How Do I Ethically Dispose of Unneeded Infant Bottles?
March 12, 2008 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Now that my son has accepted that his "Ba" (bottle) is truly a thing of the past, what should I do with his bottles? Part of me wants to donate them (I even have unused nipples in packages) to a local shelter / food bank, but of course we all now know that clear polycarbonate bottles probably leach bisphenol-A into the milk. (saccade, I should have listened to you!!) I'm very conflicted about this. Can you help me make the most ethical choice?

Infant feeding bottles are expensive items, and I'm sure there are low income women in my community who could use these bottles if I donated them, but I'm having some ethical issues with the idea of donating an item that I am aware would probably leach bisphenol-A into the child's milk or formula. (I did continue to use these bottles with my own son, despite the fact that I was aware of the issue, but I knew I was making an educated choice and took measures to limit the exposure.) As an educated, internet-using, middle-class mom I have the luxury of educating myself about this issue, whereas I'm sure that if I donated these bottles, most of the women who could use them most wouldn't even be aware of the issue.

On the other hand, I feel equally guilty about simply throwing away an item that could be useful to someone. I doubt my community would accept bottles for recycling (polycarbonate bottles are not typically marked with a recycling label.)

What would you do:
-- Donate the bottles
-- Throw them away
-- Some other option I'm not aware of?
posted by anastasiav to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd donate them, it's not like if you don't donate them the recipient wouldn't be using bottles anyway, it's just if you donate them, they won't have to buy them (which they will)
posted by zeoslap at 8:07 AM on March 12, 2008

How about throwing them away and donating an equivalent amount of cash? (I don't understand the issue, but could you donate enough to help them purchase non-chemical-stuff bottles?)
posted by unixrat at 8:18 AM on March 12, 2008

People who need donated items to feed their children don't have the luxury of caring about bisphenol-A leaching out of said items. If it's good enough for an educated, internet-using, middle-class mom, how exactly is it not good enough for po' folk?

Donate them --- along with some chemically-laden, tested-on-animals, artificially scented deodorants and shampoos --- to a shelter or your local Ronald McDonald house, and don't fret about it. People in crisis need the basics to get by, and they'll appreciate the donation.
posted by headnsouth at 8:35 AM on March 12, 2008 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: If it's good enough for an educated, internet-using, middle-class mom, how exactly is it not good enough for po' folk?

I suppose I should clarify this. When I purchased these items before my son was born, the whole B-A issue wasn't as tested and well-proven as it is now. We continued to use the bottles primarily because it was too expensive for us to swap out, and frankly because by the time the data became firmer, he was ready to swap over from (warm) formula to milk (always served cold), so I felt that his exposure (cold liquid causes less leaching, it was only in the bottle for under 15-20 minutes) was limited at that point. But I've always fretted about it.
posted by anastasiav at 8:43 AM on March 12, 2008

With the extremely limited about of "leeching" that can go on, I highly doubt that the use of a bottle for the suggested amount of time in a child's life (what? like a year? two years max?) will cause anymore harm than breathing in the air everyday.

Don't worry, just donate them. You're very nice for even thinking to donate them.

p.s. I totally donate cans of food that are getting ready to expire, so take my advice with a grain of salt since I'm sure MeFites might have some big issue with this as well.
posted by banannafish at 8:46 AM on March 12, 2008

I'm really having trouble answering this question. It positively drips with condescension. Basically, what you're asking is this: "I've made an educated decision about how to feed my middle-class child. How do I ensure that poor people, who aren't as educated as I, aren't unwittingly abusing their children with the products of my generosity?"

Assume that everyone else cares about their children just as much as you do and wants to do the best they can for their babies. If you don't donate the bottles, they'll end up in a landfill where they'll be no good to anyone. If you do donate them, other mothers will have the same opportunity that you had to make a decision about what's best for their children. And isn't that the point of charity: to help give others the same range of options we ourselves enjoy in our lives?
posted by decathecting at 8:47 AM on March 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

What if you donate the bottles, and let the people who need bottles decide for themselves whether or not these are worth having? Unless of course you think being poor makes a person some sort of child incapable of reasonable decision making and thus your responsibility to coddle.

To assuage your own guilt you could include some sort of note or pamphlet describing the risks of using these sorts of plastics for hot liquids. The recipient might find the note condescending but they will still be thankful for the bottles.
posted by subtle_squid at 8:59 AM on March 12, 2008

Ouch, decathecting; harsh but I have to agree.

I'm having some ethical issues with the idea of donating an item that I am aware would probably leach bisphenol-A into the child's milk or formula.

