A water bottle is a container that is used to hold water, liquids or other beverages for consumption. The use of a water bottle allows an individual to transport and carry a beverage from one place to another. A water bottle is usually made of plastic, glass, or metal. Water bottles are available in different shapes, colors and sizes. In the past, water bottles were sometimes made of wood as well. Water bottles can be either disposable or reusable. Reusable water bottles can also be used for liquids such as juice, iced tea, alcoholic beverages or soft drinks. Reusable water bottles can help save the environment and reduce the amount of waste. Water bottles are also easily portable for convenient use.
Types of water bottles
Single-use plastic water bottles
Water bottles sales have increased almost every year in the United States for more than a decade. In 2011 over $11 billion was spent on bottled water products in the US. The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) states that Americans are increasingly relying on them due to their convenience and portability. The main features of plastic bottles are that they are inexpensive, transparent, and shatter resistant.
A water bottle
Multi-use water bottles can be made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), copolyester, or polypropylene. All offer the advantage of being durable, lightweight, dishwasher-safe, and BPA-free. The main difference between each type is the flexibility of the material. Copolyester and polypropylene bottles offer the greatest rigidity. HDPE bottles retain some pliability, while LDPE bottles (most commonly associated with 'squeeze' type bottles) are highly flexible and collapsible.
Metal water bottles
Metal water bottles are growing in popularity. Made primarily from stainless steel or aluminum they are very durable and retain minimal odor or taste from contents. Aluminum bottles contain a plastic resin or epoxy liner to protect contents from taste and odor transfer. Although most liners are now BPA free, older and less expensive models can contain BPA. It is not recommended to fill aluminum bottles with acidic liquids (e.g. orange juice) as this could cause aluminum to leach into the contents of the bottle. Stainless steel bottles do not contain a liner but have been known to transfer a metallic taste and odor to contents. Bottles made with food grade stainless steel (Grade 304, also known as 18/8) do not transfer taste or odor. Depending on the type of source material and manufacturing process behind your stainless steel bottle, trace amounts of minerals can leach into contents. Metal water bottles can be heavier than their plastic counterparts and readily transfer temperature of contents to external surfaces which makes them unsuitable for use with very hot or very cold liquids.
Glass water bottles
Because they are completely recyclable, BPA free, and transfer minimal taste or odor, glass water bottles are also becoming a popular choice for many consumers worried about their health. They are heavier than plastic, stainless steel or aluminum bottles and they are also easier to damage or break. Glass bottles have a high level of temperature transfer so they are not ideal for very hot or very cold liquids.
Filtering water bottles
This type of bottle is often BPA-Free & more commonly uses carbon (activated charcoal) filtration. UV light can also be used to purify water. UV filtration bottles are popular and convenient for those who are travelling to areas where water quality may be suspect or where bottled water is not readily available. UV is effective against all water-borne pathogens. UV bottles can be expensive and require power (i.e. batteries) to function. Recently, Timothy Whitehead has invented a UV filtering water bottle that utilizes a hand crank to generate the necessary power. It’s not yet available for purchase. Carbon filtration bottles will eliminate some organic chemicals and improve the taste and odor of water. Carbon filtration will not eliminate pathogens, metals or nitrates from water. Carbon filters must be changed regularly to maintain effectiveness.
Connected water bottles
Are connected devices that collect data related to a person's water intake. The data is transmitted to a smartphone which enables tracking of an individual's water intake and alerting the user when they are not properly hydrated. These devices are a result of recent technology advancements which fall and the broader category of the Internet of Things. Devices that monitor and collect data related to one's personal health are also part of the Quantified Self movement. While several concepts have been introduced none are currently available commercially.
Also known as ‘hydration bladders’ are large volume, flexible bags typically carried in a backpack system. Users access water via a 'sipping tube'. This system allows the user to remain engaged in activity without having to stop and unscrew a water bottle. .
Due to growing concern over the safety, environmental impact, and cost of disposable plastic water bottles, more people are choosing to re-fill multi-use water bottles. The popularity of water available in disposable plastic bottles continues to rise. In 2007, Americans consumed 50 billion single-serve bottles of water. Since 2001, the sale of single-serve bottled water has fluctuated by 70%, and this trend is continuing.
