Plastic bottles and containers are convenient and easy-to-use! But are they really as harmless as they look? You’ll be surprised!
How to pick your plastic bottles
Life in plastic, it’s fantastic!
From your water-bottle to your lunch box; from the jar you store your tea in, to the dabba in which you keep the biscuits you munch with your tea; from spoons to chairs; toy cars to car accessories – plastic has truly become ubiquitous in the modern Indian household.
Not only is plastic long-lasting and affordable, its light weight and sturdiness make it a popular choice for many of us. But when it comes to storing food and water, is plastic really the right choice?
Are all plastics the same?
While choosing plastic containers for food and water, it’s important to remember that all plastics are not the same.
Types of plastic bottles – the number system
For easy differentiation, most plastic bottles come with a number embossed within a triangle at the bottom. Using those numbers, we’ve broken the plastic hierarchy down for you to understand it better:
Safe to use – Plastic bottles numbered 2, 4 and 5 are generally considered safe to use for storing water and other liquids.
Use only once – Plastic bottles with the number 1 at the bottom are typically used for bottled water and soft drinks. They are made from a thermoplastic polymer, also known as polycarbonate, which could cause prostate cancer. It is best to use these bottles and discard them after one use as these PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles are known to leach DEHP, a probable carcinogen, after repeated use. They also encourage bacterial growth inside the cracks and crevices.
Avoid at any cost – Avoid using bottles with the number 3 at the bottom, as they are made out of vinyl or PVC. These bottles can leach hormone-disrupting phthalates (added to plastics to increase their durability and flexibility) and even lead into your food.
Also avoid plastic cups or containers with the number 6 at the bottom. This material is used for Styrofoam cups and containers, the kind you typically get coffee in at your local movie hall. Avoid storing food products in such containers as they can leach styrene, a possible human carcinogenic into your food.
Controversial – Plastic bottles with the number 7 at the bottom are controversial as they contain a polycarbonate called bisphenol A. While the US government finds that bisphenol A is safe in food containers, the Canadian government is considering banning it as it may be hormone-disrupting. One of the reasons this plastic is particularly controversial is because it is used to make baby bottles.
Tips on using containers to store food and liquids
Confused by all these numbers? Here are some simple tips to keep in mind when buying containers for your kitchen:
- For storing water and even for baby bottles, it’s best to choose glass bottles.
- If you want to go in for plastic, look out for the numbers 2, 4 and 5 at the bottom as these are the safest.
- When it comes to microwaving food, don’t assume that all plastics are OK to use. Specifically look for the “safe to microwave” sign on the container.
- Even better, use ceramic or oven-proof glass dishes.
- For storing food, you’re safest using ceramic or glass containers. Even better would be stainless steel containers as they don’t damage easily.
- Never, ever reuse the plastic bottles you get your bottled water in. Use and discard.
- For carrying water while travelling, consider using aluminium or stainless steel bottles.
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