Earth Friendly Water Blog

Green Living: Plastics, choose what’s right for you and the environment

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 Sitting down to dinner last week with my pregnant sister-in-law she started talking to me about a recent Dateline NBC program she watched about the effects of BPA.  That BPA can act as a hormone disrupter, effecting estrogen and mimicking other hormones in your body, increasing some people’s risk of liver disease, diabetes, breast cancer, and heart disease.  Who knew drinking out of plastic and aluminum could be so toxic. 

Wikipedia definition of BPA is used to make certain plastics and epoxy resins, it makes the plastics hard.  BPA exhibits hormone like properties that raise concern about its stability in consumer products and food containers. 

She was telling me there are different numbers on plastic that are worse than others.  The worst plastic being numbers 3, 6, and 7.  So after this we went through the house searching for numbers 3, 6, and 7 on different plastic containers, reusable containers, water bottles, etc.  When I got home I did the same thing.  I was bummed to find out that my favorite reusable iced coffee container had a big number 7 on it.  So into the recycling bin it went.  The containers I found with 3, 6 and 7s went into my recycling bin for Friday’s pickup. 

The best reusable cold beverage containers are glass, stainless steel and ceramic.  Aluminum and some plastic reusable bottles have a BPA resin on the inside that can leach toxins into your cold beverages if they change temperature.  I bought myself an Ello, glass container, from Target.  It was $12.99, so in the same price range as most reusable bottles.  Whole Foods Market also carry reusable glass bottles, Life Factory, they have different sizes and baby bottles, ranging between, $13.99 - $24.99.  Life Factory glass bottles are also made in the USA.  The nice thing about both the Ello bottles and the Life Factory bottles are they’re wrapped in rubber and they are BPA-Free of course. 

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After I recycled over half of my plastic stash and bought a new glass reusable bottle I went online to do some more research about BPA and what the best containers are to keep food in and reheat food in.  This is what I found:

It’s almost impossible to avoid plastic goods completely, so what we can do?  Breastcancer.org lists the following to reduce your BPA exposure:

  • Carry your own glass, steel, or ceramic water bottle filled with filtered tap water.

  • Reduce how much canned food you eat and how much canned formula your baby uses.

  • Use baby bottles with labels that say "BPA free."

  • Avoid handling carbonless copy cash register receipts. If you get a carbonless receipt, don't recycle it. Recycling receipts with BPA in them can spread the BPA to other products made with recycled paper, including napkins and toilet paper.

  • Look closely at plastics with a number 7 recycling symbolon the bottom. If the plastic doesn't also say "PLA" or have a leaf symbol on it, it may contain BPA. See the chart below for more information on plastic types.

 

To reduce your exposure to other chemicals in plastics:

  • Don't cook food in plastic containers or use roasting/steaming bags; the plastic residues may leach into food when heated in a regular or microwave oven.

  • Use glass, porcelain, enamel-covered metal, or stainless steel pots, pans, and containers for food and beverageswhenever possible, especially if the food or drink is hot.

  • Plastics with recycling symbol 2, 4, and 5 are generally considered OK to use. Plastics with recycling symbol 7 are OK to use as long as they also say "PLA" or have a leaf symbol on them. The recycling symbol number is the code that shows what type of plastic was used to make the product.

  • Recycling symbol 1 is also OK to use, but shouldn't be used more than once (no refilling those store-bought water bottles!). Keep all plastic containers out of the heat and sun.

 

Below is a list of all the numbers you can find on the bottom of plastic goods, what they are and if they are okay to use or not.

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 1

Polyethylene terephtalate (PETE or PET): includes clear plastic soda and water bottles; generally considered OK to use, but don't reuse

 

 2

High density polyethylene (HDPE): includes opaque milk jugs, detergent bottles, juice bottles, butter tubs and toiletry bottles; considered OK to use

 3

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC): includes food wrap, cooking oil bottles, and plumbing pipes; do not cook food in these plastics and try to minimize using no. 3 plastics around any type of food (use wax paper instead of plastic wrap and use glass containers in the microwave)

 

 4

Low density polyethylene (LDPE): includes grocery bags, some food wraps, squeezable bottles, and bread bags; considered OK to use

 

 5

Polypropylene: includes most yogurt cups, water bottles with a cloudy finish, medicine bottles, ketchup and syrup bottles, and straws; considered OK to use

 

 6

Polystyrene/Styrofoam: includes disposable foam plates and cups and packing materials; do not cook food in these plastics and avoid using no. 6 plastics around any type of food

 

 7

All other plastics not included in the other categories and mixes of plastics 1 through 6 are labeled with a 7, including compact discs, computer cases, BPA-containing products, and some baby bottles. 

PLA (polymer polylactide) is a plastic made from plants (usually corn or sugarcane) that is also labeled with a 7. PLA plastics don't contain BPA; no safety concerns have been raised about using PLA plastic with food. Right now, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a PLA no. 7 plastic and a BPA-containing no. 7 plastic. Some PLA plastics may also say "PLA" near the recycling symbol. Others may have a leaf symbol near the recycling symbol.

To clear up any confusion, the manufacturers of PLA plastic are working with the American Society for Testing and Materials International, a global group that develops standards, to create a new recycling numbering system that would give PLA plastic its own number.  

Do not cook food in no. 7 plastics that aren't PLA and avoid using non-PLA no. 7 plastics around any type of food.

 

There is so much information out there you can make yourself crazy.  I have told so many people about BPA exposure since I sat down to dinner with my sister-in-law last week. I am also consistently looking at the bottom of everything, from my coffee in the am from my favorite café, to the cups in my office and the toys my dogs play with.  Like I said earlier you can completely give up plastic, but you can cut back. 

1)      Buy products with less plastic packaging

2)      Use Bio-Plastics, when available, they are plastic bags made of soy, sugar cane, corn and other vegetables which can be recycled and turned back into the same product again and again. 

3)      Check labels

4)      Don’t reuse one time use containers such as plastic water, juice bottles, recycle them.

5)      Recycle

6)      Staff informed.

Like anything there is always new information coming out and new studies being done, so the most important thing to do when it comes to BPA and BPA-Free products is to stay informed and feel comfortable about what you are buying and giving to your family.