Using plastic containers are a great way to store food, prevent waste, and meal prep. It’s difficult enough trying to figure out which foods are healthy for you. With so many different options, it can be tough to know which types of plastic containers are safe for food.
Keeping yourself and your loved ones safe is a top priority, which is why we have created a list of what you should look out for when choosing plastic containers, and which types of plastics are safe for food storage so you can enjoy your leftovers stress-free.
Types of Plastics that Are Safe for Storing Food
While some people choose to steer clear of plastic, thinking it may have a negative effect on their food, this is far from the truth. If you choose your containers carefully, you can keep your food free from toxic chemicals and enjoy your leftovers with peace of mind.
Plastic that are safe for food storage include:
PET or PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
PET is a commercial thermoplastic polymer commonly used in everyday products, such as packaging, fabrics, mouthwash, tennis balls, electronics, water bottles, and more. Many people don’t know that it actually belongs to the polyester family! PET is one of the most commonly recycled thermoplastics. Look for the number “1” on the container as its recycling symbol.
This type of plastic material is highly flexible, lightweight, and it shows great stability, resistance to impact, alcohols, moisture, and oils.
HDPE (High Density Polyethylene)
HDPE is a thermoplastic polymer, like PET, however it is made from petroleum. It is known as one of the most versatile types of plastic, and it is used in many different applications, such as plastic bottles, cutting boards, milk jugs, cleaning supply bottles, shampoo bottles, and piping.
It is known for its strength, high-impact resistance, and malleability, and it is also used as a material for other interesting items. Some of these include snowboards, shoe laces, 3-D printing filament, and food and beverage containers. HDPE is also great for recycling. Look for the number “2” imprinted on the container, and you’re good to recycle it!
LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene)
The difference between high density polyethylene (HDPE) and low density polyethylene (LDPE) is exactly what the name suggests: LDPE simply has a lower density than HDPE. This gives LDPE much different properties than HDPE, although they are used for very similar purposes, such as for packaging. LDPE was actually produced before HDPE, and has been around longer, though both materials are great for plastic containers.
LDPE is lightweight and resistant to impact, moisture, and chemicals. It’s used for many different everyday products that you (or members of your family) likely use quite often, including shopping bags, juice boxes, and toys. It can also be easily recycled. Look for the number “4” if you choose to recycle your plastic containers later down the road.
PP is a thermoplastic “addition polymer” that is used in several different applications, including packaging, plastic automotive parts, ketchup and shampoo bottle lids, and textiles. This material has an interesting history, and has been around since 1951.
This thermoplastic is both chemical and fatigue resistant, making it a great option for household and industrial applications. Check for code number “5” on the container to determine if it can be recycled.
Plastics You Should Avoid
Most people use plastic containers to store their food. They’re lightweight, inexpensive, and highly convenient. However, you need to make sure that you are using containers made from the right kind of plastic.
There are certain plastic materials that are safe for food containers, and these are often marked by the recycling symbol and numbers “1,” “2,” “3,” and “4.” However, there are some plastic materials that you should avoid altogether to protect yourself and your family members from potential toxicity.
Plastic containers that contain certain materials, when exposed to “stressors,” can contaminate your food with chemicals that can lead to health conditions and long-term damage, including:
– Endocrine disruption
– Fetal development issues
– Hormone disruption
– Immunity issues
– Liver damage
– Kidney damage
– Lung damage
– Reproductive issues
– Developmental problems
– And more
When looking for plastic containers to purchase for storing leftovers and meal prepping, avoid plastics containing the following chemicals:
– BPA (Bisphenol A)
Certain stressors, such as microwaving and UV sunlight radiation, can activate chemicals that are present in plastic containers, such as BPA, causing them to migrate into your food. BPA is used due to its ability to harden polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.
BPA is not a chemical that should be in your food, as it has Estrogenic Activity, or EA, which means it mimics the female hormone estrogen. These can lead to health and developmental issues. There is even evidence that BPA can lead to child depression and ADHD. To find out if your container may have BPA, check the recycling number. If it has the marking “PC,” which means polycarbonates, or a number “3,” “6,” or especially “7,” it likely contains BPA.
Phthalates are chemicals that are added to plastic containers to make them more flexible and more difficult to break. However, just as with BPA, certain stressors can cause it to get into your food, creating potential health concerns and long-term damage.
Evidently, phthalates are an endocrine disruptor, which means that exposure to this chemical can lead to cancer, and can negatively affect the reproductive system, as well as brain development.
What Are the Benefits of Using Plastic Containers?
