Food & Groceries: Choosing A Refillable Bottle Or Plastic Container
Is it best to re-using that empty soda bottle, a or a plastic bottle? Many commonly used plastics leach harmful chemicals into your drinking water, so it may be safer to use glass, ceramic, or stainless steel containers. Some chemicals used to make plastics have been found to be hormone disrupters and carcinogens.
If you stick with plastic, some choices are better than others. Look for the numbers on the bottom.
PETE, aka PET (polyethylene terephthalate) Used for most transparent bottles, such as water, soda, cooking oil, and medicine bottles.
Generally safe to use (not reuse); generally recycled.
HDPE (high density polythylene) Sturdy, rigid plastic found in reusable food storage containers, milk and detergent bottles.
Generally safe; generally recycled.
PVC (polyvinyl chloride) Used for plastic wrap, and detergent and cooking oil bottles. Additives in PVC can increase the risk of birth defects and hormone-related cancers. Its production can be hazardous to workers and the environment.
Generally not safe; not recycled.
LDPE (low density polyethylene) Flexible plastic used for bags or wraps, such as produce bags and baby-bottle liners. Most number 4 plastics are not designed for reuse.
Generally safe; generally not recycled.
PPE, aka PP (polypropylene) Pliable plastic found in squeeze bottles, reusable food containers, and yogurt and margarine tubs.
Generally safe; generally recycled.
PS (polystyrene) Used in rigid take-out containers and foam meat trays. Can leach styrene when heated, a possible endocrine disruptor and human carcinogen.
Not safe when heated; generally not recycled.
Other; most often refers to PC (polycarbonate) This plastic is most commonly used for baby bottles, five-gallon water jugs, and reusable sports water bottles. It can leach out the hormone-disruptor bisphenol A, especially when heated.
Because this group can include various other plastics, it has limited recycling potential.
Banned in camping and baby bottles in Canada
Recommendations: The Do's and Don'ts
Currently, most plastics are made from cude oil, but there's a new generation of plastics made from starches such as rice, corn, and soy. Called bio-based plastics, they are biodegradable and recyclable (some are even compostable), and their production is generally better for the environment and your health. There are concerns about fertilizers and pesticides used in the production of rice, corn, and soy, but on the whole, bio-based plastics are still a more earth-friendly option than their petroleum-based counterparts.
DO USE microwave-safe glass or ceramic.
DON'T USE any plastic, like plastic wrap, Tupperware, and Styrofoam. Cover foods paper not plastic (note: some recycled paper towels may contain metallic flecks from ground-up staples that can combust).
For Refrigerator Storage:
DO USE glass, ceramic, stainless steel, or PVC-free plastic wrap.
DON'T USE plastic containers for anything that will leave behind a residue that will require scouring, which can create scratches. Don't store or cover hot food in or with plastic-let it cool first.
For Packing Lunches:
DO USE foil or waxed or butcher paper to wrap sandwiches and snacks. If you prefer the convenience of bags, look for ones made from number 4 plastic.
DON'T USE any plastic for high-fat foods such as meat or cheese; plastics contain chemicals that are attracted to fat.
DO USE glass or stainless steel or pitchers made from number 2 or 5 plastic.
DON'T USE pitchers made from number 7 plastic.
DO USE foil, freezer paper, or number 4 plastic freezer bags.
DON'T USE any glass or plastic not labeled FREEZER SAFE-extreme cold can cause both to crack. Don't put hot food in plastic bags or containers-let it cool first.
For Pantry Storage:
DO USE glass, aluminum, stainless steel, or number 5 plastic.
DON'T STORE food in any plastic container made from number 3, 6, or 7 plastic.
Other Resources for Plastics in Bottles and health issues
article on plastic leaching (Common Ground)
Health Canada ban on BPA
Bisphenol A Portal on the plastic contaminant BPA
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