There has been a lot of talk about what plastic is safe to reuse, and what is not. Well, I’ve looked it up, and I’m now going to present you with the facts.
First of all, there are different sorts of plastic, used for different purposes. They are categorized in accordance with what raw material was used to produce the product. Here are the different categories:
According to The Green Guide, a website and magazine focusing on promoting greener living and owned by the National Geographic Society,the safest plastics for repeated use in storing food are from categories 2, 4 and 5.
Tupperware. Most Tupperware containers are made from #4 or #5 plastics. However, some of their products are made from polycarbonate, #7, which has been shown to leak the harmful, hormone-disrupting chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) into food items after repeated use. The following Tupperware products are made from polycarbonate (#7): the Rock ‘N Serve microwave line, the Ice Prisms line, the Meals-in-Minutes Microsteamer, the “Elegant” Serving Line, the TupperCare baby bottle, the Pizza Keep’ N Heat container, and the Table Collection (the last three are no longer made but might still be found in your kitchen).
Bisphenol A (BPA). So what is BPA really, and how harmful is it? Bisphenol A is a key industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate, which is a hard, clear plastic. Studies made by governments in the US, Europe and Japan, as well as studies conducted by academic researchers and by industry, show that under typical use conditions, the migration of BPA into food is extremely low. The more I read about this topic the more sources I find that tell me there’s no reason to worry about migration of harmful amounts of BPA into food when using #7 plastic food containers.
In my opinion, there is more reason to worry about some of those other categories, like #1 and #3.
#1 PET bottles. How many of you have NEVER used a PET-bottle more than once? Not many I guess. Most of us use these bottles more than once. As for me, I do not drink soda drinks, but I do drink water, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought a nice/cool looking water bottle, with the purpose of reusing it several times before throwing it out. Normally I drink tap water, but since I’m one of those people who carry a water bottle wherever they go I do buy water bottles for this purpose. This will stop NOW. I took a look at the water bottles in the store last time I was there, and turns out almost every single one of them was made out of #1 plastic. Bottles made from this plastic are proven to leak carcinogenic, hormone-disrupting phthalates when used over and over again.
#3 PVC plastics. PVC can leak cancer-causing dioxins, which is one of the most toxic environmental pollutant there is. PVC is found in a wide range of consumer products, such as packaging, credit cards, bottles and imitation leather, as well as in construction material, such as window frames, cables, pipes, window blinds, wallpaper and flooring. In addition to that it is used in car interiors and in hospitals, as medical disposables. However, PVC does not only leak harmful additives during use (recent testing has showed that children can ingest hazardous chemicals from PVC toys etc) – already the production of PVC creates and releases dioxin and PVC products continue to leak harmful additives during disposal, when they’re burned or buried. Burning creates and releases more dioxins and compounds containing chlorine, which further contaminates the environment. Furthermore, phthalates are present in this category as well. They are added to PVC to make it soft and flexible. PVC is difficult to recycle, resulting in much of it ending up in landfills – which we all know is the least favorable outcome from an environmental point of view. Governments and industry are taking action to eliminate PVC. Danish and Swedish governments are restricting PVC use, hundreds of communities worldwide are eliminating PVC in buildings and many companies such as Nike, IKEA and The Body Shop have committed to eliminating PVC from their products. Many deli items are packed in PVC plastic containers, so swapping foods out of such wraps one the groceries are home is advicable.
#6 plastics (polystyrene, also known as styrofoam). Containers made of polystyrene can also be dangerous, as its base component, styrene, has been associated with skin, eye and respiratory irritation, depression, fatigue, compromised kidney function, and central nervous system damage. Take-out restaurant orders often come in polystyrene containers, which also should be emptied into safer containers once you get them home.
So, if your head is spinning and you don’t know which plastics are safe and which are not – use glass containers, like Pyrex, and stop worrying! ;)
Sources: (other than the links found in the blog post)
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