Why It's A Bad Idea To Reuse Plastic Single-Use Water Bottles

However harmful it is, single-use plastic has become integrated into our society — from take-out containers and shopping bags to, of course, water bottles. Plastic water bottles are everywhere, and as Harvard University notes, because of the fossil fuels required to produce them, these bottles contribute to global warming as well as pollution. 

Still, no matter how much you try to avoid them — and how aware you are of how bad they are for the environment — there are times when you simply have no choice but to drink from those ubiquitous plastic bottles of water. But if you think you can mitigate the harm by reusing that plastic bottle, think again.

Not only are single-use plastic water bottles harmful to the planet, but as gastroenterologist Dr. Neilanjan Nandi told Philly Voice, reusing them over and over again could be impairing your own health. "A lot of people think 'Oh, I'm recycling, saving the environment, etc.,'" Nandi said. "But what they're also doing, potentially, is they might be harming themselves." So, why, exactly, is reusing plastic water bottles a bad idea?

Why reusing plastic water bottles can be bad for your health

To put it simply, plastic water bottles can get gross. While there are no Food and Drug Administration recommendations on how to store bottled water, a 2005 study found that an open, damp, or partially consumed bottle is an invitation for bacteria to grow. Even manufacturers acknowledge this, noting that the tiny crinkles and cracks that develop on the bottles as you reuse them serve as perfect places for bacteria to hide (via Very Well). The majority of the bacteria actually comes from regular contact with your own hands and mouth, and multiply throughout the day, according to WebMD.

If you must reuse one, it's important that you clean your plastic bottle first. While Very Well notes you can use hot water and soap to rinse it out, that's not going to get into those cracks and crevices where the bacteria tend to hang out. As Dr. Nandi told Philly Voice, "The cracks, just from regular wear and tear — washing, dishwashing — these things can actually harm the plastic and allow bad bacteria to grow. And so you're constantly refeeding your body these bad bacteria, and that's not a good thing long term."

Dr. Nandi also cautioned against putting plastic water bottles in the dishwasher, noting that "the high heat actually causes chemicals to leach from the plastic into the water — that can be dangerous and hazardous to [your] health."

Rather than reusing plastic bottles, the most convenient and environmentally friendly thing to do is use glass or stainless steel bottles, which are easy to clean and safe to use over and over.