Saturday, 4 August 2012

Bottling It

My mum has saved an article from the Sunday Telegraph magazine, Stella, for me. Bee Wilson writes a weekly column called The Kitchen Thinker which generally includes thoughts on anything from the best chocolate brownie recipe to how the economic crisis might have changed the nation’s eating habits. The article my mum has saved this time is from mid July; titled ‘What a lotta bottles’, it tells of her hunt for reusable, non-leaky water bottles that she can fill with tap water from her home, instead of buying bottled water while she is out.

I’ve never had too much of a water habit, only taking bottles with me if I’m going on a particularly long journey - on short journeys or if I’m just popping into town, I tend to go without, though this is perhaps not terribly healthy. What I mean to say is that I’m pretty good at not buying bottled drinks, except for the odd failure when I succumb to the lunchtime temptations of a Marks and Spencer smoothie (also not particularly healthy, given their sugar content). On journeys when I do take a bottle from home, I turn to my trusty Sigg bottle, bought for field trips when I was at University. Metal (aluminium), holds a litre of water and keeps it pretty fresh. No problem.

But now Bee Wilson tells me that Sigg bottles produced before 2008 used BPA in the bottle lining. This is no longer the case - Sigg say that, post 2008, bottles are produced without using the chemical. But wait, I was a Uni from 1999 to 2002. First: yikes - was it really that long ago? Second: yikes - this means I have been drinking from a BPA Sigg bottle for the last ten plus years. This does not make me very happy. Bye bye old Sigg bottle - there is no question that I will not be using it any longer.

To replacement... Do I buy a new Sigg bottle or do I chose a different brand? Apparently, before 2008, Sigg always used advertising that implied they never used BPA - until they admitted that, uh, yeah, actually they did after all. So, if they’ve already twisted the truth once, who’s to say they are’t now?

Why not re-use shop bottles?
Well, to state the obvious: they’re plastic. As Bee points out, “the PET material can leach small amounts of toxic antimony.” Plastic water bottles are designed and made for the purpose of a single use, and aren’t likely to withstand repeated washing and refilling. All plastic begins to break down with time and pressure - just like anything in this world does - and no matter how safe a manufacturer might say its plastic product is, how unlikely it is leach chemicals, that ‘safety’ is only limited to the manufacturer’s estimated time of use for that plastic product - which is only going to be for however long they think the original product is going to stay in it, and doesn’t apply to six months of daily refilling.

Other options
A quick google search for ‘plastic free water bottle’ gave me the top response of Kleen Kanteen. These are 100% stainless steel with no plastic liner, and cap options of either stainless steel or a BPA-free plastic. Any ‘decoration’ is with lead-free acrylic paint. And the plastic-free queen, Beth, over on My Plastic-Free Life, gives them her vote, which means they get my vote too.

On yer bike
I am definitely planning to purchase a Kleen Kanteen to replace my disgraced Sigg, but in the meantime I should probably confess to have recently, deliberately, purchased a plastic bottle.

Ok, so, I’ve been a bit reckless with my spending power of late. My parents don’t accept rent from me, and so the idea was that I’d save what I would otherwise be spending, in the hopes that maybe one day I’d have enough for a house deposit. What has actually happened is that I’ve been spending said ‘rent’ money on other things. Things like a three week trip to Seattle later this summer, a new clutch for my car, and a bike. Yes, I decided I should get some exercise. Granted I haven’t used my bike that much yet, but, hey, I’m working up to it. Anyway, after setting out for a ride a couple of weeks ago I realised I didn’t have a water bottle holder - or water bottle - for the bike. So, without particularly thinking about it, the next day I toddled off to my favoured bike shop and picked one up. The bottle holder itself is metal, but the only bottles available were, of course, plastic. I faithfully listened to the sales assistant who told me that I needed a bottle designed to fit the holder and so, without really thinking all that much about it, I bought the one he recommended.

This new bottle is a ‘Camelbak Podium’. I did no research into it, going only by what it said on the label, which told me that it is BPA free. It’s still plastic, though. 100% plastic, there’s no doubt about that. Obviously this is not something that I really condone - even if the plastic is ‘safe’ and BPA free, there is still the manufacturing process and the raw material costs to consider, as well as what will happen to it once I have moved past my bike phase or the bottle has come to the end of its ‘safe’ lifetime. So what I am to do? Well, (a) now I’ve bought it it would be wrong not to use it, and (b) unlike the everyday water bottles mentioned above, it is made and designed to make it safe for repeated washing and refilling, so should be safer to use for a longer time. But I wonder: if I buy a small size Kleen Kanteen, will it fit in my bike’s bottle holder after all?

Interesting links about water:
Story of Bottle Water