Is It Safe to Reuse Plastic Water Bottles?

Is It Safe to Reuse Plastic Water Bottles?

Is it safe to reuse plastic water bottles?

Check out this answer from Consensus:

The research indicates that reusable water bottles made from certain materials, such as “BPA-free” plastics, uncoated stainless steel, or specific aluminium linings, are safe for the consumption of beverages without BPA contamination. PET bottles can also be safely reused with proper handling and manufacturing processes. Additionally, reusing plastic bottles can offer significant environmental benefits and even potential uses in sustainable building practices. However, consumers should be aware of the potential for chemical leaching and ensure that bottles are not misused or subjected to conditions that could increase the risk of contamination.


The Safety of Reusing Plastic Water Bottles

The reuse of plastic water bottles has become a common practice due to environmental concerns and the convenience it offers. However, the safety of this practice has been questioned, particularly in terms of chemical leaching and contamination. This article examines the safety of reusing plastic water bottles based on findings from recent research studies.

Bisphenol A (BPA) Contamination

Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, is a chemical used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Concerns have been raised about BPA’s potential harmful effects as it can leach into foods and beverages from containers made with these materials. A study assessing BPA release from reusable bottles found that polycarbonate bottles released BPA into water at room temperature, with concentrations ranging from 0.2 to 0.3 mg L⁻¹. However, bottles made from alternative materials such as Tritan™ copolyester plastic, uncoated stainless steel, or aluminium lined with EcoCare™ did not show detectable BPA contamination.

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) Bottles

Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is another common material used for water bottles. A health and safety assessment of PET refillable bottles (PRBs) exposed to contaminants showed that even under exaggerated conditions, the risk to public health was negligible. The study concluded that PRBs could be safely reused, provided that good manufacturing procedures are in place to eliminate abused bottles.

Environmental Benefits of Reusing PET Bottles

Reusing PET bottles also presents significant environmental benefits. Research indicates that even a single reuse of a 500 ml PET bottle can save about 1 MJ of energy per bottle. Compared to recycling, reusing bottles can result in 74% more energy savings and produce 182% less CO2. These findings highlight the potential for substantial energy and CO2 savings with the reuse of PET bottles.

Reuse in Building Construction

Beyond the reuse for drinking purposes, plastic water bottles have been studied as a building material. A comparison of the energy performance of buildings constructed with traditional bricks versus plastic bottle blocks showed environmental benefits, including energy savings and improved thermal comfort. This innovative reuse of plastic bottles can contribute to waste reduction and ecological balance.

Chemical Contamination Potential

A study on the chemical contamination potential of various bottle materials treated with household chemicals found that contaminants were absorbed and remigrated into the beverage simulant at detectable levels. However, the toxicological evaluation indicated no public health concerns. The study emphasized the importance of good manufacturing procedures to prevent negative effects on product quality.

Release of Inorganic Elements and Other Chemicals

An investigation into the release of inorganic elements, phthalates, and bisphenol-A from reusable water bottles in a “real use” simulation found that while inorganic elements were released from all tested bottles, the release of phthalates and bisphenol-A was not detected. The study suggests that although there are no immediate health risks, the additional intake of these elements should not be ignored, especially for susceptible populations.


Is it safe to reuse plastic water bottles?

Jill Bartolotta has answered Unlikely

An expert from Ohio State University in Marine Ecology, Education, Social Sciences, Environmental Science

First I think it important to answer whether or not it is safe to drink from a single-use plastic bottle. The water in a plastic water bottle being used for the first time is already contaminated with plastic and chemicals making your city or well water safer to drink. However, the safety and cleanliness of your city or well water depends on where you live. If you live somewhere that does not take the safety precautions required to provide safe city or well drinking water, then yes, bottled water is your best option. However, much of the water provided through city water or well systems for those living in developed nations is safe to drink and often times safer than drinking from single-use plastic bottles. City water is also more heavily regulated that bottled water. Bottled water is not regulated, at least in the United States, unless the water is bottled in one state and then transported over state lines. If this occurs, then there is one regulation required by the FDA. City water must pass through tens to hundreds of regulations and safety tests before it reaches your tap.

The water inside a single-use plastic water bottled is contaminated in several ways. First, the process required to make and fill water bottles can cause microplastics contamination. A recent study found that all bottled water contained microplastics. Microplastics enter the water in the water bottle in two ways. First, it is known that the water put into bottle water already contains microplastics since microplastics are present in all of our freshwater sources, even the ones used for drinking water. Second, the creation of the bottles and caps leaves microplastics in the air or on the equipment used to make water bottles allowing for a second round of plastic contamination. A study conducted by researchers at the University of New York in Fredonia, and presented by the World Health Organization, found twice as many microplastics in bottled water as they did tap water. But does having plastic in your water make it harmful? The answers for its effect on humans is still unclear, but research conducted on fish and zooplankton (microscopic marine and aquatic animals) has shown plastic ingestion and contamination has effects on the hormones and life cycle patterns of these organisms. The growth, feeding, and reproduction patterns for these organisms is different when they are known to be contaminated with plastic. We still do not have research to prove similar effects on humans, but we do know the chemicals used to make plastic and proven to be leached from plastic, through heat or sunlight exposure, to be endocrine disruptors and carcinogenic.

