The sipper craze

5:00 PM

2013-12-20 10.24.06

The instant your child is starting would it be just playschool in India, you will find yourself catapulted in a realm of plastic gear as these kiddos cannot be sent for just 2-3 hours of school without a tiffin box and a water bottle. And while I understand the water, the tiffin has had me scratching my head a little because many schools ask you to send food according to a set menu, which for just 3 hours of school is a bit much. Anyway, that’s not the topic of this post, today we are talking about the bottles.
And as soon as “Back to school” points its nose every stores in town will have a wide array of bottles to choose from, most plastic, and with the same old limited cartoon characters selections accross the brand: Chota Bheem for the desi cartoon purist, Ben 10 and Spiderman for the boys, Dora, Barbie and the Disney Princesses for the girls, Mickey and the gang for the gender neutrals.
And the instant you parent find yourself faced with the need of water bottles, you’ll realise that there is a lot of trial and error into finding the right one for your kids. Most are cheap, will leak, some have BPA, and all will break faster than it takes for a school year to lapse. The younger the child, the more bottles you’ll end up buying.
With Ishita I went through that ordeal of chewed mouth piece, leaky ones, breakable ones, before I decided to switch to a steel bottle when she was in Nursery class (the pink one on the picture) that one was awesome, it got a few bumps from being abused at the playground but never leaked, and in the end, the only thing that broke was the purple snap on mouth piece cover. When Ishita went to her new school last June I didn’t even think twice about the bottle issue, the steel one was still fine and non leaky, that shall do the trick…except it did not, the school sent a circular to all parents informing us that the only type of bottles that will be allowed will be the ones with a sling (aka a strap to carry it around your neck). Darn! that was too easy! This special requirement sent me hunting for a bottle equipped with a sling only to find out that none were made of metal, so it was back to plastic for me. The first one did last until October and not because the bottle as such broke, but because that wretched spring cap mechanism did, making the bottle leaky. Not that it would have been an issue if someone didn’t just throw the bottle back in the backpack without making sure it stands errect…a dripping wet school bag not being an option, it was back to the stationary and school supplies store to buy plastic bottle number 2 for the year 2013-14, I was wise enough to keep the old one just in case and I sent her with a brand new bottle right after the Diwali break, that one did last about a week, because apparently someone knocked the water bottle table and some fell, Ishita’s bottle was part of the causalities and returned home with a giant crack in it’s body. Thankfully my keeping the old one meant I got to play Dr Frankenstein and affixed the body of bottle number 1 to the cap of bottle number 2…problem solved…except not so much, 2 days later it’s the cap that snapped and I only got to realise it once the bottle was turned upside down in the bag after it leaked on all it’s content.
By then I was just about done with plastic, fed up that we parents are to buy the cheapest quality of crap for our kids to drink from just because of a stupid sling requirement, end up paying anywhere between 150-200 a bottle that will break every 2-3 months, while there are some more durable and far far more eco-friendly options out there. The problem is that none of the brands that do metallic ones have them come with a strap long enough to slip around your child’s neck. But this time I was determined to find a solution to this bottle issue without breaking the school rule. It took me a few days and many shops to visit before I found a bottle that would work, the idea being that I wanted one with a mouth piece easy enough to operate for a small child, with a hook of some kind to attach one of these old office badges straps we had lying around at home. Lifestyle carried exactly that (red bottle in the picture), it did cost me 170 rupees (a mere one rupee extra over the cost of the cheapo Dora bottle mind you) and ishita is forbidden to use this one anywhere else but at school. I am yet to see if my special handiwork will pass the school rule test as fortunately Ishita’s old bottle broke on the last day of school before the Christmas break.

One sure is certain though, these school supplies company are milking the parents with these plastic ones. Most schools do ask about that sling thing for small children, our school is not an exception, it is after all easier for the teachers to make sure each kid has their bottle whenever they do an outing somewhere. My beef is really not with the school, I totally understand them, but would it be too much asking for bottle manufacturers to see that metallic bottles come with a neck strap? After all they manage to slap Sleeping Beauty and the gang on these, so why not add a little practicality to it? The way I see it most parents will end up spending about 500 rupees a year of not more on highly breakable bottles per school years, which end up translating in heaps of garbage in the landfills as well. Maybe it would be time for parents to boycott these cheap Chinese made bottles once and for all and find alternative solutions to the strap issue like I did, hopefully once the demand for plastic crap stop, so will the manufacturing.


