Stainless Steel vs Plastic Water Bottles
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Stainless Steel vs. Plastic Water Bottles - How to Choose?

Many of us are now trying our best to reject single-use plastics whenever possible. Plastics can, of course, be very useful materials. But there are many reasons why single-use items, such as plastic bottles, have no place in our modern world.

Thankfully, we can say no to plastic bottles and choose water bottles we can use and maintain for years. Many brands are out there, but we often hear the argument of “stainless steel vs. plastic water bottles” when picking the ideal drinking bottles.

In this article, we'll explore the problems with disposable plastic bottles and talk about why reusable plastic bottles might not be the answer. We'll talk about whether stainless steel options might be better.

Also, we’ll learn about some other recommended materials. Finally, we'll take a look at some of the best reusable water bottles on the market. You may find the most eco-friendly and ethical bottle from these options.

Related: Looking for bottles for the little ones? We've got you covered in our guide to plastic-free & non-toxic baby bottles.

The Problems With Disposable Plastic Water Bottles

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There are, of course, several reasons why we should avoid disposable plastic bottles whenever possible. The reasons are both personal and global. Using reusable options is always the best for our health, our local and global environment, and the future of humanity.

First of all, some plastic bottles are still not Bisphenol A (BPA) free. While BPA research is still ongoing, there are concerns that BPA in plastic can interfere with hormones in the human body. When you use certain plastics in certain applications, the leaching of harmful chemicals may put your reproductive health at risk.

Some plastics also degrade when exposed to sunlight and leak toxic chemicals into your food. In early 2018, the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched a health review after studies found microplastics (in the form of plastic fibers) in 93% of popular bottled water brands. Researchers found twice as many microplastics in bottled water as they did in tap water. Certain plastics may also harbor harmful bacteria when scratched or damaged. 

Of course, the problems with disposable water bottles do not only relate to human health concerns. All plastic creation involves an immense carbon toll. Production of ethylene and all plastic items contributes significantly to global warming. 

Manufacturers derive the needed raw material from finite and polluting fossil fuels. And dirty energy is often used to form materials and products. Producing plastic items also takes its toll on other resources – like water.

And then there is the problem of what happens to those disposable plastic bottles at the end of their useful lives. In the ocean, a plastic bottle can last for 450 years. So, they are a problem that sticks around. 

Every minute, manufacturers around the world are making more than a million plastic bottles. Globally, we only recycle a small fraction of these bottles. So many contribute to our planet's plastic pollution problem.

Read more: Environmental impact plastic water bottles & Is Canned Water Greener than bottled water?

Are Reusable Plastic Bottles the Answer for You? 

Reusable Plastic Water Bottles
Photo by Ryan Everton on Unsplash

A reusable plastic water bottle is a step in the right direction. Of course, we can all take practical action to buy, keep, and use a single bottle again and again for our water and other drinks.

However, it is important to research our options carefully. And even when we do find the right plastic bottle, it is still important to note that these still carry a significant carbon cost. And pose a health problem at the end of their lifecycle.

Plastic bottles are strong, durable, and are among the lightest and cheapest. Many are made from recycled plastics, and some are fully recyclable at the end of their useful lives. But recycling alone cannot solve the massive problems with plastic.

It is important to remember that 'recycled' is not the same as 'recyclable.' We cannot recycle most plastics endlessly. We downgrade the quality of these plastics every time we recreate them into something new. 

The other environmental costs of plastic bottles and the fact that they can sometimes affect the taste of your drink means that it may be better to turn to other reusable bottle options. Fortunately, there is a range of entirely non-plastic options that you can consider. So, let's take a look at some of the other common options.

The Pros and Cons of Stainless Steel Bottles

Stainless Steel Water Bottles
Photo by Jopwell from Pexels

Stainless steel is a common option for many reusable bottles on the market. This is also a durable material that can stand up well to knocks and scrapes. They will generally keep your drink cooler for longer, and double or triple-walled insulated bottles will help to keep drinks cool and prevent condensation on the outside.

However, stainless steel options also come with downsides. These bottles are often more expensive, heavier, and bulkier than plastic alternatives. We need to wash most of them by hand. 

