Avoid certain types of plastic
Using plastics to cover or contain food is controversial — some research shows that some plastics emit particles into food that may be harmful to health.
You can tell which plastics to avoid by looking for a "resin identification code" — a number from #1 to #7 usually imprinted on the bottom of your container. To find it, flip the container upside down, and look for a recycling triangle with the number in the middle.
Types of plastic:
- #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)
- Examples: Disposable soft drink and water bottles, PCC's cups for cold beverages, PCC's pie and quiche shell tops and bottoms
- #2 high density polyethylene (HDPE)
- Examples: Milk jugs, liquid detergent bottles, shampoo bottles
- #3 polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC)
- Examples: Meat wrap, cooking oil bottles, plumbing pipes
- #4 low density polyethylene (LDPE)
- Examples: Cling wrap, sandwich bags, PCC's produce, meat and bulk bags
- #5 polypropylene (PP)
- Examples: Cloudy plastic water bottles, yogurt cups/tubs, PCC's deli cups, lids and containers
- #6 polystyrene (PS)
- Examples: Disposable coffee cups, clam-shell take-out containers
- #7 other (plastics invented after 1987; includes polycarbonate, or PC, and polylactide, or PLA, plastics made from renewable resources as well as newer plastics labeled "BPA-Free")
- Examples: Baby bottles, some reusable water bottles, stain-resistant food-storage containers
What to buy
#2 HDPE, #4 LDPE and #5 PP: these three types of plastic are your best choices. They transmit no known chemicals into your food and they're generally recyclable;
#1 PET: Fine for single use and widely accepted by municipal recyclers; avoid reusing #1 water and soda bottles, as they're hard to clean, and because plastic is porous, these bottles absorb flavors and bacteria that you can't get rid of.
Plastics to avoid
- #3 PVC
- Used frequently in cling wraps for meat, PVC contains softeners called phthalates that interfere with hormonal development, and its manufacture and incineration release dioxin, a potent carcinogen and hormone disruptor.
- #6 PS
- Polystyrene-foam cups and clear plastic take-out containers can leach styrene, a possible human carcinogen, into food.
- #7 PC
- The only plastic made with bisphenol A, polycarbonate is used in baby bottles, 5-gallon water-cooler bottles and the epoxy linings of tin food cans. Bisphenol A has been linked to a wide variety of problems such as heart disease and obesity.
- Plastics that can be composted and are made from renewable resources such as potatoes and sugar cane and anything else with a high starch content, including corn. PCC doesn't advocate using PLA plastics because the corn used is genetically modified.
Avoid storing fatty foods, such as meat and cheese, in plastic containers or plastic wrap.
Hand-wash reusable containers gently with a nonabrasive soap; dishwashers and harsh detergents can scratch plastic, making hospitable homes for bacteria.
A "microwave-safe" or "microwavable" label on a plastic container only means that it shouldn't melt, crack or fall apart when used in the microwave. The label is no guarantee that containers don't leach chemicals into foods when heated. Use glass or ceramic containers instead.
Source: The Green Guide
Plastic food bags (produce bags, bread bags, frozen food and Ziploc pouches) cannot be recycled because of contamination issues.
Plastic shopping, newspaper and dry cleaning bags can be recycled if you stuff them all into one bag.
All plastic food bottles, containers and trays are can be recycled, except for PLA (corn-based) and Styrofoam containers.
Lids and caps larger than 3 inches in diameter can be recycled.
Source: Seattle Public Utilities, www.seattle.gov/UTIL/Services/Recycling/