As a general rule, plastic containers will have a recycling number stamped on their bottom, this is also the way to identify the type of plastic.
The following plastics are consider the safer alternatives to stainless steel and glass containers;
- #1 Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) containers are recyclable and generally considered the safest single-use plastic-bottle choice. But they are best not reused because studies indicate that after repeated use, porous PET containers may start to absorb bacteria and flavors or leach the heavy metal antimony (an eye, skin and lung irritant at high doses).
- #2 High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is both durable and accepted by most curbside recycling programs. .
- #4 Low-density polyethylene (LDPE), like its cousin HDPE, is a food-safe plastic, mostly used to make food wraps and plastic bags.
- #5 Polypropylene (PP), though less recyclable, has not been shown to leach any carcinogens or endocrine disruptors. Readily available in reusable containers.
- #3 Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) releases carcinogenic dioxins into the environment when manufactured or incinerated and can leach phthalates.
- #6 Polystyrene (PS) can leach styrene, a possible human carcinogen.
- #7 Polycarbonate plastics, used in clear, rigid sports bottles and some baby bottles, contain bisphenol A, a known hormone disruptor that has recently been linked to a wide variety of health disorders, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, some types of cancer and childhood hyperactivity disorders.
My son has a stainless steel 3 tiered tiffin tin for his lunch box, not very exciting I know, and he also had issue with it when I packed his lunch in it, why can't I have a spiderman one he asked? I explained to him that this was a safer healthier lunch container and if he liked we could decorate it with stickers. This is what we did, he picked out his favourite superhero stickers and we decorated it.
A few tips to help reduce your plastic in your day to day and a few general plastic tips -
- Store all left over food in containers if possible, otherwise opt for aluminium foil to store food in
- When buying food from the supermarkets look for products that come in a glass jar, less chance of plastic leaching in to your food then
- Buy in bulk! Take your own containers to a store that sells food in bulk, some health food stores do this, this is something you may need to research. I take a lot of my glass containers up to my local store and refill with the products I need including nuts, chai tea, seaweed, rice, honey, dishwashing liquid, peanut butter, tahini etc.
- When I do buy products in plastic (the brown rice flour I buy only comes in plastic) I take it out of the plastic and put it in a glass jar when I get home, reducing the longer term chances of leaching. I cut the label of the product I'm putting in the jar and sticky tape it to the front.
- My cupboard is filled with re-used glass jars, they are great for putting food in for storage
- If you are using plastic to store your food in, make sure you use only the ones above considered the safer options and try and put food in to the plastic once it reaches room temperature. Keep it in the pot or pan until it cools down and then transfer.
- And remember, the golden rule, if you use a microwave, never heat food in plastic in it.
I hope this has helped clarify the better forms of plastic to use, if you need to use plastic at all.
Information on the classifications of plastics (above) came from the following site - http://www.thegreenguide.com/ which is a great site to check out.