Non-trusted sources for metal bottles may also lead to contamination with metals, which can pose risks to human health. However, stainless steel from trusted sources is generally inert and health-issue-free. So, unlike with many plastic bottles,  you can drink from one without fear of contamination of any kind.

Environmentally, creating stainless steel does come at a cost. But that cost to the planet and people is far lower than that of plastics. Further, the end result will last a long time vs. plastic or glass bottles. The material is long-lasting and can readily (and continually) be recycled at the end of its life. Around 80% of stainless steel is estimated to be recycled at the end of its lifetime.

Examples of Good Reusable Water Bottles

To help you decide which reusable water bottles could be the best option for you, here are some top picks to consider:

Klean Kanteen

This simple plastic-free, single-skinned reusable water bottle is a clean and sustainable choice, constructed using sustainably harvested bamboo, stainless steel, and food-grade silicone. Even the logo and bottom are embossed to keep the bottle paint-free. 

There is also an insulated option with a double-wall vacuum insulated skin, which will keep drinks cold for 20 hours or iced for 40 hours. This option is simplicity itself, just stainless steel, food-grade silicone, and bamboo, with zero paint or plastic.

Klean Kanteen is a family-owned company. They introduced their first BPA-free, reusable water bottle back in 2004. A certified B- Corporation, they create high-quality reusable products and work hard to benefit people and the planet and reduce the negative impact of single-use waste.

Klean Kanteen on Amazon:

WakeCup Bamboo Water Bottle

This reusable bottle looks good – and does good, too. The bottle has an internal stainless steel double wall, keeping icy drinks cold for up to eight hours and warm beverages and soups for around 4 hours. The design encases the inner stainless steel structure within a stylish bamboo exterior. And the bamboo is organic too.

One of the great things about WakeCup is that 10% of all profits go directly to the Marine Conservation Society and Plastic Oceans eco charity.

WakeCup also has a beautiful copper reusable water bottle. Slightly more labor-intensive to clean, a copper water bottle can make water taste great. So, if you've had issues with the taste of water from reusable bottles, this could be a rather different option.

Wakecup on Amazon:

Bübi Bottle

If you are fed up with carrying around a heavy and cumbersome reusable water bottle with you, this could be an excellent option to consider. They make the Bübi Bottle from BPA-free silicone. It is collapsible, flexible, easy to use, and clean. Made from 100% medical-grade silicone, this bottle is sleek, compact, and heat resistant.

This company has partnered with and claims to donate a portion of the payment from each purchase towards this good cause. These bottles have been tested and approved by an internationally accredited agency and are friendly to the environment and safe when it comes to human health.

Bübi Bottles on Amazon:

Related: Click on for more collapsible water bottle options and recommendations.

One Green Bottle Reusable Water Bottle

This stainless steel water bottle from One Green Bottle is eco-friendly, easy to clean, durable, and long-lasting. There are several different bottle shapes and sizes to choose from, so you will likely find one that meets your needs. 

One Green Bottle has been giving consumers an eco-friendly and sustainable alternative to the single-use plastic water bottle for over 14 years.

One Green Bottle on Amazon:

Sigg Double Layered Glass Bottles

These versatile borosilicate glass thermos bottles are great for hot or cold beverages. Drinks come into contact only with stainless steel and glass, and they use pure silicone as the sealing material. These materials are, of course, entirely BPA-free. Two built-in filters make these bottles flexible for a wide range of uses.

Sigg also offers a range of other bottles, including aluminum options. Sigg has been trying to use sustainable materials to make sustainable products for more than 100 years. The company currently uses more than 55% renewable energy to make its bottles in Switzerland. 

The company claims that 99%  of the small amount of waste from production is recycled. And the water used to clean the bottles is collected and recycled in a closed system. Thanks to the longevity of its high-quality products, they should have a significantly better CO² balance than disposable PET bottles.

Sigg Water Bottles on Amazon:


When choosing your new water bottle, remember – it is important to think about the materials and the whole lifecycle of the product. Doing this will help you determine whether or not it is the most sustainable choice.

The examples above are just a handful of the many eco-friendly and sustainable stainless steel bottle options on the market. There are plenty of other great options to choose from.

By Jennifer Okafor, BSc.

Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.

Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Main Image Credit: Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels
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