What's In Your Bottle?

BPA? Funky Coatings? Petroleum-based Toxins? Other Weird Stuff? Alzheimer's Disease?

Reusable water bottles are made from a variety of materials, but mainly aluminum and plastic. The chart below compares aluminum and plastic on some key factors.

 

Plastic

Aluminum

Common Examples
Nalgene, Camelbak, disposable plastic water bottles
Sigg, Laken, cheap unbranded imported bottles
Composition
Plastic (polycarbonate, polystyrene, etc)
Aluminum with epoxy based coating
BPA and Toxins
Plastic is a petroleum-based material and it has been shown to outgas (i.e. leach) when subjected to repeated heat cycling (dishwasher cycles, hot days in the sun or car, etc). One of the most common chemicals used in plastic bottles is Bisphenal-A, which has been linked to developmental problems in children, breast and uterine cancer in women, and altered hormone states in men. Note that even so-called BPA-free plastic bottles still may outgas petroleum by-products when scuffed or heat cycled.
Raw or uncoated aluminum food service products have been linked to Alzheimer's disease. As a result virtually all aluminum bottles are lined to minimize this risk.
Internal Liner
None
Raw or uncoated aluminum food service products have been linked to Alzheimer's disease so virtually all aluminum bottle vendors line their bottles to minimize this risk. Some of these linings are derivatives of epoxy-based oven enamels, although each manufacturer uses their own "proprietary" lining. Many of these linings have been shown to leach toxins including BPA
Flavor Retention
Plastic bottles, of both the disposable and reusable variety, have a strong tendency to retain flavors. Remember the funky smell that emanated from that plastic bottle left in the sun??
The linings used in aluminum bottles are the classic "flavor savers". These epoxy-based coatings tend to absorb strong flavors making them hard to clean and gross. We know several people who had to throw away their aluminum bottle because they couldn't remove the funk.
Durability
Reasonably durable but prone to cracking and shattering if dropped. Unfortunately plastic bottles scuff and scratch easily resulting in outgassing of petroleum by-products.
Stronger than plastic, but more prone to dents and scratches than stainless steel. Aluminum is a "soft metal" and falls into the middle of the pack for external durability. On the inside, the internal liner can crack and flake off, and is also prone to wearing off under abrasion.
Environmental Impact
It takes 5 liters of water and 1/4 liter of oil to produce a single one liter disposable water bottle. Hmmm... for every 1 liter reusable bottle I use, 5 additional liters of water and 1/4 liter of oil are consumed. Not very eco-conscious if you ask us!
The production of aluminum requires massive amounts of electricity and raw materials, giving aluminum the nickname "solidified electricity". Compared to stainless steel, aluminum production also emits high levels of greenhouse gases.
Disposal
Depending on the type of plastic your bottle is made from, it may or may not be recyclable. Another factor is your location, as some cities don't accept certain types of plastic for recycling.
100% Recyclable, just like a soda can.