Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Earth Week: Water Bottles

When I was in Junior High School, Mom bought me a Thermos bottle for my lunch time beverage. It had a glass liner and if dropped, the interior would shatter into a mess of fine shards. She had to replace the liner more than once and when plastic bottles became available, they seemed like a cheap and safe alternative to the old fashioned beverage containers.

On Earth Day the Waterloo Region District School Board voted to ban the sale of plastic water bottles in schools as of 2009. This is to be done to make an effort to reduce the consumption of plastic. One of the trustees, Ted Martin is quoted in our paper as saying,

"People who complain about spending $1.20 on gas are spending almost twice that on water," he said. It takes more water to manufacture a bottle of water than can be held in that bottle. What's more, nearly nine out of 10 water bottles aren't recycled, even if they're placed in blue boxes, because nobody wants to buy used plastic, Martin said.

"We're creating far more plastic than can be recycled. . . . We have to pay people to take it away."

On August 15, 2007 the same paper reported that the region sent 680 tonnes of mixed plastics to Asia last year because the waste is not recycled in North America. And plastic water bottles are being used more than ever around the world.

We have used a water filter system at home for many years. I do trust the safety of our municipal water but dislike the taste of chlorinated water, especially in my tea. When I travel I take a portable Brita or Pur water filter bottle with me. Bottled water is not regulated for purity but our city water is tested regularly. I have used a Nalgene bottle for carrying water for a long time too and am very reluctant to use disposable plastic bottles. If I do need to buy drinking water I purchase a four litre jug and fill reusable containers.

Earlier this month , plastic bottles containing
Bisphenol A, or BPA, were listed as a health hazard as some studies have linked them to breast and prostate cancer, infertility and premature puberty. Baby bottles made with BPA will be banned in Canada as the chemicals can leak out especially when the bottles are heated. Many stores have removed the popular Nalgene water bottles off the shelf as well. The hard plastic coloured bottles that have a recycling number 7 on the bottom are the polycarbonate plastics that are considered dangerous. My soft, opaque Nalgene bottle shown in the picture above does not contain BPA.

Local sports stores are now stocking stainless steel water bottles. If the hard Nalgene bottles are used for cold water, not hot liquids or acidic foods, they are considered reasonably safe for adults. However, who knows what next year's health studies will reveal. Many plastics leach chemicals when heated, especially if used in the microwave oven.

In my last post I endeavored to reduce my use of plastic bags and containers this year. This is difficult as virtually everything we buy is packaged or double packaged in plastic. But we don't have to buy plastic water bottles. I make iced tea in the summer and don't drink soda so we use a minimum of plastic from these types of beverages. We will continue to put plastic in the recycling bin, but it is disturbing to know that my it may end up half way around the world.

I will have to remember my growing up days in the 1960's when we had paper grocery bags, tin garbage cans and used glass containers. Perhaps the old ways were best.

Check out KGMom's post from earlier this month called
Fouling the Nest.


  1. Whenever I go to the beach at Binic I spend the first hour or so collecting the plastic bottles, bottle caps, bags and unidentifiable but pervasive pieces of plastic from between the rocks and pebbles
    I have become known as The English Bag Lady, the one who collects plastic while the French collect oysters
    Eccentricity found me earlier than I had anticipated!

  2. I find this fascination with disposable water bottles ridiculous.

  3. Very interesting blog. I think the old ways might be the best ways. ...and then there's the story of the "revival of clothes lines" to conserve on electricity- another full circle of life

  4. We don't do the plastic water bottle thing either. I try to use glass containers whenever possible ... a lot of my dried food (beans, lentils etc) is stored in quart sealers. I'm always horrified at how many plastics end up in the garbage ... just getting stuff home from the store. We've bought the cloth, reusable bags ... but that's small potatoes when one looks at the rest of the plastic coming home with us. I hate those hard, thin, plastic containers that they put baked food in (I bake my own stuff!) and salad greens ... so bulky and awkward to get rid of. I cut them down or fill them up with the bones from soup making to get rid of them. Usually I buy a head of lettuce if I can.

    We buy very little processed food so have very little garbage but are amazed, on garbage day, to see how much others put out.

    On an aside, we buy no pop ... but I'm horrified to watch the pop that goes out of the grocery store ... just in the short time we are in the store buying our own things!

  5. We, too, have water treatment in house. I fill glass Class*co jars with water at night - very cold and good for the next day.

  6. Anonymous8:19 pm GMT-4

    I was really surprised with the BPA articles that just hit the American media here as I have known about it for awhile and avoided it. I am glad that the large study was done though, as it put it into the public eye. My friend uses glass bottles for her baby (they are more indestructible the the plastic ones oddly...)

    I also have a Nalgene bottle for my water though I have considered getting a metal bottle next as even the Nalgene seems to get the "plastic" taste after awhile.

  7. You're right. We are living in the Plastic Age.

    After so many reports of the hazards of bottled water, we're relying on our filtered water more often. Your information here is a nice refresher, though.

    Oh, I do remember those glass thermoses in the 60's. It was a tragic thing if they were dropped and shattered.

  8. Mouse- I need to carry a garbage bag in my pocket too.If everyone did what you do, things would be so clean.

    AC- Fascination to the point of obsession...

    OmaLois- Yes, I heard about clothes lines and the removal of neighbourhood covenants that prohibit them.

    CS- I buy salad greens in those big plastic boxes as they are cheaper than the bulk produce. It is virtually impossible to get away from plastic packaging. Our lettuce heads are wrapped in plastic too.

    Jean- That's a good idea. In the summer we often run out of cold filtered water.

    Jaspenelle- Nalgene bottles were advertised as being extremely safe, even at high temperatures. It is disappointing to see that is false. What can your trust? I will be checking out stainless steel too.

    Mary- There is no knowing for sure if bottled water is pure. I am sure most of it is but so is most of our municipal water.

  9. Anonymous9:10 am GMT-4

    I completely agree with you on this, I believe there was a comedy sketch about this by Lewis Black, too bad it is so very true.


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