History of Reusable Water Bottles Timeline
Water bottles haven't always been available for refills. People in ancient civilizations used large iron casks or clay jugs until the rise of plastic during World War II.
Published: July 23rd, 2020
We bring our reusable water bottle to work, the gym, soccer practice, and on hikes through the Grand Canyon. At this point, they're as essential as our cell phones and car keys when we leave the house every day. While they may seem like they've always been in our kitchen cabinets, reusable water bottles have only been around for less than a century. Back in the day, we'd carry our water from fresh springs in clay or metal jars. Definitely not as convenient as filling up our bottles from the water cooler.
When were reusable water bottles invented? How have they changed over the years? Wet your whistle and get ready to explore the fascinating history of reusable water bottles!
During the Medieval Era, people drank from waterskins made from animal hide. The containers were sometimes also referred to as water bladders and were good at storing wine for knights in battle.
Sir John Harrington designed the first flushing toilet for his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I. This allowed water to flow freely from pipes, which changed the way we accessed our drinking water in the future.
Bottles were crafted from clay or stoneware and were primarily used to hold gin or whiskey from local distillers. The bottle pictured here may also have been used as a candle holder due to dried wax found on the inside.
Farmers kept their cool in the fields with refillable glass bottles. These could be filled up by iron industrial well pumps that were mounted above the water wells in rural areas.
Soldiers stayed hydrated with reusable canteens made from enameled steel. These containers held roughly two pints and were covered in felt that made them easier to carry.
Plastic became a popular material after World War II. The first plastic water bottles came onto the market at this time, though they cost a lot higher before polyethylene was used.
Aside from plastic, aluminum was also a popular material to use for water bottles. One of the most popular among cyclists was the Coloral brand, which featured a cork stopper.
Stainless steel products were mass-produced in the United States. This material was said to be more durable and healthier to drink from than plastic or aluminum.
Polyethylene started being used in water bottles. This material was more affordable, lightweight, and easy to shape into fun designs like this Homer Simpson water bottle.
Thermos competed with lunch box manufacturer Aladdin by offering a reusable water container. These were decorated with popular movie and television stars.
Companies like Coca-Cola took to advertising on water bottles. This bottle was found in Switzerland during the Tour de France in 1992.
Flying Monkey's, a trendy restaurant in Key West, opened their doors to the public. Their custom water bottles are a popular part of their brand and are well-loved by customers.
ETS Express became the first promotional products vendor dedicated to strictly drinkware. The company prides itself on exceptional screen printing and an amazing product selection.
Robert Heiberger and Judy Amabile started Polar Bottle® from their garage in Colorado. The goal was to bring cyclists a bottle that could withstand long rides.
Sarah Krauss started S'well, the fastest growing woman-owned company in the country. These water bottles are stylishly designed and feature triple-walled technology.
Gatorade upgraded their classic squeeze bottles to more advanced models. These smart water bottles feature LED lighting that reminds athletes when it's time to hydrate.
Parley for the Oceans, a non-profit in New York, teamed up with Starbucks to create exclusive water bottles. The bottles are made from repurposed ocean debris that is melted down into small PET pellets.
During World War II, the general public had to use resources sparingly since most materials went toward the war effort. However, once the conflict ended in 1945, plastic, aluminum, and stainless steel became significantly more accessible. These materials were used to create commercial products like reusable water bottles.
Drink Up: The Plastic Boom
Plastic became popular in water bottles after World War II. With new manufacturing techniques and accessibility, the entire food industry eventually turned to this material. The first commercial water bottles hit shelves in 1947 and were sold at popular retail stores. They cost a lot higher than the variety we know today, meaning they weren't as prominently used. In fact, water bottles didn't become affordable for the general public until polyethylene was developed in the early 60s. This type of plastic was extremely popular for a variety of products, including flying discs and lunch boxes, as it was more lightweight and had a lower production cost.
Decorating the plastic was possible thanks to the invention of screen printing, a technique that had been around since the early 1900s. Companies could print their logo or advertising message directly on the bottles and use them as giveaways at promotional events.
