Pockets of cyclists and other endurance athletes have spent much of the last decade battling the contents of their bottle. No, not what's in the bottle but what's in the bottle. Right, the ingredients with which the thing you drink out of all the time is made.
Often one of the unpleasant surprises is that your bottle contains BPA, which is shorthand for bisphenol A, a chemical compound found in many plastics, particularly the soft plastic that so many water bottles employ. The concern with BPA is that it migrates from the plastic into the contents themselves, i.e. your food or drink. A quick search tells me that there is no slam-dunk case against the dangers of inhaling BPA, but I personally don't go looking for industrial chemicals to add to my body, particularly those with websites proclaiming them safe.
A definitive health assessment is above my pay grade, but I can say that if you're among those concerned with BPA, Flexr Sports is the latest company to come out with an innovative solution: BPA-free bottles lined with biodegradable liners.
Here's how it looks inside:
The concept is, when you've used the liner enough (which is a lot, in my experience), you pull it out, chuck it in your trash or compostable bin, and replace it. The lifespan of the bottle grows significantly, and in the meantime people aren't absorbing BPA or tossing bottles in trash or recycling prematurely.
After using these for a couple months, I can tell you Flexr are on the cusp of a very smart development. The downside, if I can start there, is that you have to spend a few extra moments tinkering with the liner to make the system work. You can actually use the Flexr bottle unlined, and it's OK, though my kids have gotten theirs to leak somehow. The top opens and closes by twisting, meaning you have to get it pretty secure to be completely leak-proof. And it seems more snug with the liner.
But that's the point: the liner. The reasons even more waste-conscious athletes toss bottles is that they can be difficult to clean, and develop mold spots. So even if you liked your bottle (maybe it was even BPA free?), at some point it hit the trash or recycling bin because it became degraded. The liner, like any sort of liner, means you might go many years beyond the lifespan of an unlined bottle before the Flexr Sports bottle has officially had enough. That plus the safety of using BPA-free products is worth occasionally swapping the liner, which is a bit awkward at first but no big deal.
To me, this is a pretty good development for cycling, but maybe a bigger one for society at large. The reality is, my kids co-opted the samples I received because they liked the colors, and they were more like running bottles than bike ones (though Flexr offers plenty of both). They bring them in their lunch box for school, and every day refill their bottle. Once every couple weeks I'll swap out the liner, but it's not clear that I even need to do so that often. The liners themselves last a while, until you decide that you might need a clean one. Extra diligence in the form of cleaning the liner might extend the life of the bottle by another quantum leap.
Our kids carry water bottles pretty often, as does so much of society, to the point where people are actually starting to think about how we can do away with disposable plastic bottles. San Francisco has banned them outright, and I wouldn't be at all shocked if several more cities (like Seattle) followed suit. The scale of trash associated with drinking water is shocking indeed. So reusable water bottles are an important push-back, a score for the environment, and with the security of better food/drink safety, Flexr's bottles are a human health improvement as well.