Should We Be Using Stainless Steel Water Bottles Instead?

Plastic bike bottles are not only environmentally detrimental but can also release chemicals into beverages. Is Bivo's stainless steel bottle the answer?

I’ve been a bottle over pack guy for a while. If I can ride with nothing on my back, or something small like a hip pack instead of a hydration pack, then I do. Like most cyclists who ride regularly, I have a bucket full of bottles—all with different brands on them. Wheel brands, nutrition brands, bike brands, bike shops and so on and so forth. Some of them I’ve had for one year, and some I’ve had for ten. I guess I’m still hanging on to some form of the bike shops that I connected with early on as a rider who have since gone out of business.

In a blind taste test, I could probably tell which bottle I’m drinking out of, even with fresh water. The downside of plastic bottles, reusable or not, is that they retain past flavors all too well, just not in a good way, like a cast iron skillet. Yes, I need to do a water bottle purge, but I can’t stand throwing away items that are perfectly usable. Though I tell myself, just because I could keep using these old bottles, doesn’t mean I should.

Go to any big bike demo event and you’re bound to walk away with a few branded water bottles. I assume it’s one of the cheapest and most effective way for brands to get their name out there, and of course the bottles are entirely reusable, but I’ve wondered if they are like reusable grocery bags that are now overly abundant, and there becomes a point where there are more than necessary.

A study in 2018 found that organic cotton totes needed to be used 20,000 times to offset its impact of production, equating to daily use for 54 years.

When it comes to reusable water bottles, a sustainability study at MIT found that virgin aluminum is the most environmentally impactful material to craft reusable bottles out of, but between aluminum, plastic, and stainless steel, the differences between the amount of resources it takes to produce the material “become barely distinguishable per use the more you use the bottle.”

When it comes to disposing of the bottle after its lifecycle, the study emphasizes that “just because a material can be recycled, doesn’t mean that it is.” Under 30% of bottles made from polyethelyne terephthalate (PET) were actually recycled in 2018, according to the EPA. Stainless steel bottles and aluminum are fully recyclable, but “harder to recycle in practice.”

Where plastic again gets concerning is in the use of chemicals in the production of the bottle and the potential leeching of those chemicals into the water. Like I mentioned earlier, just because my water bottle from my favorite bike shop ten years ago still works, doesn’t mean I should be drinking out of it. Some say plastic bottles should only be used for up to a year because the properties will start to break down and areas that wear and crack retain more bacteria.

As I looked over the Bivo Trio 21oz water bottle, made from stainless steel, a few things entered my mind. First, it’s obviously not plastic. Second, it’s kinda heavy for a water bottle. Third, it’s actually insulated. I’ve used some plastic insulated bottles and they help keep drinks cool, but don’t really keep them cold.

Bivo started out of a desire to make a stainless steel bottle with a strong flow rate, that didn’t succumb to mold, or the pitfalls of plastic. The 21oz insulated Trio I have been drinking from is double-wall vacuum insulated, and coated with silicone for slip-resistance and sound or rattle damping.

The patent-pending sport nozzle negates the vacuum effect that a bottle might experience if it was held upside down, and gives it flow rate that roughly equals squeezing a plastic bottle really hard.

The Trio fit snugly into my water bottle cage on my gravel bike, though it was too tall for my full-suspension MTB. However, Bivo does make bottles with a shorter profile for such a case. The Bivo One Raw also holds 21oz but it isn’t insulated. This brings the weight down quite a bit (153g) compared to the Trio’s 276g weight.

Both weigh much more than a plastic bike bottle. As someone who considers himself proficient at the high-pressure plastic bottle squeeze for quick hydration on the pedals, the biggest difference is how the Bivo flows compared to a plastic bottle. Really, you just let the Bivo flow. Stopping the water requires tilting the bottle back or pushing the nozzle down. Initially, it doesn’t feel as precise as a plastic bottle, but I got used to it. My favorite feature of the bottle though is the insulation. The double wall does add weight, but it’s worth it on warmer days.

Closing thoughts

There are as many reasons to veer from reusable plastic bottles as there are old plastic bottles in my garage and kitchen. Plastic bottles aren’t going anywhere soon and I won’t be restricting myself to using the Bivo exclusively in the future. These aren’t cheap and are far from the lightest option available.

But, it’s a damn fine water bottle, and one you don’t have to worry about expirating because of degradation or the leftover stench of fruit punch electrolyte mixes. With that, I’m off to finally purge my old collection. Hopefully they’ll make it from my curbside recycling container to a processing plant.

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