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February 21, 2008

Repeat after me: "No more plastic bottles"

This is article 2 in a series. Read the other articles in the beverage series.

Water_bottle_pile It’s Environment 101: don’t buy plastic bottles.

Practically, it’s so difficult to do sometimes. I go to the gym and there’s something gross in the drinking fountain, so I buy a bottled water. I’m traveling in an airport and really thirsty, so I purchase a big bottled water to stay hydrated on the plane. I’m on the go in the summer, running a bunch of errands, and run into a Starbucks to grab some water so I don’t melt.

In case you haven’t heard the rhetoric, plastic bottles are bad. Some people feel like plastic bottles should be the new cigarettes: if you see somebody using one, you should guilt them into submission.

Even the bottled water manufacturers are getting such a bad rap they are inventing different bottle shapes that supposedly reduce packaging. Of course, they reduce the water contained inside too. By the way, this is called “greenwashing”. Definition: when a company pretends like something they are doing is environmentally friendly, markets themselves as such, but they are most definitely not.

But why are plastic bottles so bad? We can recycle them right?

Plastic is made from oil
I say this all of the time, but plastic is largely made from oil, a finite resource that is getting more expensive and more rare.

3 fl oz. of oil are required to make every plastic bottle. With 28 billion bottles manufactured in the US last year, we’re talking 645 million gallons of oil.

Plastic is difficult to recycle
Even though US consumers have taken to newspaper and aluminum recycling, plastic production continues to outpace plastic recycling at a pace of 5 to 1. Why is it so hard to recycle plastic?

For starters, those numbers on the bottoms of your plastic jugs represent different formulas of plastic. When you melt aluminum to recycle it into cans, all of the aluminum melts the same and can be mixed up in one big vat. When you melt plastic, unless it shares the same number, and thus the same formula, it just won’t stick together. So plastic needs to be sorted, either in homes (which is hard), or at recycling facilities (which is also hard).

Also, because plastic containers commonly contain dye and additives, they become less reusable than other materials we recycle. 

Bottled water is a HUGE scam
1.    It’s usually tap water. It is no safer than what your sink gives you.
2.    It’s way more expensive than out of the tap
3.    It takes five liters of water to make the one liter of bottled water.

Still, in 2004, more bottled water was consumed in the US than coffee and beer combined. 70 million bottles PER DAY.

I’m quitting Diet Coke right now. It’s been a rough couple of days: the cravings are pretty bad and I’m having to regularly dose with ibuprofen to ease my throbbing head. I need to make sure I don’t get dehydrated, so, I am going to invest in a good water bottle. A good water bottle can come with me to the gym, to the airport, and on the go so I never have to buy plastic again.

There’s a lot of active debate on which water bottles are the safest and greenest, but SIGG water bottles come highly recommended from several green sources. A percentage of their profits go to environmental organizations. They also make great bottles for kids too. I’m going to pick one up.

Sigg_water_bottle Sigg Traveler Classic Water Bottle (1.0-Liters)
from $19.99 at Amazon.com

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like your blog. I'll be back regularly.

Three years ago I signed up to have google alert me anytime a news article on petroleum based plastics and bisphenol-a was posted to the net. Around that same time I queried Sigg on the contents of their bottle liner. That inquiry was ignored, so my Sigg bottles have become stylish vases in my home, feeding cut flowers rather then my daughter and myself. This article on Sigg came to me through that google alert on bad plastics- and it is rather ironic.

Sigg bottles are lined with water based epoxy in order to prevent the aluminum bottle from corroding. Almost all water-based epoxies are created using bisphenol-a. Sigg wlll not release the ingredients used in their lining BUT they test for leaching bisphenol-a which leads one to believe they have REASON to test for bisphenol-a. A company that uses undisclosed ingredients has no place in the “green” product market. A prolonged exposure to the smallest levels (parts per billion)of bisphenol-a can cause damage to our endocrine systems. Considering the fact that we are being “hit ” by this chemical from so many different angles in our environment, every degree of elimination matters. There is no human tool that can test for the smallest harmful quantity of bisphenol-a so a long term independent peer reviewed study is needed for accurate claims to be made on whether or not a product is leaching a harmful amount. Sigg has not conducted a study of any kind and therefore they should not claim to be safe because they really have no idea whether they are or not. Being that they are European or Swiss makes no difference at all regarding their safety.

While Sigg is a sexy product and reusable, it is not accurately guaranteed to be any safer then plastic bottles.

For info on an ongoing discussion between some green retailers regarding Sigg:


The safest options for sturdy water bottles are currently grade 304 stainless steel. Otherwise a glass bottle or jar is it. We feed babies with glass, why not use it ourselves?