When looking for containers to store your leftovers, pack lunches, or plan a week of meals, it’s normal to wonder if plastic food packaging is safe. Not only are there plastic materials out there, such as PET, HDPE, LDPE, and PP that are safe to use for food storage and won’t contaminate your food, but there are also many benefits to using plastic containers to store your food.
Some of these benefits include:
It’s no secret that plastic containers are some of the most durable options for storing food. Plastic can even be as strong as steel! Plastic containers can withstand trauma, impact, and wear-and-tear, making them a durable option to hold any meal.
Because plastic is so lightweight, it’s always going to be cheaper than metal, glass, or other alternatives to storage. They are also produced on a large scale, which reduces the overall price, and they are always in high demand due to their fantastic convenience and durability.
– Maintaining food freshness
Plastic containers often come with lids that seal and lock in food’s freshness so that you don’t have to throw away any food that has gone bad due to improper storage. When your plastic lids are snapped on tight, it does not allow bacteria or humidity to get into the container, keeping the food intact.
– Reducing waste
Instead of tossing your dinner leftovers, you can stow them away in a plastic container and stick them right in the fridge. This reduces waste and even helps you save money and time in the long run since you don’t have to worry about cooking again the next night (or even the next few nights!), and you won’t run out of food so quickly – saving you trips to the grocery store!
Plastic containers are practical. They are money-saving, easy-to-use, functional, and efficient. There are a million-and-one reasons to use them, and these are only just a few.
Another great reason to use plastic containers is that they can be recycled, allowing you to feel good about making a positive contribution to the world when (or even if) your plastic containers break, or you’re looking into buying new ones.
Plastic usage has drastically increased over recent years, and has become a major part of our lifestyles. According to research, bottled water sales have climbed dramatically even over just the past decade or so. In 2009, 8.45 billion gallons of water were sold in 2009, and in 2019 that number jumped up to 14.4 billion gallons. The U.S. also continues to be the top leading consumer in the world for bottled water, and the trend is predicted to grow.
There are many wonderful benefits to helping the world by recycling plastic, including:
– Reduces the amount of waste that is sent to landfills, making the world a cleaner environment
– Conserves energy
– Reduces water pollution and air pollution
– Conserves the natural resources and energy that would otherwise be used to produce plastic from scratch.
– Protects the environment
– Minimizes fossil fuels emission
There are many different recycling locations available all over the United States and other parts of the world. A quick search for “plastic recycling near me” can help you easily find a location to safely discard your plastic containers without feeling guilty about harming the environment.
While drinking from water bottles is completely safe when the bottle is made with the right plastic materials, you can also just drink purified water at home, and add whatever you would like to make your plain water more interesting, including lemon water, or adding cucumbers or berries to make an antioxidant-rich, tasty beverage.
Why Meal Prep
Plastic containers are a safe way to store your food, especially if you are a meal prepper. Meal prepping has many incredible benefits that can make planning breakfast, lunch, and dinner easier than ever.
What is meal prepping?
Meal prepping enables you to create make-ahead meals with pre-made portion sizes for weight loss and healthy consumption. Some of the incredible benefits of using plastic containers for meal prepping are:
– Saves you time
Many people who turn to junk food, frozen meals, and snacks often do so for the sake of “convenience.” With meal prepping, you can come home from a long day at work and not even have to think about what you’re going to eat. Your healthy, wholesome meal will already be there for you, premade and ready to go.
– Saves you money
When you already have your homemade meal set and ready to be eaten, you are much less likely to go out to eat, or order in. Planning your meals allows you complete control over your ingredients, your budget, and prevents you from making unnecessary food purchases, which will save you money.
– Prevents overeating
Meal planning helps you to regulate what you eat by allowing you to make healthy choices ahead of time and helps you stay on track to your health and wellness goals. By pre-making your meals, you can select ingredients from each food group, and make it that much easier to maintain a healthy diet.
– Reduces waste
Preplanning your portions allows you to prepare just the right amount of food for each day of the week. This enables you to use exactly what you need and map out your portions without making too much of anything, and without having to think about what meals to make next. You simply use up what you have pre-prepared.
Using plastic containers for meal planning is a great way to help you lose weight, save money, and enjoy your favorite meals without overeating or creating waste.
Choosing Safe Plastic Containers
When it comes to choosing safe plastic containers for your meal planning, leftovers, work lunches, or other food storage needs, it’s important to know the facts before purchasing. While some plastics contain toxic chemicals, such as BPA and phthalates, other types of plastics are completely safe for daily use, including containers made with PET, HDPE, LDPE, and PP.
By choosing your plastic containers wisely, you are choosing health, longevity, and wellbeing for yourself and for your loved ones!