Did you know you can make natural plastic from dairy products? Whenever you curdle milk you join carbon and hydrogen molecules together and create plastic. In fact, you can create plastic out of almost any organic polymer. Most commonly we use plastic made from petrochemicals that are derived from fossil fuels.
Not all plastics are created equally, and science is showing increasing health risks associated with certain types of plastic over others. Although the best option would be to avoid plastics 100%, it’s pretty unrealistic. Using natural alternatives like textiles, glass, wood, and stainless steel will help limit your exposure to harmful chemicals. And when plastic is unavoidable, chose the safer plastic option.
You can choose the safer plastic option by looking for the plastic rating located usually at the bottom of the container in a recycling arrow symbol. Plastic ratings were originally used to help recycling companies sort and break down different plastics because each rating group has a different chemical composition. There are seven plastic rating groups. Below they are listed with their common uses and health concerns:
1. PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) AVOID
-Health concerns: can leach antimony and phthalates. Phthalates are linked to endocrine disruption and increased risk of breast cancer.
-Used for soda/water bottles, and cooking oil bottles.
2. HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) SAFER
-Used for yogurt cups, milk jugs, and plastic bags.
3. PVS (Polyvinyl Chloride. Aka Vinyl) AVOID
-Health concerns: can leach phthalates and off-gas toxic chemicals.
4. LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene) SAFER
-Used in produce bags and food storage containers.
5. PP (Polypropylene) SAFER
- Used for bottle caps, storage containers, and dishware.
6. PS (Polystyrene. Aka Styrafoam) AVOID
-Health concerns: can leach carcinogens and endocrine disruptors such as estrogenic alkylphenols.
-Used for to-go food containers, hot cups, and meat trays.
7. Catch all category. AVOID
- This group is such a grab bag that its best to avoid all 7 rated plastics unless you can get more information. PC (Polycarbonate) leaches BPA and is in this category. It also includes acrylic, polyamide, and new plant base biodegradable plastics.
Author: Shannon Walker