Amelia Royko Maurer
Free Market Organics
e: amelia@freemarketorganics.com

I've also heard bad things about Sigg bottles but have heard really good things about Klean Kanteen. My fiance and I have four Nalgene bottles that I refuse to use because recent studies have shown the they can leach at room temperature which is really scary because it means they are leaching almost constantly. After reading "Our Stolen Future" I have no interest in anything that leaches, it's just bad news.


Yeah, man, plastic bottles are evil. Bisphenol A (BPA) is even more evil. I have done some research on BPA, and I recommend that you avoid any plastic water bottle that has the recycling symbol #7 on it. Here in Canada we're trying to ban the BPA. Here's a link if anyone feels like signing a petition: http://www.toxicnation.ca/go-toxic-free/petition/banbisphenola

Good luck with the Diet Coke withdrawl.

Wow! This is where going green gets a little bit tricky. I've done the research on BPA and recycling symbol #7 and definitely agree that it is something to be avoided at all costs.

Amelia, thanks so much for the interesting comment. I wonder if you would share some fo the studies you've found with Sigg bottles leeching? I understand that Sigg has not released the ingredients for their lining.

However, the only studies I was able to find indicated that Sigg does not leech any BPA (links below). Do you have access to different information?


At this point, I don't really see anything out there that says Siggs are bad. In fact, quite the opposite.

Sigg's president, Steve Wasik wrote this to our green business group list-serve:

"last summer SIGG bottles were tested for BPA versus the competition at Alliance Technologies, one of the finest laboratories in America. Under harsh conditions to simulate time and use, the results were as follows:

• Polycarbonate #7 plastic bottles – 71 ppb (parts per billion) were leached into the water.

• Chinese-made aluminum water bottles – 19 ppb

• New SIGG bottles – no detectable BPA

• Used SIGG bottles (2 years old) – no detectable BPA"

There you have it, from the horses mouth...it was tested for leaching BPA.

the liner is made of a water based epoxy. as I said before, one ingredient in epoxy is bpa. And if you read the vom saal interview, you know that in order to properly test for leaching, you have to test on something with an endocrine system over a period of time because the leaching could be undetectable by tools, but detectable by and damaging to the endocrine system.

The idea that Sigg would be testing for the leaching of something it's bottle doesn't consist of is absolutely absurd.

If that were true-why then isn't Sigg testing for formaldehyde or cadmium? Why not parabens or say...e-coli?

I know this is hard to take. especially after purchasing one since they are an investment. Imagine the retailers out there who bought 100 of them. They have a hard time wrapping their head around it as well. I have $900 worth of toys in my storeroom that I can't sell because I found out after the fact that they were finished with an oil that contains VOCS. Now, to our knowledge, VOCS only effect the person applying them. But this is very recent news and we've been using these toxic chemicals for a long time. I could just sell the toys and they would probably not harm anyone. But I take what I do very seriously, and being true to my ethics and principles means I take the hit.

But i am wondering, when discussing Sigg, why is it that no one (some retailers, many reporters and several bloggers) calls into question these three details:

the liner is water based epoxy = BPA
the liner insufficientlyis tested for leaching BPA = BPA
they won't tell you that BPA is NOT an ingredient in the liner = BPA

can anyone answer that question for me? Because it seems very obvious to me that in the "green" arena where we are working for healthier and safer products, one might do a little further investigating before recommending a product as the safe route and not just trust them because they are european, swiss, claiming to be safe, sexy... what is it?


Amelia Royko Maurer
Free Market Organics LLC
342 S. Madison St.
Evansville, WI

ph: 608-332-5042
fax: 608-882-0397
e: amelia@freemarketorganics.com

Want to save lots of water? Have fewer or no kids! Have others have fewer kids. Although the predicted pandemics may solve the problem temporarily. I have none.

Save a gallon of whatever and your children or someone else's will use or waste it.

I find this stuff very interesting and important. How can we ignore all these chemicals!? Crazy...anyway, i found Sigg bottles for a bit cheaper here:


I used to refill a fairly large glass bottle daily for my work day, but it adds so much weight to my bag.....I think Sigg is a better alternative...


Sigg may be lighter, but it may not be any safer then a polycarbonate bottle. Stick with stainless if you can.

Slightly old article, but we like the point you're trying to make. We felt much the same about plastic bottles, the water bottle scam, etc.

But then we thought - we make all this bottled water, but what about people in regions of the world where water isn't something you get from a faucet?

So we started a project, and we'd be honored if any of you decide to check it out and give us some feedback. We'd love to hear from you!


WeDrink: Half of all sales directly to Water Charities

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