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Know Your Plastics


You hear a lot these days about "good plastics" and "bad plastics". I'm not a huge fan of any plastic. I would love to live in a world without it but I guess that's never going to happen. So I think it's important to know your enemy. Ok, I'm being a little dramatic, my sunglasses and toothbrush and computer are hardly enemies but I certainly would love them more if they were made of wood or bamboo.

Look around you and you will see that plastic is everywhere. That is why it is so important to know what you are surrounding yourself with. When you look on the bottom of your plastic containers, as I know you all do now, you will usually see a little recycling triangle with a number in it. That number tells you what sort of plastic it is. It's really important that you know which plastics you are using and avoid the "bad" ones. Particularly if they are used in contact with food or if you have young kids who put plastic toys in their mouths. Try to use glass, ceramic or stainless steel where possible. I know plastic storage containers are convenient, cheap and light, even I am tempted to store the kids cereal in one. Only because I figure if they break my 4litre glass container filled with my $64 /kilo organic muesli, my reaction to that would be worse for their health than any exposure to plastic could be. So far so good. Of course there are plastic containers considered safe for food storage so don't freak out and start throwing everything out just yet I am just a plastiphobe and prefer the taste of things that are stored in glass.

So, here is the basic plastic info you need to know:

"1" - POLYETHYLENE, TEREPHTHALATE

  • Soft drink/water bottles, tomato sauce, salad dressing, peanut butter/jam jars

GOOD (not known to leach chemicals)

"2" - HIGH DENSITY POLYETHYLENE

  • Milk/ water/ juice bottles, yoghurt/margarine tubs, cereal box liners, grocery/garbage bags

GOOD (not known to leach chemicals)

"3" - POLYVINYLCHLORIDE – PVC

  • cling wrapped meats/cheeses/delifoods, clothing, shower curtains, lunchboxes, piping, flooring, DVD’s

BAD (phthalates – leaches into food, air etc)

"4" - LOW DENSITY POLYETHYLENE

  • Some bread/frozen food bags, squeezable bottles

OK (Not known to leach, but not as widely recycled)

"5" - POLYPROPYLENE

  • Tomato sauce, yoghurt/margarine tubs

OK (Not known to leach, but not as widely recycled & hazardous during production)

"6" - POLYSTYRENE

  • Foam insulation, coffee cups/tops, toys, drinking cups

BAD (BENZENE, BUTADIENE, STYRENE – carcinogenic, energy intensive, poor recycling)

"7" - usually POLYCARBONATE

  • Baby bottles, microwave oven ware, canned food, rice cracker trays

BAD (BPA – hormone disruptor, mimics oestrogen, leaches into food, carcinogenic)

1,2,4,5 – stay alive

3,6,7 – go to heaven

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