Why discard water you've paid for?
January 6, 2007 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Why do you throw away bottled water you haven't finished?

It's not like it goes flat, like a Coke. Why not just screw on the cap and drink the rest later? Because it's lost its chill?

(I often spot these half-empties by the side of the road; I guess I'm being naive, expecting environmental responsibility from people who lob plastic trash out their car windows.)
posted by Rash to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It tastes different after a while, I pour it on plants.
posted by fire&wings at 4:48 PM on January 6, 2007

If you leave them a few days it'd be the same as refilling.
posted by TrashyRambo at 4:55 PM on January 6, 2007

I throw them away (though, you know, not typically on the side of the road) when the water has heated up and gotten too hot to drink - even if it cools down again, it tastes off - or if it's very old, since it does get stale. I also sometimes throw it away if I'm tired of carrying the bottle around any further.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:03 PM on January 6, 2007

one word: backwash.
posted by baltimore at 5:05 PM on January 6, 2007

water gets stale? I've never noticed that.

I don't typically buy it, but I would never throw away the leftovers. Bottled water is decadent enough without taking it for granted!
posted by loiseau at 5:08 PM on January 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

After a few days, the water starts to get a little stinky. Maybe it's because backwash has a great deal of bacteria, which start to multiply when left alone in the bottle.
posted by HotPatatta at 5:08 PM on January 6, 2007

Bacteria from one's mouth is indeed the reason, coupled with good old plastic flavor. You can extend your water's longevity by always pouring it into a cup and drinking from that.

I'm particularly sensitive though I think, I can taste the cardboard in coffee from disposable cups and whenever I'm at my parent's house I make them make ice cubes using filtered water instead of well water because I can taste iron in it.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:14 PM on January 6, 2007

I throw away half empty bottles of water because, after refilling them a few times, then leaving the bottle half-full in the car for a month, they tend to get a tad moldy.
Why do you throw them away?
posted by johngumbo at 5:24 PM on January 6, 2007

I drink straight from the tap. :) (Well, you know, I use a glass.)

I tend to dump water that's been left out for a day or two down the drain or in a plant.

I agree, water that's left out can get a "stale" flavor. I'm sure someone has studied what happens to it, but I'm too lazy too look.

I quit drinking bottle water after I determined my city's tap water tasted better anyway.
posted by smallerdemon at 5:33 PM on January 6, 2007

There isn't any chlorine in bottled water, so bacteria (from your mouth or whatever other source) can thrive in it.

Try this, put a glass of bottled water and a glass of tap water on your night stand, then let them both sit there for a few days and tell me which one looks better.
posted by furtive at 6:25 PM on January 6, 2007

I go through about 3 liters of bottled water in an average day (about 6 bottles). I like to have a fresh bottle at my side every night before I go to bed (don't want to wake up at 4:00 AM to an empty bottle), so if I'm already nursing a partial bottle at that time, I'll often set it aside and grab a new one. Sometimes, I'll finish off the partial the next day, but if I forget about it and leave it sitting out for too long, it starts to taste kind of funky. That, and I worry about bacteria growth. That's when I dump it.

Interesting note... I'm currently in L.A. for a lengthy consulting assignment, and since the tap water where I'm staying tastes so horrible, I stick my partial bottles in the fridge and use them for making hot tea. I can usually manage a cup from two or three near-empty bottles.

And, yes, I recycle the bottles.
posted by jal0021 at 6:43 PM on January 6, 2007

Environmentally friendly people probably aren't drinking a whole lot of bottled water to begin with.
posted by gramcracker at 6:46 PM on January 6, 2007

Uhmm... it doesn't have anything to do with the taste, more than likely. People carry bottled water because it's convenient. If you've had all you want, it's convenient to toss the rest, rather than carrying it around looking for a trashcan or carrying it around saving it for later.
posted by YoungAmerican at 6:57 PM on January 6, 2007

Another question: why do people insist on paying $1.84 for a BOTTLE of water when I can give them a large cup full of filtered water with a lid and a straw for free?

I sell boatloads of bottled water per day and have no comprehension of this.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:12 PM on January 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Maybe sometimes it's because people have heard that bottles of water stop dogs 'soiling' their lawns.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:14 PM on January 6, 2007

(I meant to add - I've certainly seen clear plastic bottles of water on lawns around the place in Canberra, and I think this is the reason. They're usually full, though.)
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:16 PM on January 6, 2007

A couple ounces of bottled water is trivial compared to all the other ways people waste water. Could you shave 2 seconds off the time it takes you to shower every day? If so, you're wasting far more water yourself. Just saying.
posted by Hildago at 7:38 PM on January 6, 2007

I almost never buy water, unless I'm traveling without a cup and I'm really thirsty. But I've left behind bottles if I had had enough and had to be somewhere where the bottle would be inconvenient.

Real life example: travel to another city for a job interview. Get thirsty half an hour before the interview. Get a bottle of water. Drink some of it in the car in the parking lot outside the interview site. Decide not to finish the bottle because I don't want to worry about having to pee. Throw it away.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:57 PM on January 6, 2007

Response by poster: The roadside bottles are obviously filled with trucker pee.

No, should have clarified, but I thought it obvious -- the question relates only to discarded bottled waters containing clear liquids, not Trucker Bombs.

Why do you throw them away?

