PLASTIC CONTAINERS BUYING GUIDE

Feb 20, 2010 at 9:00 am |
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What to Look For

Plastics are classified by their “resin identification code”—a number from #1 to #7 that represents a different type of resin. That number is usually imprinted on the bottom of your container; flip it upside down, and you’ll see a recycling triangle with the number in the middle.

Here’s a quick breakdown of plastic resin types:

#1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)
Examples: Disposable soft drink and water bottles

#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, grocery bags, sandwich bags

#5 polypropylene (PP)
Examples: Cloudy plastic water bottles, yogurt cups/tubs

#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; #2 is very commonly accepted by municipal recycling programs, but you may have a more difficult time finding someone to recycle your #4 and #5 containers.

#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.

PLA: plastics made from renewable resources such as corn, potatoes and sugar cane and anything else with a high starch content; although you can’t recycle these plant-based plastics, you can compost them in a municipal composter or in your backyard compost heap.

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.

Shopping Tips

  • Plastics are classified by their “resin identification code”—a number from #1 to #7 that represents a different type of resin. That number is usually imprinted on the bottom of your container; flip it upside down, and you’ll see a recycling triangle with the number in the middle.

  • When purchasing cling-wrapped food from the supermarket or deli, slice off a thin layer where the food came into contact with the plastic and store the rest in a glass or ceramic container or wrap it in non-PVC cling wrap.

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The Green Guide

Usage Tips

What to Look For What to Look For Plastics are classified by their “resin identification code”—a number from #1 to #7 that represents a different type of resin. That number is usually imprinted on the bottom of your container; flip it upside down, and you’ll see a recycling triangle with the number in the middle. […]