How many times should a plastic bottle be reused?

Reuse or not reuse. Here is the question that thousands of people ask each time they think about filling a plastic bottle with tap water. They do it motivated by a controversial statement that rula word of mouth: these containers can release toxic components into the water. Useful warning or urban legend? The truth is that nuances abound.

Most of the plastic bottles on the market are manufactured from plastic polymers such as polypropylene and copolyester, which makes them light and durable. Many of these products contain Bisphenol A, an endocrine disruptor that causes the development of allergies and intolerances, and even more serious health problems, such as some types of cancer and long-term infertility. In fact, in Europe it is forbidden that sensitive containers such as bottles contain Bisphenol A, which gives an idea of ​​the recognition of their harmful effects on health.

Precisely, it is with the heat when the water consumption is greater and at the same time when the problem of the plastic bottles is exacerbated, since the Bisphenol A of these containers It is released more easily when subjected to high temperatures.

In Europe, sensitive containers are prohibited from containing Bisphenol A, but most bottles are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

"Most plastic bottles today do not use BPA," explains the Washington Post, John Swartzberg, a professor at the University of California School of Medicine, who clarifies: "The problem is that they have replaced the BPA with other materials, but we don't know much about these others that have replaced them. "Although the effects of substitutes such as bisphenol S have not been studied in humans, several animal studies suggest that it could also be harmful.

The key is in the numbers

Types of talk. (Raw Foundation)

The alternatives are usually containers made of other recycled materials, labeled with capital letters and a figure as an indicator of the type of plastic. So for example, a number 7 indicates that the bottle may contain BPA, while a 6 would indicate the presence of polystyrene foam (EPS) and a 3 refers to polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The most commonly used in commercialized bottles is polyethylene terephthalate, labeled with the letters PET and number 1.

It is only recommended to reuse the bottle if the bottom is marked with PET 1, which would reflect that it does not release plastics as it is used. In any case, giving them a second (or eternal) life involves health risks at the microbiological level: if they are not washed regularly, they can become contaminated with bacteria from the mouth, hands or the environmental exposure itself, especially if it deteriorates, taking into account that scratches or loss of asepsis of the material creates the perfect conditions to house microorganisms.

Therefore, the polyethylene terephthalate bottle can be fill in as many times as you want under the assumptions that it remains in its original state and is washed in a similar way as any element of a tableware. The National Association of Bottled Drinking Water Companies (Aneabe) provides another perspective from its website: "There are no food safety problems, but it is advised not to reuse the bottles to, on the one hand, avoid fraud and, on the other, as a measure of accident prevention. "

The eternal return … to the botijo

The sales figures for bottled water do not stop growing. Its production has increased by almost 50% since 2001, according to figures of the employers of bottled water, although during the crisis sales fell. Despite this, bottled water cannot compete with tap water in most cities in Spain. "The water of the network passes very exhaustive controls that guarantee greater security than that sold bottled. In addition, it does not need packaging, it is more ecological and, of course, it is much cheaper: bottled water can cost up to a thousand times more than what comes out of the tap, "recalls in a statement the consumer organization Facua, which recommends packaging of aluminum, steel or glass.

In the same line, call retrieve the botijo, an ancestral vessel whose design allows water to cool to 10 degrees under conditions of 30 degrees outside temperature and 40% humidity. It achieves it by sweating, since the clay of which it is composed is porous and responds to ambient heat by exuding the liquid, which cools the container to the external contact and, by extension, the water it contains. "This simple thermodynamic mechanism has not yet been overcome by the prepotent plastic packaging industry, although marketing has flooded establishments and homes with their bottles that, unfortunately, are mostly not reusable," says Facua.