has been rendered unsuitable for its original use, you can recycle it in your local participating programs without thinking too much about the end result.

However, they are more fragile than their steel and plastic counterparts, with a higher likelihood of breakage, and there are tradeoffs between weight and durability. That being said, there are constant innovations in these areas, with (silicon) sleeves acting both as a cushion and an insulator, coatings to prevent shatter by holding pieces together, and ways to make it lighter. Those made with double walled Borosilicate Glass (Pyrex) are more resistant to fracture and have added durability, and when they do break, they crack into larger fragments, instead of shattering.

In the end, whatever you choose comes down to preference and what benefits are most important to you. The fact that you’ve made the conscious decision to buy a reusable water bottle shows that you’re already headed in the right direction.

Primary Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/29/the-best-reusable-water-b_n_428684.html

http://www.ecokaren.com/2013/07/comparing-reusable-bottles-stainless-steel-glass-plastic/

http://www.practicallygreen.com/actions/switch-to-a-reusable-water-bottle

http://earth911.com/news/2012/11/14/reusable-water-bottle-options/3

http://science.howstuffworks.com/plastic1.htm

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