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5 Ways to Reuse Your Old Nalgene Bottles

The water bottle that (kind of) defined a generation…is really a killer.

Last year, toxic plastic struck close to home. In April 2008, the FDA deemed Nalgene water bottles—those awesome, never-break, never-leak containers you had come to depend on—as unsafe for use, due to dangerous levels of toxicity in the plastic. Durability, in other words, came at a higher price than ten bucks. Most of us tossed our bottles out with the trash, and went for the stainless steel varieties deemed safe. But many stubbornly continued to use their Nalgenes anyway; what doesn’t have chemicals, right? Well, according to Mark Schapiro, author of Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power, you really don’t want to mess around with this stuff. What the FDA found in these old Nalgenes is enough to make you run for the hills.

Bisphenol A (BPA), a highly toxic chemical and plastic additive, “makes plastic more rigid and unbreakable,” according to Schapiro. But this should not be considered a dream product for the outdoors enthusiast. In fact, he adds, “BPA has been linked to the development of prostate and breast cancer in adults,” and in regard to the latter, “mimicking estrogen and being carcinogenic.” Case closed. Nalgene stopped making bottles with BPA at the price of super-durability, and now we’re safe. To the burn pile! But not so fast—throwing them out doesn’t really do the environment any good either, and the last thing we want to do is create more toxic waste to clog the dumps. So what do we do with all our old Nalgenes? I’ve heard some nutty ideas, the best of which include detailed plans for a canine flotation device, lobster trap buoys, and a time capsule. But this isn’t MacGyver. Here are five easy ways you can make the most of yours:

Convert them into solar lanterns: All you need is a solar-powered LED Light Cap200 to replace your old top, and voila. This water bottle cap is good for any bottle, actually, with a 2″ mouth. All you have to do is fill your Nalgene with water (for weight against wind) and use for nighttime picnics or beside your bed. The brighter the color, the better.

Make your own toothbrush holder: Get your art on! Glue or tape a weird family photo on the bottle, and impress your guests. If your toothbrush isn’t long enough to clear the lip, fill the bottom of the bottle with gravel, sand, or marbles. Just remember not to store your brush upside down…

Use for a flower vase: Considering you’re going to cut them anyway, there’s no harm keeping them in BPA plastic, unless you’re planning on eating them as well (do I hate myself for saying this? Are flowers people, too?)

Fashion a hot water bottle: I know a guy who fills his old Nalgene with boiling water, wraps it in a ripped sock he can’t wear anymore, and brings to bed come winter.

Handy picnic weights: How many times has your picnic been ruined by a blown over blanket? Never again, if you bring a nalgene filled with sand and weight down the corners.

Think about it. Reclaim toxicity.


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