If this ends up to be the worst risk the "low income" recipient-to-be faces, I think you're doing everyone a favor.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 9:01 AM on March 12, 2008

I recent changed all my son's bottles to glass. Not expensive at all. Evenflo sells them packaged as the "classic" in packs of 3 for about $4 a set. I had a huge bag of plastic bottles and finally decided to send them to the recycling center after about 2 weeks of angst over it all. I had the same conflict. Huge bag of something that people could use but might be harmful! I finally decided that there was just not enough info about the possible effects of the B-A for me to make an informed decision that I was comfortable with. I figured that I will have lots more babystuff that I can donate in the coming years so the bottles went to plastic heaven.
posted by pearlybob at 9:08 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: decathecting, since I don't know you and you don't know me, I'm going to tell you something about me: I've worked for years in nonprofit settings with low income families. I'm very aware of the realities of day-to-day life for low-income moms, because I work with them almost every day. I think you're assuming my use of the word "educated" in a different way than I intended it to be used in context.

The B-A issue broke in the blogging community far earlier than it broke in the "mainstream" press - in fact, toxicity in everyday products is still an issue that is only just beginning to be addressed by the more traditional news outlets. Being educated about this issue has a great deal to do with available resources and leisure time ... most of the low income folks I know and have worked with daily for years aren't on the web, and don't have a lot of free time to be going to the public library and reading the mommy blogs (which is where it first came to my attention). Studies on the effects of the leaching of B-A are in their (pardon the pun) infancy, and its not like there is recall of the item or a big warning label on the side. If you don't know to go out and look for information on this topic, its probably not going to find its way to you for several years yet.

So, on the one hand, I'm aware that this is a potential issue with the product. And I fret over it. (Had I known then what I know now -- or paid closer attention to saccade's comment when I asked about choosing bottles on this very board two years ago -- I would have started right off with liners, glass, or soft plastic, but I didn't have the data until we were almost done with the whole "bottle" thing.) So I used them with my son, and I now kind of regret it. On the other hand, I am aware (as folks up thread point out) that lots of moms are going to go out and buy this exact same brand of bottles to use with their children, and my donation of a product and brand that is still on the market and that they were going to buy anyway could save some money for moms who don't have a lot to spare. So, given that I can't go door to door and educate every mother in America, I'm faced with this issue. Sorry if you think its condescending to take some time to try and figure out what the best thing to do is.

Friends have actually suggested that I package up the bottles, but include some information in the package about the possible issue, but what I know about the donation-prep process tells me the info probably wouldn't make it through to the mother and the end of the process.
posted by anastasiav at 9:42 AM on March 12, 2008

Best answer: Go ahead and get rid of them Anastasiav. You are feeling conflict about it and would worry. Especially if more info comes out a month from now that is even more vexing than what we currently know. Just make an extra effort in the coming years to donate more of your sons things to those in need. I congratulate you for going to this effort but it isn't worth the mental effort or anguish. You have a young son and as we both know, need all the energy and mental focus that you can get!!
posted by pearlybob at 9:50 AM on March 12, 2008

It these bottles are still available for sale, donate them. If they've been recalled or are otherwise unavailable new, throw them out. Let those whose job it is to regulate these sort of things make the decision whether or not they're safe for human use. It's not up to you to make a moral decision for other people. I don't eat (much) McDonalds because it's proven to be bad for me, but who am I to say that other people shouldn't?
posted by cgg at 10:46 AM on March 12, 2008

Cgg has summed it up nicely. If a person can get the same bottles at the store, chances are that the shelter/food bank is willing to take them.

To feel 100% safe, why not contact the place you want to donate them and ask them what their policy is? Maybe they won't take any bottles as a cautionary measure? But maybe they will. Best to ask and be sure.
posted by melissa at 11:01 AM on March 12, 2008

I like the trash the bottles, buy glass ones and donate those.

Um, I think the poster should be commended for thinking that some people might not have the time to sit online and research baby bottles. Considering that poor people tend to be the most screwed pollution-wise, and that a lot of that pollution is sourced to things that wealthy people take advantage of, criticizing the OP seems really ridiculous.

Buy the glass bottles, destroy the baby harming bottles, and you are all set, and you've done a really nice thing.
posted by sully75 at 11:05 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

As an educated, internet-using, middle-class

Oh good lord.

There's all manner of proven risk to formula-feeding; just assume the bottles aren't going to be used for expressed breast milk, and the BPA becomes pretty low down the list of worries.
posted by kmennie at 11:09 AM on March 12, 2008

Return them to the company that made them an ask for a refund, then donate that money.
posted by Caviar at 11:27 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

As an educated, internet-using, middle-class mom I have the luxury of educating myself about this issue, whereas I'm sure that if I donated these bottles, most of the women who could use them most wouldn't even be aware of the issue.

if you feel that guilty and you're so sure the recipients will not have the necessary info, throw them out. at least recycle. they're yours, you paid for them, you do what you want with them.

assuaging one's middle class, educated, internet-using liberal sense of guilt is certainly worth what you paid for the bottles anyway.
posted by matteo at 11:32 AM on March 12, 2008

Call the center you're thinking of donating to, explain that you might have bottles you were thinking of donating and ask how they are handling the bisphenol-A issue. If they say they are aware of the issue and informing recipients of the risks and proper precautions then donate. If they seem to be unconcerned and you are still worried dispose of them. Make a cash donation instead if you still feel like helping out. Or, if you can spare it, volunteer a little of your time.

