Pick Up a Plastic-Free Water Purifier

February 1, 2018



It didnt even used to occur to me that buying a newspaper that came with a free one litre bottle of Evan in Bristol for the train ride home was a bad thing. Then I spent the last two years doing plastic free challenges, one lasting for five months, and my perception underwent and complete transformation. The quest for commodities on the go has driven a devastating increase in plastic bottle production and now one million plastic bottles are now bought a minute. What's worse, only 14 per cent of plastic is recycled globally, and just 2 per cent ever returns as plastic packaging again. Every single second, 20,000 more plastic bottles are produced, purchased and go on to plunder the planet. 

Most plastic bottles used for soft drinks and water are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is really recyclable. Though the majority dont make it, and the reason is, of course, the cost. It's cheaper to ship plastic to countries considered as 'emerging markets' for re-use in cheap clothing. The six biggest bottled drink companies in the world refused to accept responsibility, let alone reduce, reuse and recycle. 

Clearly bottled water can package a wonderful way to make a positive change to the world. Whether you're hopping a train home, hiking the Himalayas or surfing in South Africa, buying bottle after plastic bottle on the way round the world is easily avoidable with the right tools, even when the tap water is too tainted to take.

H O W    T O    P U R I F Y    W A T E R

You need either a mechanical, chemical or electronic contraption to cleanse your water. And you’re looking for something that will take out the tiny, toxic threats. You're need something that kills protozoa (between 20 and 1 microns) bacteria (between 10 and 0.1 microns) and viruses (0.1 to 0.005 microns -super tiny).

Here are your options:

  • “Purifiers” will rid water of all 3 threats. For travel to less-developed countries, with poor sanitation where people may not practice good hygiene near water supplies, a purifier is the safer option.

  • “Filters” use pumps or gravity and will reliably sift out protozoa, cysts and bacteria down to 0.4 microns but are not effective against miniscule viruses. If you’re camping in nature where human traffic is low, a water filter should be sufficient.

  • Chemicals can also purify water in different ways.

Having read through all of the responses, reviews and recommendations, here's the one that I bought.



P  U  R   I   F   I  E  R  S

A SteriPEN Purifier 

It's a tiny lightsaber! A Jedi gadget for your ethical inventory. It uses ultraviolet light to disrupt and destroy the DNA of dangerous bugs and diseases, making them unable to reproduce in the body and cause illness.

You submerge the small light bulb in your bottle, press the button once for 500ml of water (45 seconds) or twice for 1000ml (90 seconds) and wait for the little happy face to pop up when you're done. They say the machine lasts 8,000 litres before you must buy a new bulb, so even if you used it every day to purify 4 litres, it would work for nearly 5 and a half years. Walking into the Himalayas for weeks on end, it saved me thousands of Nepali rupees, kilograms of plastic bottles, and the backs of many of the porters who I see had to lug crates of plastic bottles up into the mountains for less environmentally friendly hikers.

Small, simple, lightweight
Quick, 45-90 seconds treatment
No need to wait after
No nasty taste

You could smash the lamp (try not to smash the lamp)
If water is dirty or gritty, you will need to filter out the sediment first.

Activated Charcoal
I also slipped a cheeky stick of activated charcoal (and a quartz crystal for good vibes) into my water bottle, to remove nasty elements and metals that may come in from dodgy watering holes.
Activated charcoal consists of specially treated bamboo, wood, coconut or coal, burned without oxygen to create char. This is then heated to ludicrously high temperatures and exposed to certain gases through a multi-step process to make it extremely porous. 1 gram of activated charcoal has a surface area of 3,000 metres squared.

Activated charcoal works by 'adsorbing’ harmful toxins and chemicals, binding them through onto to its tiny pores. Its porous surface has a negative electric charge that causes positive charged toxins and gas to bond with it.




F  I   L  T  E  R  S 


Sawyer Mini Filter 

The difference between Purifiers and filters is the level of protection they provide. A water filter will remove waterborne protozoa and bacteria. But viruses are too small for filters to catch. In India, I wouldn't have trusted this method due to the unsanitary conditions in many places I find myself crawling into.

However, the Sawyer Mini is one of the cheapest filters ever and it amazingly filters down to 0.1 micron and claims to remove 99.999% of all bacteria and protozoa. 

It is also very easy to use. You can drink directly through the filter, attached to the water pouch, or connect them up and allow your water to filter using gravity. You must clean the filter out occasionally by simply backflushing the system with clean water.

Small and lightweight
Not reliant on an electrical mechanism
Not many parts

Doesn't remove viruses
Can clog over time


C  H  E  M  I   C   A   L   S

The most common water treatment chemicals are iodine, chlorine and chlorine dioxide. They get rid of parasites, viruses and bacteria. Tablets are dropped in water and left for a while to let them get to work on killing microorganisms. Depending on the tablet, the wait time will vary. I think that adding chemicals to an already tainted water source is asking for trouble, but the decision is yours. 


Lightweight and compact
Quite cheap
Easy, no need for a contraption

Chemicals disturb your health
There are no circulated tests that can specify the quality of drinking water after using these pills
There are many known side effects from allergy outbreaks, thyroid problems and cancers, and they can be harmful to pregnant women
They can't eliminate residue or chemical impurities.
Wait time is between 30 minutes and 4 hours
Need to plan your thirst ahead of time
They make water taste bad 

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