Clean drinking water, reusable bottles


Living in Beijing, access to clean drinking water can not be taken for granted. Clean drinking water is far from omnipresent. Drinking water straight from the kitchen tap is not an option because the water might contain pathogens in addition to heavy metals.

When we arrived in Beijing last March, we first resorted to boiling tap water. Although this does kill most of the pathogens that can make you sick, it does not filter out heavy metals, pesticides, and other toxins.

Only recently, the municipal government of Beijing announced that third-party test results of local drinking water will be published soon. Until then, it remains unclear what the quality of the water is. Although testing of tap water by third parties is common practice in many western countries, it is not in China. In fact, this is the first time the municipality asked a third party to test the tap water and promised to publish the test results.

Still, I am not sure how the quality of the pipes that bring the tap water to our kitchen affect the tap water. Perhaps the water gets contaminated within our district or building. Because of all these worries, some Chinese water experts claim they have not drunk tap water for decades.


From tap water to reusable plastic bottles

So, not convinced the tap water does not affect our health adversely, and coping with the very hot weather in Beijing, after a few months of boiled tap water, we switched to buying large reusable water bottles that we use on our water dispenser.

Water dispenser
As I wrote last week, we cannot be sure about the quality of this water either. We do not know exactly where it comes from and how it has been treated, stored, and transported. Also, it still comes in a plastic bottle. A few days ago, I realized that the bottle is made of polycarbonate. This material often contains bpa, a toxin that is known as a hormone disrupter and helps make you fat.


Whenever the approximately 20 liter reusable water bottle is finished, we call our landlord who then orders a new bottle. This new bottle is delivered to our home and costs 18 Renminbi, about 2 euro. That means each liter drinking water costs 0.10 euro! To compare, in The Hague (the Netherlands), a liter tap water costs 0.00112 euro (i.e. 1.12 euro per 1,000 liter).

I have been looking for ways to get rid of the plastic bottle and the high costs. Last week I wrote about the Clearly Filtered stainless steel bottles. These filter most of the pathogens, heavy metals, and other undesirable things from water. However, the filter is made of plastic. In fact, the filtering system in the bottle includes a plastic straw that you must use in order to drink the filtered water. Other than the superficial “bpa-free” claim, the company does not disclose what kind of plastic the filter and straw are made of. I might still be drinking toxins when using this bottle.

The Clearly Filtered Kitchen Countertop Faucet Filter is still be an option. However, I am not sure whether it would survive getting screwed on and off taps regularly, whenever we move. And at this moment, we move about every month or two. “It will need to be screwed into each sink faucet to fit properly. For traveling, we recommend using our Filtered Water Bottles as they make great traveling companions and deliver the same great filtered water.”

Clean, cheaper drinking water right at our door step

But unexpectedly we found another temporary solution! It turns out that right in front of our apartment building, there is a vendor machine for clean drinking water! This appears to be regular tap water which is then filtered in the machine.

Water machine
It is super easy to use. You just bring your bottle, open the little door, place a water vessel under the tap, put in some coins, press the start button and voilà! Clean, filtered tap water.

Water                                    Water
This water costs only about a third of the delivered water! But this solution is not only going to save us so much money, it will also reduce the transportation distance of our water. Before, the people of the refillable water bottle company had to store the bottles, fill them, and then ride them in their motorized tricycle to our home. Now this is not necessary anymore, because we can tap water right at our door step.

The only thing we still need to get rid of, is the plastic bottle. I am afraid bpa and other toxins are leaking into the water, so that we are drinking toxins. To be continued…

How are you getting around bottled water? Please share your solutions so that we can move towards a plastic-free, cleaner, happier, and healthier planet!


About Author


In 2013, after reading yet another article about plastic soup, Annemieke started her Dutch blog Plasticminimalism where she documented her small steps towards life with less plastic. To create more awareness about the adverse impacts of our plastic consumption, she launched Plastic-Free Tuesday in spring 2014. She strongly believes that building a better world starts by changing our own behavior. Annemieke is trained in environmental science and policy. She alternates living in the Netherlands, Sweden, the US, and China.

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