5 Types of Plastic You Should Never Store Food In

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Watch out for these 5 types of plastic – and if you’ve been using them for food storage, stop now!

In recent years, we have learned a lot about the harmful effects of plastics in our environment and homes. BPA and BPS plastics have become well-known sources of toxins that have been linked to cancer and other serious diseases. One way to ensure your home is safe and toxin-free is to eliminate harmful plastics – especially those that come into contact with food.

The first thing to do is inspect all of your plastic food storage containers carefully, looking for any signs of wear such as scratches, nicks, etching, cloudiness, or discoloration. These are signs that the plastic has started to degrade, which means that the chemicals contained in the plastic are more likely to leach out into your food or beverages – especially when exposed to heat. NEVER use plastic in the microwave, and if you have any plastic containers that have been used in the microwave, you should get rid of them immediately. Some types of plastic may be recyclable, while others aren’t (see below).

When inspecting any plastic food storage containers, flip them over and check the bottom for a recycling code. Some may not have a code, and just to be safe, you shouldn’t use them. You should also look out for these 5 codes:

#1: PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)

Bottled water comes in this plastic, which is designed for single use, so it’s not especially strong. As with all plastics, heat is a problem. When you leave a plastic bottle sitting in the sun or your hot car, you’re effectively helping all those chemicals leach into your water… This type of plastic is commonly recyclable in most neighborhood recycling programs.

#2: HDPE (high-density polyethylene)

Typically opaque with a lower risk of leaching, so many consider it safe. Best to avoid reusing; most curbside recycling programs will pick it up.

#3: V or PVC (vinyl)

Used to make detergent bottles and some food wraps. Never cook with or burn this plastic. May contain phthalates, which are linked to numerous health issues, and DEHA, which can be carcinogenic with long-term exposure. Most curbside recycling programs do not accept PVC.

#4: LDPE (low-density polyethylene)

It’s found in squeezable bottles, frozen food and bread bags, and some food wraps. Curbside recycling programs typically do not accept it. Considered safer, but concern about endocrine-disrupting chemicals is mounting, particularly when it comes to use with fatty foods like cheese and ham.

#6: Polystyrene

Used to make meat trays and those squeaky egg cartons. It’s bad for the environment because it is notoriously difficult to recycle, and it’s bad for us because it leaches potentially toxic chemicals (especially when heated). Most recycling programs won’t accept it.

Basically, the ONLY type of plastic that is potentially safe to reuse for food storage is #5: Polypropylene. Polypropylene is commonly used to make yogurt containers and bottles for ketchup and syrup. It may be considered safe for reuse if it is in good condition and you avoid exposing it to heat. This type of plastic is becoming more widely accepted by curbside recycling programs, so if you have any plastic containers of this type that are not in good shape or have been heated, you may be able to recycle them – check with your local recycling program to be sure. Otherwise, choose glass containers or metal for storing food – especially if it will be heated.

Read more about safe and eco-friendly food storage options at MindBodyGreen.com


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