If you, like me, have a stainless steel water bottle that’s lasted the test of time, there might come a point when you look at what to do with it once it’s reached retiring age. A stainless steel water bottle can last over 12 years, but if you’re ready to part ways with it before then, the best thing you can do is either upcycle OR recycle it! However, it’s not as simple as just throwing it in the recycling bin. Recycling stainless steel requires a special facility just for this material.
Steel is a natural element found in the earth, and is often the more eco-friendly option when switching from plastic bottles to reusable ones. Plus, you get the added health benefits of avoiding the toxic chemicals that leach from plastic into our food and water. Once you’ve finished with your stainless steel bottle, it can be recycled and turned into a new product or a similar product! Plastic products can also be recycled into new items too, however only some types of plastics are able to be recycled at this time, so it really depends on the kind of plastic used, as some are more complicated to recycle than others. Also, plastic recycling is more harmful on the environment than stainless steel recycling and production.
Why? Well, the process of melting down and recycling plastic produces VOC (volatile organic compound) fumes that can harm plant and animal life near the industrial site. What’s more, the heat needed to melt plastic also generates carbon emissions, which contribute to climate change. Furthermore, these same VOCs that cause harm the environment can also pose as health threats to the people who come into contact with recycled plastics. Plastic resin, which comes from petroleum and is part of the manufacturing and recycling process, can leach into foods stored in recycled plastic containers.
Due to the potential health risks recycled plastics can pose, much of the plastic recycled is actually downcycled. This means that instead of the plastic becoming another new container, it becomes a different, less useful product. After downcycling, plastic is often unfit for another round of recycling, which means it can end up in landfill despite having seen another use as a less useful product. Downcycling often just delays the process, with the result that manufacturers still require the same demand for new plastics.
Whereas, recycling steel, uses up approximately 75% less energy than making steel from raw materials. All types of steel are 100% recyclable and can be recycled an infinite amount of times.
Ways to Upcycle & Repurpose Your Old Stainless Steel Water Bottle
Instead of scrapping your old stainless steel bottle, or recycling it right away, maybe you might consider giving it a new life? Here are a few ways you could use your old stainless steel water bottle for easy jobs around the house. Don’t feel limited by these ideas, get creative and try out other ways too!
1. Flower vase
Fill your well-loved bottle with some water. Add the fresh flowers you’ve very own DIY repurposed vase (that’s brimming with character). You could even paint and decorate the bottle to give it a lil’ something extra!
2. Rolling pin
Your bottle is the perfect shape for rolling out dough. Plus, the mouth of the bottle can be used as a circular cookie cutter.
3. Mixing powdered drinks without a spoon
If you need to quickly mix up a drink such as a protein shake, sports drink, tea, etc. an old water bottle may be the perfect alternative to a spoon. Simply pour in your protein powder, tea leaves, or supplement powder, and shake away (you can also add in those metal shaker spheres to help break up the mix).
4. Herb garden
A way to grow fresh herbs without the garden bed! Grab your stainless steel bottle, fill with potting soil, drop a couple seeds in, add a little water, let sit on a sunny windowsill, then watch the magic unfold! You can even drill a few holes in the bottom of the bottle to allow for water drainage.
5. Container for dry food mixes
Old steel bottles are great for carrying dry goods when camping, or trail mixes when out hiking.
6. Travel compost bin
Save those food scraps when out and about to compost later at home! Travel coffee mugs and food canisters also work well. Simply grab some newspaper, or certified compostable bio bags and line the inside of your bottle. Add in any scraps you’ve collected when out camping, road tripping, on a picnic, or just out somewhere where there’s nowhere for you to properly compost your scraps. Make sure to transfer your scraps to your compost bin straight away when you get back to avoid any odour from developing in your container.
7. Refill pet’s water bowls
Set aside your old water bottle to use as a tool to fill up as your pet’s water dishes.
8. Water plants
A bottle can make the perfect watering can to water your garden with. Simply use as is, or drill tiny holes in the bottom to gently spray water over your plants.
9. A container to hold spare change in
Have some loose change? Pop it in your old bottle! You could use it to start a travel fund, where you collect any spare change and keep it inside your bottle. At the end of each month/year, pull it together and use to go on a trip away!
How to Recycle Your Metal Water Bottle
If you’re looking to recycle rather than upcycle your bottle, there are a few things to note. Unfortunately, most kerbside recycling programs will not recycle metal water bottles. The main reason for this is that these recycling facilities crush and bale material for easy transport. Stainless steel is most often uncrushable, which makes the metal bottle recycling process more complicated.
You’ll need to determine what metal it’s made of before you go and recycle it. There are two categories for metal: ferrous and nonferrous. This may sound complicated but it’s actually really simple to determine which metal you have.
All you need is a magnet. If your bottle is attracted to the magnet, it’s ferrous metal; if it’s not, then it’s nonferrous metal.
- Stainless steel
To recycle your stainless steel water bottle (or other types of metal materials), you’ll need to find a scrap metal yard near you, as they have the equipment to properly process and recycle these materials.
Where to Find a Scrap Metal Yard
I simply looked up the “nearest scrap metal yard near me” online, OR, if you live in Sydney, you can visit the website Sydney Metal Traders to see if they accept the types of metal you wish to recycle.
How Metals are Recycled
According to Conserve Energy Future, there is an 8-step process to recycling metals: .
1. Collection – involves collecting all materials that are made of metals.
2. Sorting – involves separating what can be recycled from what is non-recyclable.
3. Processing – all the recycled materials are squeezed and squashed using machines to reduce surface area so they don’t take up so much space on the conveyor belts.
4. Shredding – the metals are broken down into tiny pieces or sheets to allow for further processing.
5. Melting and purification – each metal is placed in a furnace that’s specifically designed to melt that particular type of metal based on its properties.
6. Purification – metal purification is done to ensure that the final product is free of impurities and is of high quality.
7. Melting and solidifying of the metal – the molten metal is carried to a cooling chamber where it’s cooled and solidified (to be made into a solid metal that can be used again).
8. Transportation of the metal bars – the metal is then packed depending on size and shape, ready for transportation to those who require it (i.e. factories, etc.)
For full detail on each of the steps, visit the Conserve Energy Future website.
Recycling + upcycling stainless steel water bottle tutorial
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. It’s important to check with a doctor before taking this or any new product, especially if taking any other medicine or supplement or if pregnant or nursing. Be sure to check ingredients to make sure there is no risk of an allergic reaction.
Have you recycled or upcycled your stainless steel water bottle or container before? Share in the comments below.
Lots of love,
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Hartman, Dennis. (Updated: April 24, 2017). The Disadvantages of Recycled Plastics. Sciencing. Retrieved from https://sciencing.com/disadvantages-recycled-plastics-7254476.html
Iron & Steel. Business Recycling. Retrieved from https://businessrecycling.com.au/recycle/iron-steel
Klean. Tips on How to Repurpose Your Stainless Steel Bottle. (June 2019). Klean Kanteen. Retrieved from https://www.kleankanteen.com/blogs/blog/tips-on-how-to-repurpose-your-stainless-steel-bottle
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