I don't -- instead, I recycle, and I rarely buy bottled water anyway. When I do, I reuse the containers indefintely, refilling 'em from my Brita filter.
posted by Rash at 8:18 PM on January 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Why do you buy bottled water in the first place when you have a perfectly good tap from which to obtain your water? Are people who toss the water any sillier than people who buy the water?
posted by caddis at 8:43 PM on January 6, 2007

Maybe it is because we're stoooopid wasteful Amurrican consumers

Don't beat yourself up too bad, it's not just Americans who toss plastic bottles. Go to any river anywhere in the world and you can see that.
posted by fshgrl at 8:56 PM on January 6, 2007

On the few instances I DO have a bottle from bottled water... I use it again by filling it with tap water for weeks on end until I lose the bottle. :)
posted by smallerdemon at 9:04 PM on January 6, 2007

I think if we're in a place where we worry about the harm our own personal saliva will cause us, we're getting paranoid. Unless you take a crap in it, saving the leftovers of a bottle of water and drinking them later will not harm you, particularly if you cap and refrigerate it. If you're regularly buying bottles of water (6 per day??) then just buy a refillable Nalgene-type bottle. They're less than 10 bucks.

I just can't see regular or ongoing bottled-water use as anything but wasteful. It doesn't matter that it's not the most wasteful thing you do in a day -- needless is needless.
posted by loiseau at 9:16 PM on January 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Another question: why do people insist on paying $1.84 for a BOTTLE of water when I can give them a large cup full of filtered water with a lid and a straw for free?

I can't put the lid back on a cup with a straw and throw it in my purse for later. Also, there's a good chance I have no idea you will give me a cup full of water, or whether that water will take like ass.

Buying bottled water is no more and probably less wasteful than buying a bottle of soda, really, and it's healthier for the person drinking it.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:26 PM on January 6, 2007

my household goes through 4-5 cases of bottled water per week. mrs.tacos drinks still water, and uses old halves to water plants. I drink sparkling and drink it even if it's flat and tastes disgusting.

Some part of me prefers the shitty taste of that last warm inch of water to the feeling that I wasted a nickel. I wish I could gut that part of me.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 11:02 PM on January 6, 2007

I would throw away any bottled water I had been drinking from after a day or two because of bacterial and microbial issues. If it's not been opened, it should be okay, but I have seen things growing in old bottles of water that someone has had to their mouth.
posted by tomble at 11:43 PM on January 6, 2007

Honestly, I'm perfectly happy drinking tap water (unfiltered, even... I don't understand the aversion people have to tap water, as if it were diseased or something), but I drink bottled water for the sake of convenience. I drink water pretty much ALL day long, and it's the easiest way to keep water with me at all times, whether I'm at home, at work, in between... whatever.

I suppose I could just fill a bottle up with tap water (and I sometimes do), but let's face it... bottled water is just filtered tap water from somewhere else. It's not like there are children dying of thirst in some third world country because Coca-Cola came in, set up a bottling plant in their backyard, and started stealing their water.

The only environmental impacts I can think of are, 1) pollution resulting from the distribution process, and 2) waste produced by empty bottles. Not much I can do about the first one there. As for the bottles? I recycle each and every one WITHOUT FAIL. If I'm out somewhere, I'll carry an empty bottle home with me just to recycle it. Seriously... if recycling wasn't an available option, I wouldn't be drinking bottled water. Simple as that.

Also, I buy it in bulk... typically, I get 24 bottles for about $5. Every couple of weeks, I'll buy a couple of cases and stock the fridge. If I know I'm going to be out for awhile, I take my own water with me from home. No way in hell I'm spending $1.00 or more to get a bottle from a vending machine.
posted by jal0021 at 11:55 PM on January 6, 2007

Why do you buy bottled water in the first place when you have a perfectly good tap from which to obtain your water?

Because the tap is perfectly good, but the water that comes out of it isn't? I don't buy small bottles of water, but the gallons of store-brand water taste OK.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:29 AM on January 7, 2007

I have six or seven bottles of water in my fridge. They originally had bottled water in them, but now it's just tap; I just keep refilling them. Every now and then I wash them out with dish soap.
posted by JanetLand at 6:51 AM on January 7, 2007

Some tap water is so full of minerals (and the wrong kind, at that) that it's virtually undrinkable.

Some restaurants/stores/etc. won't give out glasses of water; in fact, I would say most expect you to pay for them. So why should I pay 99 cents for a glass of water that could have come from the toilet when I can pay $1.25 for a sealed bottle?
posted by watsondog at 7:05 AM on January 7, 2007

Bottled water is so wasteful, we all know what plastic is made of. Get a Britta and a few nalgenes, you can wash them, then if you don't finish you can just dump or use it but you haven't put yet another plastic bottle into the waste system....I realize that doesn't answer the question but I just can't believe people are saying they go through cases of bottled water a week, that's insane...
posted by starfish at 2:56 PM on January 7, 2007

Some restaurants/stores/etc. won't give out glasses of water; in fact, I would say most expect you to pay for them.

I have never been in anywhere that wouldn't give me a glass of tap water for free on request. Ever. Even a place that does inventory by cup usually keeps small cups for water on hand. A movie theater is the ONLY place I've ever been in that wouldn't give a cup away.
posted by smallerdemon at 8:21 PM on January 7, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for your comments. Like loiseau, the concept of stale water is perplexing to me ('specially when I'm hot & sweaty, and that one bottle's all there is), and I see no reason to fear bacteria multiplying in my water flask, since it's my bacteria -- plenty more where it came from.

Also, A Thousand Baited Hooks, that urban legend was news to me. Some folks sure do nutty things.
posted by Rash at 8:49 PM on January 7, 2007

Water does get stale. Especially if you've already drank from it.

Backwash means there will be tons of germs in the water. Give it 2-3 days, not a big deal in a cool room. In summer you'll have a bottle teeming, and if condensation forms on the upper parts of the bottle mold spores and other types of bacteria begin to thrive.

I second the notion of using it to water a potted plant. Then it's not wasted and you're not drinking ick water.
posted by PetiePal at 8:53 AM on January 8, 2007

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