  1. Perhaps I should tell you that I'm clumsy by nature and I caused a hole on the bottom of the steel bottle that I had thought till then to be unbreakable just like you. Nevertheless this post is informative.

  2. Oh no! Don't tell me that :)
    The pink steel botle in the picture went through many falls, thankfully it is still intact, and we still use it to go to the playground. It was an imported one though, so maybe better quality, I hope the lifestyle one will last too, one of my friend has it and has had no problem with it so hopefully I am done buying bottles for a few years.

  3. Beatrix7:15 PM

    I buy Nalgene sippers for our family in the US.
    (Nalgene is supposed to be BPA free - see at Nalgene.com)

    None of them have broken yet.
    I've seen some Nalgene sippers in the trekking/mountain climbing supplies shops here in Nepal - I don't know if they are real or Chinese fakes though.
    It seems 'cheap' is the primary concern for most Indians, so I doubt we'll ever see any improvement in the cheap Chinese crap sold everywhere.

  4. That Dora sipper in the picture is BPA free but the make is of poor quality, just pleases the kids who want cartoons on their school gear and fits the budget of parents. but at 2-3 of these bottles a year it starts being a significant expense. I seem however to be the only one pointing out the cumulated cost of these stupid bottles in my circle of friends and decided to act on it.

  5. Beatrix9:07 PM

    It's more than just the cost though - it is a pain in the butt & a waste of time to keep having to replace this cheap Chinese crap all the time!!!
    Sorry, that's one of my pet peeves living in South Asia.
    No one cares about quality, just cheap!

  6. navya9:20 PM

    I m not sure if it was of bad quality as you suggested though that might be likely. I have two other bottles with several dents due to multiple falls but no holes as yet.. let me clarify things get spilt and broken on a daily basis at my place and I am not talking about the maniac hyperactive toddler:-)

  7. Perhaps it was of bad quality. I have two other bottles with several dents and multiple falls . No holes though. .

  8. Yeah that too, DH is more quality and brand conscious than price conscious, so we usually take our time to think about what we want to buy before just buying anything, every time we ended up buying cheap Chinese crap out of necessity we ended up feeling ripped off when they broke soon after

  9. LOL at the maniac hyperactive toddler :-)
    because I know what it is like

  10. Arunesh11:13 AM

    During my time in school, I -- and most of my classmates -- carried water in a used Pepsi/Coke plastic bottle, which was bundled in a basket along with my lunch. In hindsight however, that was definitely NOT a good idea since recycled plastic is an inappropriate medium to store water.

  11. I have no childhood experience with water bottles to share, in Switzerland they are not allowed in the classroom, the tap water is drinkable anywhere so we all used to go to the bathroom to do so. On field trip we all had these sturdy plastic camping/trekking flasks that come with a snap on drinking cup attached and a sling and was tucked in the rucksack along with the picnic food we were asked to bring for such occasions. We also didn't have lunch in school until high school lunch breaks are long in Switzerland and most go home for it including parents. Schools have a pay lunch program with supervisors to take care of the kids that can't go home. So plastic bottles and tiffin box is something new for me. But yeah I think using pet bottles to carry water is not a healthy solution

  12. We carried water in plastic school bottles till Milton company introduced plastic flasks/containers both for school and picnics/journeys, the sturdy ones that you are taking about, sometime in late 1980s and early 1990s. Till that time, we drank water which was warm coming out of plastic bottles. I still carry water to office in used pepsi/coke bottles to office. A heavy flask is like additional burden to carry in a crowded metro.

    Talking about portable water, I remember in our childhood we carried water in earthen pots called "Surahis", while traveling on trains.


    Bottled water was still not available. Water actually tastes so cool and refreshing coming out of a earthen pot due to natural process of cooling. Water from flasks actually have a plastic taste. Once broke a surahi accidentally, and my father gave me a blast.

  13. Clay is known as a natural thermal insulation material since the beginning of time, it has been used to make bricks to keep houses cool in the Summer and warm in the winter in Europe for ages, the Romans used pots very similar to suharis to pack all kind of edibles both by individuals at home and by traders. Their only default being that they are indeed highly breakable. We have plastic containers and bottles in Switzerland, but frankly the amount of plastic goods available in India amazed me when I first arrived.


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