Reuse of bottles (Redirected from Reuse of water bottles)

Examples of returnable glass milk bottles from the late 19th century

A reusable bottle is a bottle that can be reused, as in the case as by the original bottler or by end-use consumers. Reusable bottles have grown in popularity by consumers for both environmental and health safety reasons. Reusable bottles are one example of reusable packaging.


Assortment of cleaning brushes, including bottle brushes

Early glass bottles were often reused, such as for milk, water, beer, soft drinks, yogurt, and other uses. Mason jars, for example, were developed and reused for home canning purposes.

With returnable bottles, a retailer would often collect empty bottles or would accept empty bottles returned by customers. Bottles would be stored and returned to the bottler in reusable cases or crates. Glass milk bottles were transported in milk crates and would be picked up by a milkman. At the bottler, the bottles would be inspected for damage, cleaned, sanitized, and refilled.

Beginning in the second half of the 20th century, many bottles were designed for single-use, eliminating the cost of collection. This often allows for thinner glass bottles and less expensive plastic bottles and aluminum beverage cans.

Though Sweden has had a standard glass bottle recycling system since 1884, in response to the increased litter from single-use containers, container deposit laws have been adopted in many developed countries (sometimes by provincial and municipal governments) starting in the 1970s. These laws mandate that retailers must charge a deposit on certain types of containers or for certain products; retailers are then required to accept empty bottles or cans for recycling and refund the deposit. A government fund mediates any imbalances caused by buying containers at one retailer and returning them to another, and also retains the profit from unreturned containers. Reverse vending machines are often used to automate this process. The machines scan the bar code on cans and bottles to verify that a deposit was paid, shred or crush the container for compact storage, and dispense cash or a voucher that can be redeemed at the store's checkout registers.

In Germany, reusable glass or plastic (PET) bottles are available for many drinks, especially beer and carbonated water as well as soft drinks (Mehrwegflaschen). The deposit per bottle (Pfand) is €0.08-€0.15, compared to €0.25 for recyclable but not reusable plastic bottles. There is no deposit for glass bottles which do not get refilled.

In 2019, TerraCycle announced a subscription box program called Loop, which would distribute food, household cleaners, and personal care products in reusable plastic and metal bottles that would be returned to the company once empty.[1][2]

Environmental consequences

The reuse of containers is often thought of as being a step toward more sustainable packaging. Reuse sits high on the waste hierarchy. When a container is used multiple times, the material required per use or per filling cycle is reduced.

Many potential factors are involved in environmental comparisons of returnable vs. non-returnable systems. Researchers have often used life cycle analysis methodologies to balance the many diverse considerations. Some comparisons show no clear winner but rather show a realistic view of a complex subject.[3][4]

Arguments in favor of reusing bottles, or recycling them into other products, are compelling. It is estimated that in the U.S. alone, consumers use 1,500 plastic water bottles every single second. But only about 23% of PET plastic, which is the plastic used in disposable plastic water bottles, gets recycled. Thus, about 38 billion water bottles are thrown away annually, equating to roughly $1 billion worth of plastic.[5] The average American spends $242 per year per person on disposable, single use plastic water bottles. The environmental and cost consequences associated with disposable plastic water bottles are a strong argument for reusing bottles.

Bottles intended for reuse by households

Metal water bottles
Reusable mineral water bottles in crates

Reusable drinking bottles for water, coffee, salad dressing, soup, baby formula, and other beverages have gained in popularity by consumers in recent years, due to the costs and environmental problems associated with single use plastic bottles. Common materials used to make reusable drinking bottles include glass, aluminum, stainless steel, and plastic. Reusable bottles include both single and double wall insulated bottles. Some baby bottles have an inner bag or bladder that can be replaced after each use.

Health and safety concerns associated with reusable bottles

Bacterial concerns

Reusable bottles can hold bacteria. Drinking from a reusable bottle can transfer bacteria from a person's mouth to the beverage it contains, which can contaminate both bottle and water. Contamination can cause bacterial or fungal growth in the liquid while it's stored. It is recommend that users clean reusable drinking bottles thoroughly before each use.[6] Users should take care to wash the bottle cap as well after each use for proper sanitation.

