Reusing Water Bottles

August 6, 2010 at 7:47 am 6 comments

Why not give your plastic water bottles a second life as ice packs? They’re perfect for coolers. They freeze easily and are pretty much indestructible. They line up or stack well like little plastic soldiers in the freezer. The labels come off on their own so just refill the bottles and toss them in the freezer. Remember to leave a little room at the top when you fill them, because water expands as it freezes. The next day they’re ready for the cooler or keeping a lunch sack chilled.

Water bottles seem convenient in Maui’s hot climate, but consider their life cycle. The oil to manufacture them is harvested in the Middle East, or in sensitive environments such as the Alaskan slopes or waters of the Gulf Coast (and we know the rest of that story). Water from the Mainland or other countries is used to fill them. They are transported on diesel-burning ships across the Pacific, where we buy them and drink the water. If not re-used, they go into the recycle stream, are sorted and compressed into bales to be shipped back to the mainland, where they are reprocessed into goods or shipped to other countries for further reprocessing. Unfortunately, that’s only a partial story as many are dumped in the trash and end up in Maui’s landfills or are thrown carelessly into the landscape or ocean.

Regardless of where they end up, plastic bottles are here to stay (it’s estimated that they take nearly 500 years to breakdown), so they might as well be put to good use. What’s your favorite way to reuse plastic bottles? Share your ideas in comments on our site.


Entry filed under: Recycling & Conservation. Tags: , , , , , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Shayla  |  August 6, 2010 at 11:07 am

    This really sounds like a good idea, but unfortunately, many researchers believe you should never freeze water in a plastic bottle because it causes the plastic to seep into the water and cause health problems. Too bad…. 😦

  • 2. Anne Montgomery  |  August 6, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Just don’t reuse them for drinking water. It is thought that it can cause cancer to drink from reused plastic bottles,

  • 3. kathybecklin  |  August 6, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    We did not recommend that you use the water for drinking after freezing. In general, most water bottles are not designed to be reused and start leaching chemicals into the water. But it is ok to use them as a coolant.

  • 4. Sara Tekula  |  August 10, 2010 at 1:00 am

    That’s a great idea! I have done that a few times by accident in the past, trying to chill water. Now I very rarely buy plastic water bottles, but if left with one to divert froma landfill, I can do it on purpose. Thanks!

  • 5. Phyllis Robinson  |  March 25, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Rob Gibson a friend of SMS saw the movie Bag it last night 3/24/2011 and shared some highlights:

    If you get a chance see the movie/documentary “Bagit”. Check out the website:

    Here’s a couple of snippets that were memorable for me:

    Take an empty plastic bottle, say a water bottle. If you fill it about 40% with oil, that’s how much oil it took to make it, including extracting & shipping the oil from, say the Middle East, passing it through a refinery, getting the plastic to the bottle manufacturer, making the bottle, getting it to the beverage maker & getting it to the store where you bought it. It all takes so much energy, that is, oil.

    Now consider this: the oil took millions of years to form & the bottle will take hundreds of years to deteriorate. To say biodegrade would be generous. So the few moments when the contents of the bottle are consumed are framed by a very long history before & after the event.
    Most plastics are not re-cycled but down-cycled, that is made into a lesser quality plastic until it
    can’t be “recycled” any more, & that all takes more oil to do.

  • 6. crysis 2 hints  |  May 18, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    This is a amazing report. I am so grateful the internet still has fantastic written content.


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