Chemicals used for making some types of plastic bottles have been shown to be detrimental to the health of humans. Inhalation of plastic is an enormous hazard for the factory workers who handle the material. Since the 1960s, workers have been documented to suffer higher cancer rates than the general population. In many developing countries plastic waste is burned rather than recycled or deposited in landfills. Rural residents of developing countries who burn plastic as a disposal method are not protected from the chemical inhalation hazards associated with this practice. Inhalation of the pollutants produced from burning plastics have been shown to result in poor health outcomes.
Much of the plastic that can be traced to health risks is latent in disease epidemiology and outcomes often appear months or years later. William Shotyk (2006) has performed two studies concerning contamination and leaching in PET containers in storage capacities. One study was undertaken to research the notion of “storage dose” of water in acid-cleaned LDPE bottles compared to that of PET bottles indicated that after three months of storage at room temperature, the water in the PET bottle yielded nearly 200% more of the Sb chemical concentration. This study provides insight on the storage capacity of the water contained in PET bottles and elevates the need to regularly use and replace water stored for emergencies in such bottle types. It is important to read the expiration date of the bottles and dispose of water that has been stored under conditions that increase potentially hazardous chemical leeching.
Bottle manufacturing relies on fossil fuels and natural resources. Some manufacturing processes release toxic chemicals into the air and water supply that can adversely affect nervous systems, blood, kidneys, immune systems, and can cause cancer and birth defects. Most disposable water bottles are made from petroleum derived polyethylene terephthalate (PET). While PET is considered less toxic than many other types of plastic, the Berkely Ecology Center found that manufacturing PET generates toxic emissions in the form of nickel, ethylbenzene, ethylene oxide and benzene at levels 100 times higher than those created to make the same amount of glass.
Research is ongoing as to whether plastic water bottles can leach hazardous chemicals into the water, especially when heated.
For more on the environmental issues surrounding bottled water see the bottled water page.
All disposable water bottles and most multi-use water bottles are recyclable. Water bottles made of glass, aluminium, and steel are the most readily recyclable. HDPE and LDPE bottles can be recycled as well. To determine if a plastic water bottle can be recycled, locate the SPI code on the bottle (usually on the bottom of your bottle inside what appears to be a 'recycling' triangle) and dispose of the bottle accordingly. You can also check with the manufacturer. Recycling is a great way to lower the impact of any product on the environment.
Because the manufacturing and transportation of disposable water bottles requires petroleum, a non-renewable resource, the single-serve bottled water industry has come under pressure from concerned consumers. The Pacific Institute calculates that it required about 17 million barrels of oil to make the disposable plastic bottles for single-serve water that Americans consumed in 2006. To sustain the consumptive use of products relying on plastic components and level of manufactured demand for plastic water bottles, the end result is shortages of fossil fuels. Furthermore, it means not only a shortage of the raw materials to make plastics, but also a shortage of the energy required to fuel their production.
In recent years, the single-serve bottled water industry has responded to consumer concern about the environmental impact of disposable water bottles by significantly reducing the amount of plastic used in bottles. The reduced plastic content also results in a lower weight product that uses less energy to transport. Other bottle manufacturing companies are experimenting with alternative materials such as corn starch to make new bottles that are more readily biodegradable.
The lowest impact water bottles are those made of glass or metal. They are not made from petroleum and are easily recyclable. By choosing to re-fill any multi-use water bottle, the consumer keeps disposable bottles out of the waste stream and minimizes environmental impact.
One way to reduce costs for the processing of plastic water bottles is to locate a plant in a small rural town where benefits such as employment and partial development costs or taxes to support the town are included in the plant location. However, the costs can be substantial in the long run. Trucks that transport the water will cause wear and tear on local roads, which the town must pay to have repaired. Towns that have a tourism element in their economic structure may be negatively impacted as the plant could make the town less aesthetically pleasing.
- Reuse of water bottles
- Beverage can
- Bottled water
- Sipper water bottle, a water dispenser for pets
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