I was washing out a Simply Orange juice bottle when I noticed the following statement in boldprint on its back: DO NOT REUSE.
When I called the Coca-Cola-owned Simply Orange to ask about the DO NOT REUSE admonishment, a very cheerful woman told me that their juice bottles were designed for one-time use only and, because consumers do not have the sterilization equipment necessary to clean the bottles, they do not recommend reuse.
With the cleaning equipment available to me (dishsoap, rag, and hot water) I can reuse my porcelain dishes, my wooden cutting board, my plastic tupperware, my glass cups, and my metal pots and pans. Why is it all these items do not require special sterilization equipment and can be washed and reused, but Simply Orange’s plastic orange juice container can’t?
Online, there are quite a few people yammering about whether or not it is safe to reuse plastic containers–mostly PET water bottles. Industry PR associations like Plasticsinfo.org (funded by the American Chemistry Council) say that PET containers won’t leach chemicals into the foods they contain, nor are they more likely than other substances to harbor bacteria.
A lot of people also agree that there are some plastics you definitely should not reuse for food purposes: Resin Codes 3 (PVC), 6 (Polystyrene), and some 7 (Polycarbonate) can leach things like dioxins, pthalates, and bisphenol-A. My orange juice bottle is Number 1 plastic (PET) and is not made of one of these non-food-reusable plastics, so what’s the deal?
A study done at the University of Calgary did find high bacterial counts in reused plastic water bottles, but indicated that this was mostly an issue of hygiene and not inherent to the material. However, others have pointed out that plastic water bottles (and perhaps also my orange juice bottle) are difficult to clean because of their narrow mouths. This is about the best reason I could find for not reusing it.
If it really is a simple design issue–i.e. that the shape of the container makes it difficult to clean out all the bacteria–I wonder why someone at the American Chemistry Council or AMERIPEN or Coca-Cola doesn’t change the design of their containers to be a little more like the very reusable host of items in our homes: perhaps a wider opening at the top or fewer hard-to-clean grooves?