Full Speed Ahead: Aluminum Bike Bottles
Aluminum was also a popular material following World War II. During the 40s and 50s, these water bottles were extremely valuable in the world of cycle racing. The most popular were developed by the Coloral Company in Birmingham. The aluminum water bottles featured cork stoppers, ridged caps, and an elegant "Coloral Birmingham" logo stamped on the base.
In the summer of 2012, a group of enthusiastic cyclists started a Kickstarter campaign to bring the Coloral water bottles back to shelves. Their plan brought them to the United Kingdom where they met the father and son behind the company and convinced them to revive their brand. Rather than aluminum, the updated bottles were made from stainless steel and sourced from Portugal, although they continued using Coloral's iconic logo on the caps. Today, the brand is still staging its epic comeback, with the hopes of having all cycle shops stocked with their water bottles by Summer 2018. If this proves anything, it's that loyalists will go great distances to ensure their favorite brands are always available.
The Rise of Stainless Steel
Stainless steel was invented in 1913 by Harry Brearley. It was initially used to create knife blades, surgical tools, and gun barrels. By the 1930s, it came over to the United States and was used for aircraft and kitchen sinks. Within the next 20 years, stainless steel products, like water bottles, were mass-produced and sold around the country. The material, like plastic and aluminum, had spiked in popularity after World War II.
Across the board, stainless steel water bottles are considered better to use. They help you avoid harmful BPA and don't contain toxic chemicals. Plus, they keep mold and other bacteria at bay if they're cleaned properly. According to Bastyr University, a nonprofit pioneering natural medicine, water in stainless steel bottles tastes better and the material keeps your drink's temperature much longer.
The timing for the popularity of plastic, aluminum, and stainless steel couldn't be better. The world is moving toward more eco-friendly and sustainable ways of living. As such, reusable water bottles have a place in our modern world. They reduce the number of disposable water bottles in landfill and ensure people are drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
The production of one disposable plastic bottle uses energy, emits toxins into the air, and uses more water to produce than what is actually available in the bottle. Not only is this wasting our precious resources, but it's also costing you money each year. In fact, Americans spent roughly $12.3 billion on bottled water in 2013. Refilling a stylish reusable water bottle is a much better choice for the green in your wallet and on Mother Earth.
From the 1960s to today, recognizable brands like Coca-Cola and Gatorade have been printing their logo on reusable water bottles. These companies have always needed a source to get their promotional materials, and no place is better than directly through vendors like ETS Express. This company has offered superior screen printing and a wide selection of personalized water bottles since 1985. When they first started, they only had ceramic and glass pieces. Small businesses would send in hand drawn artwork of their logo and ETS would create the design in about 10 days. Since then, the promotional products industry has evolved as has the technology at ETS. This vendor has played an important role in catapulting the industry of promotional water bottles forward.
Garyline is another vendor that offers water bottles in their product selection. This vendor is unique as they offer colorful stainless steel and make all their plastic products in the United States. As specialists in injection molding, water bottles were a great product to bring into their selection. The classic Bike Bottles in particular have been on their website since 2000. Since then, they have been valuable giveaways at 5K races, school fundraisers, and a variety of other events.
In the last five years, water bottles have emerged as one of the top promotional products. It wouldn't be possible without the hard work of vendors like ETS Express and Garyline. As giveaways, water bottles are practical for busy days, stylish enough to make an impression, and cost-effective for businesses with small budgets.
Many trends find their way to reusable water bottles. Take for instance the extra popular iridescent of 2018. These eye-catching drink containers are stylish enough for selfies, yet are still durable and have a large capacity for water. Not to mention, the stainless steel makes the water taste refreshing and cold for twice as long as plastic bottles.
Keeping up with trends is important in the world of promotional giveaways. You're competing with fashionable retailers like Target and popular products like Yeti. Companies should give their customers and employees products they will actually use time and time again. Plastic bottles are great and absolutely serve a purpose. However, it's the trendy, eye-catching bottles that will find their way to Instagram and become true conversation pieces.
We may not have to travel long distances to obtain our water from fresh springs, but the idea of portable hydration is more important now than ever in this busy world. Whether they're made from flexible plastic, durable aluminum, or sleek stainless steel, reusable water bottles are a stylish way to stay cool as a flowing river.
Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world's first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC's logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.
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