Common Sense Guide for Consumers
Pick Your Plastics
Plastics are ubiquitous, cheap and convenient. However, they leach and degrade, contaminating our food and drink. There are many factors that affect leaching, so in many cases it is impossible to know what chemical, and how much, is leaching. Taking some precaution is good way to go.
Tips for kitchen plastics:
- I chose alternatives when possible, such as replacing plastic tupperware with pyrex containers or stainless steel.
- Never heat plastics in the microwave, even when they claim to be microwave safe (heat accelerates leaching).
- Don’t store acidic foods, hot foods, or foods high in fat or oils in plastic.
- Avoid polycarbonate (labeled #7, or PC) which contains the hormone disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA).
- If you eat a lot of canned foods, consider buying from Eden Organic, which is the only brand using a BPA-free lining (except for their canned tomatoes, due to acidity. For BPA-free tomatoes, Pomi brand, which comes in aseptic packaging is the option, although they are not organic.) BPA is found in the epoxy linings in most canned products. Tetra Pak aseptic packaging (ie: soy milk boxes) do not contain BPA.
- Consider using cloth reusable baggies, like snackTaxis, instead of ziploc bags.
It’s not feasible, or desirable, to live without plastics. But using less plastic is a worthy goal. Learn which plastics to avoid and how to reduce your use of plastics at Healthy Child, Healthy World.
Avoid PVC (commonly called vinyl). No other plastic contains or releases as many dangerous chemicals. These include dioxins (carcinogens), phthalates (hormone disruptors), lead, and cadmium. There’s no safe way to manufacture, use or dispose of PVC products. I strive for a PVC-free household, which often means screening toys carefully, or products that are waterproof like rain boots, rain coats, mattresses.
How do you identify PVC? Some classic examples of PVC: the stinky plastic shower curtain. The cheap rubber ducky. Flexible plastics with a sickly sweet odor. Look for the number “3″ on plastic packaging to indicate PVC, or the letter “V” underneath the recycling symbol. It’s important to understand that while PVC is the “poison plastic”, other vinyl family plastics such as EVA and PEVA are better choices. See “Sorting out the vinyls – When is Vinyl not PVC?” at the Healthy Building Network. EVA is often used in newer shower curtains, for example.
Plastic Creates Garbage. Though we think of plastic as easily recyclable, in reality many types of plastic are not recycled, and often when they are the new product is “downcycled”. This means that milk jugs, soda containers and other bottles are turned into lower-grade products such as jacket fill, fleece, carpet, toys or plastic lumber. None of these products are in turn recyclable. So unlike glass or aluminum, plastic recycling does not “close the loop” because most postconsumer bottles are not made into new plastic bottles.