And guys, anastasiav is good peeps, really! She's always been very friendly and thoughtful.
posted by LeeJay at 12:07 PM on March 12, 2008

I went through this with my toddler cups. I put them in the recycling bin. I did not donate them.

Yes, some people may go buy bottles at the store. And, yes, that creates demand. But, if all the Internet-reading moms go buy glass bottles and create enough demand, this will move through the rest of the system. Soon, everyone will want glass and stainless steel.

If you really feel guilty, donate some money to an organization that supports good nutrition and breastfeeding for low income families.
posted by acoutu at 12:39 PM on March 12, 2008

Best answer: I've always thrown away or, when possible, recycled bottles when I was done with them. The leaching problem seems to be exacerbated by dishwasher washing; I never worried about hand-washed bottles. But it always seemed to me that old bottles might potentially be worse, and I've always wondered whether people would really be comfortable using used bottles--whether people would feel confident that the plastic could be sufficiently sterilized (I'd do it--but would anybody else?).

Another choice for getting rid of them is to freecycle them. I like to use freecycle when I want to provide more information or have an item that would best go to some specific person rather than into the general Goodwill pile (like size 3X nursing shirts, for example). You can include in your post to the freecycle list what kind of bottles and nipples they are, mention the degree of use they've gotten, mention the type of plastic. And then you'll just hear from people who are comfortable using them.

You can also pick and choose, then, who to give them to. When I freecycle baby stuff, I always get responses from people who are working with families at risk, or young mothers, or high-school-student parents, or in a battered women's shelter. And I give the stuff to them, and that feels like a good thing to do.
posted by not that girl at 12:45 PM on March 12, 2008

I had the exact same issue (even sent around an email with similar content as your post to find out what mothers I know would do).

I finally decided that even though BPA studies are in their infancy and that BPA-containing bottles are still for sale, the fact that I did not want to use these bottles with my own child meant that I should not make it possible for someone else to use them with their child.

I ended up re-using some of the bottles to corral my family's rapidly expanding crayon collection (those bottles are much studier than the cardboard cartons the crayons come in, and they're the right size, too). I saved some in case I can end up using them as containers for something else (marbles? bugs? sand? I imagine my kids will be able to make use of them at some point). I also threw some away.

I'm at ease with this decision. I've donated tons of stuff to a church in my area that distributes things to families that need them (maternity clothes, highchairs, babyclothes, furniture). I hope people will be able to finde use for the things I have donated, and I'm glad I did not donate items that I do not consider safe.
posted by Badmichelle at 12:58 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Why not drill a hole in the bottom (so they can't be re-used), and use them as decorations on future baby gifts?

Or you could plant herbs in them.
posted by Monday at 2:50 PM on March 12, 2008

Mothers who use shelters don't have a lot of choices. You're not giving them a choice between BPA and glass, or BPA and titanium, you're giving them the choice between your bottles and whatever someone else might donate.

If your bottles are fairly new, they're better than old bottles. It's all the better if you have fresh nipples for them. I'd be inclined to give them away. Personally I'm not buying any more BPA, but I feel like it's safe enough to use what I have. Oh, and your question doesn't seem patronizing to me; it seems like a very thoughtful and decent one.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 3:21 PM on March 12, 2008

You could sell them on Craigslist or the like and then donate the money to the shelter.
posted by streetdreams at 3:52 PM on March 12, 2008

Could you donate them to a zoo?
posted by MrFongGoesToLunch at 4:01 PM on March 12, 2008

If the bottles are not cloudy or cracked, they're fine for reuse. But if you have doubts, toss them. Purchase soft opaque plastic bottles and donate them instead.
posted by Kioki-Silver at 4:34 PM on March 12, 2008

Or you could plant herbs in them.

If they're not safe to drink out of, they're certainly not safe to grow edible plants in.
posted by Caviar at 5:43 PM on March 12, 2008

If you wouldn't buy or use them again, you won't rest easy thinking about some other mother using them. (And doesn't anyone breastfeed anymore? Not even the educated, internet-using, middle-class moms?)
posted by Joleta at 9:30 PM on March 12, 2008

Response by poster: And doesn't anyone breastfeed anymore? Not even the educated, internet-using, middle-class moms?

Joleta, I did partially breastfeed my son. This question should give you more information on how I ended up bottle feeding, as well.

Also, if you feed your child pumped/expressed breastmilk (because, say, you work full time) you still need a bottle to do it from.
posted by anastasiav at 7:53 AM on March 13, 2008

I'm sorry for my comment, anastasiav, even though it wasn't meant for you personally. I will promise not to stay up too late and make snarky comments.
posted by Joleta at 10:24 AM on March 13, 2008

I realize that your baby bottles are probably long gone, but I thought that readers of this thread might be interested in this note from the president of the American Council on Science and Health, who specifically says that these chemicals "pose no known hazard to human health" and recommends against replacing plastic children's products with alternatives.
posted by decathecting at 9:10 AM on July 31, 2008

« Older Help me find the male version of these cool...   |   High-protein diet makes me less prone to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.