Some experts state that there's generally no harm in reusing your own drinking bottle, but the risk for ingesting harmful bacteria increases if you share your bottle with others. University of Nebraska Medical Center Microbiologist Pete Iwen, Ph.D., says, “If it’s my bottle, my germs, I probably would not be all that paranoid about reusing the bottle. The main issue occurs when sharing bottles. Microbes present in my mouth may be harmful to others.” [7]

Chemical concerns

Plastic drinking bottles often contain the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), which is made from polycarbonate and which shares resin identification code 7 with other plastics. Another chemical found in plastic drinking bottles is phthalate. Both of these chemicals are controversial because they are known endocrine disruptors, which can interfere with the body's hormonal system.

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) found that participants who drank from polycarbonate bottles – which is the plastic commonly used in disposable plastic water bottles, other plastic drinking bottles, and baby bottles – for just one week showed a two-thirds increase in their urine of the chemical BPA.[8] Exposure to BPA has been shown to interfere with reproductive development in animals and has been linked with cardiovascular disease and diabetes in humans. The study is the first to show that drinking from polycarbonate bottles increased the level of urinary BPA, and thus suggests that drinking containers made with BPA release the chemical into the liquid they contain, which people then consume. The amount of BPA consumed as a result of drinking from plastic bottles was enough to increase the level of BPA excreted in the urine of the people who drank from those containers.

Several countries have banned the use of plastics containing BPA used for water and other food items. Leaching of phthalates from PVC (resin identification code 3) is also a concern, but PVC is no longer used for water bottles.[citation needed]

Another common material used to make reusable drinking bottles is aluminum. However, aluminum also has health safety concerns. A study by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health found that aluminum levels were over 20-times higher in the elderly than in middle aged people. The study cited a correlation between aluminum levels and “densities of senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.” Furthermore, it found that lowering the amount of brain aluminum by using chelation was shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer's Disease.[9] This is an argument in favor or lessening the amount of aluminum that the body is exposed to, hence making it a less favorable material for reusable drinking bottles.

Carcinogen misconception

A university student's master's thesis incorrectly suggested that repeatedly rewashing plastic water bottles can lead to the leaking diethylhydroxylamine (DEHA) into the drinking water, and can be detrimental to human health.[10] The results of this research were repeated by various sources and also became a chain email, later declared to be a hoax.[11][12][13]

The American Cancer Society and Cancer Research UK have stated that DEHA is not present in plastic water bottles; even if it were, it is not a known carcinogen.[11][14]

See also


  1. ^ Marie Mohan, Anne (17 July 2018). "TerraCycle to unveil 'Loop'". Greener Package. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  2. ^ Loop Store
  3. ^ Singh, J; Krasowski, Singh (January 2011), "Life cycle inventory of HDPE bottle-based liquid milk packaging systems", Packaging Technology and Science, 24: 49–60, CiteSeerX, doi:10.1002/pts.909
  4. ^ Van Doorsselaer, K; Fox (2000), "Estimation of the energy needs in life cycle analysis of one-way and returnable glass packaging", Packaging Technology and Science, 12 (5): 235–239, doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-1522(199909/10)12:5<235::AID-PTS474>3.0.CO;2-W
  5. ^ Schriever, Norm (2013-07-29). "Plastic Water Bottles Causing Flood of Harm to Our Environment". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-10-27.
  6. ^ "Chemicals, Nutrients, Additives, & Toxins: Plastic water bottles". New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  7. ^ "UNMC expert says wash reused water bottles to avoid bacteria, viruses; don't share them". University of Nebraska Medical Center. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  8. ^ "BPA, chemical used to make plastics, found to leach from polycarbonate drinking bottles Into humans". News. 2009-05-21. Retrieved 2018-10-27.
  9. ^ Jansson, Erik T. (December 2001). "Aluminum exposure and Alzheimer's disease". Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. 3 (6): 541–549. doi:10.3233/JAD-2001-3604. ISSN 1875-8908. PMID 12214020.
  10. ^ Lilya, Deena (2001). Analysis and risk assessment of organic chemical migration from reused PET plastic bottles (Master's thesis). p. 180. OCLC 49613368. Archived from the original on 2012-09-23. Retrieved 2012-09-26.
  11. ^ a b "Plastic bottles". Cancer Research UK. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  12. ^ "Reusing Plastic Bottles Causes Cancer Hoax". Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  13. ^ "FAQs: The Safety of Plastic Beverage Bottles". American Chemistry Council.
  14. ^ "Plastic Water Bottles", American Cancer Society, archived from the original on 2012-10-16, retrieved 2012-09-09

Books, general references

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