Next we move to the second method in which bottled water becomes contaminated. Bottled water is already contaminated when it leaves the factory, but then all bottled water is shipped to places for consumer purchase. In transport these bottles are able to heat up since they are not shipped in containers that are kept cold. When plastic heats it releases all the chemicals that are used to make it. As I mentioned earlier we know the chemicals used to make plastic are endocrine disrupting affecting our hormones and other body functions and cancer causing. Therefore, these chemicals leach out of the plastic and into the water you will drink. The more exposure the bottle has to heat the more chemicals released.

Lastly, many people think it is ok to reuse a single-use plastic bottle more than once. Research has shown that this behavior is unsafe. The plastic used to make bottles is very thin and consequently subject to cracking due to a weaker structure. These cracks can harbor bacteria and lead to unsafe drinking water. Washing the bottle in hot water, like your dishwasher, can lead to more cracks and cause the plastic to leach chemicals (Cooper et al., 2011).

In conclusion, as a consumer you must first consider whether it is safer for you to drink bottled water or water from your tap based on where you live. I suggest doing research to better understand the safety regulations required by your local water treatment facility to determine the cleanliness of your water. Then if you choose to use a bottle to refill your water I suggest you use one made of a thick plastic that is not subject to cracking or a metal or glass bottle.


Cooper, J.E., Kendig, E.L., and Belcher, S.M. 2011. “Assessment of Bisphenol A Released from Reusable Plastic, Aluminum and Stainless Steel Water Bottles”. Chemosphere. 85 (6): 943-947. 



Is it safe to reuse plastic water bottles?

Britta Denise Hardesty has answered Likely

An expert from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Biology, Marine Ecology, Ecology, Plant Ecology

Depends on what you mean by ‘safe’. Where is the water coming from, what is the bottle made from, has it been sitting in the sunlight? If I was to buy a plastic water bottle, I would certainly refill and re-use it.


Is it safe to reuse plastic water bottles?

Marek Cuhra has answered Near Certain

An expert from Institute of Marine Research in Toxicology, Marine Ecology

Washing plastic improves the quality of the water which subsequently is filled into it. In 2017 we published a paper on residues in laboratory-plastic. We found that washing actually improved the quality of the water (we had a biological indicator living inside the plastic-encased aqueous environment which was tested). So, drinking water out of a used and washed bottle should be safer than a brand-new bottle (with residues).

Cuhra, M., Bøhn, T. and Cuhra, P., 2017. In plastico: laboratory material newness affects growth and reproduction of Daphnia magna reared in 50-ml polypropylene tubes. Scientific Reports, 7, p.46442.

link to paper here:

(This answer disregards questions of sterility, microbial contamination of re-used waterbottles etc).


Is it safe to reuse plastic water bottles?

Brian Johnston has answered Likely

An expert from University of Wolverhampton in Cell Biology, Biotechnology, Microbiology

You can reuse plastic bottles for personal use with cold water, however once a bottle is damaged it should be put into recycling as plastic particles could detach into your water.


Is it safe to reuse plastic water bottles?

Marek Kowalczuk has answered Unlikely

An expert from Polish Academy of Sciences in Analytical Chemistry

PET deterioration and oligomers formation is not safe


Is it safe to reuse plastic water bottles?

Umar Abdulmutalib has answered Near Certain

An expert from University of Surrey in Environmental Biotechnology, Molecular Biology, Microbiology

Yes, in my opinion it is very much certain to re-use plastic bottles. Newly released plastic bottles might contain more microplastics compared to the used ones, the rate of degradation of this plastic is very slow due to the nature of the polymer as such leaching could be very much negligible. The practice of recycling has been in existence for very long time especially in developing countries and serves as one of the major ways plastics especially the single use bottles are being recycled.


Is it safe to reuse plastic water bottles?

Lindsay  Haake has answered Likely

An expert from Food and Drug Administration USA in Toxicology

Almost all disposable water bottles are made out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). From a materials standpoint, reusing PET bottles is perfectly safe. However, the only issue would be cleanliness from its previous use.


Is it safe to reuse plastic water bottles?

Rafael Franco has answered Likely

An expert from Universitat de Barcelona in Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Antioxidants, Nutrition, Pharmacology, Asthma, Cell Biology, Biochemistry

I do not see any problen in reusing for some time plastic bottles for water.

Reusing for long times may not be so conven ient due to partial “chemical” degradation of plastic.

For sure I would not reause much those plastic bottles left in cars under the sun as the temperature inside the car would go quite high and then degradation of the plasctic could occur soon.

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