Types of plastic explained - Is the plastic you are re-using dangerous for your health?
The day I learnt about the different types of plastic and the dangers posed around re-using certain types of plastic I ended up on a full-blown mission searching through the cupboards for the little number on the bottom of all my plastic items!
Unfortunately I stopped using some things straight away.
Despite being a full time advocate for re-using what you have - plastic or not, once I realised that some of the things I had in my kitchen were potentially leaching dangerous toxins I didn't want to take the risk.
I was particularly horrified to find that a children's reusable water bottle (which had been a free gift with another product) was in fact made from one of the most dangerous 'shouldn't be re-used' plastics... In truth it made me pretty angry, who makes this stuff and how do they still sleep at night?!Although I don't really want to be the reason why lots of plastic products stop being re-used, at the same time I wasn't happy with the dangers posed to my family and my young son.
Turns out, plastic isn't only polluting for our planet, it's also polluting our bodies.
Unknowingly re-using poor quality plastic has the potential to leech dangerous chemicals into food and drink so I have decided to share what I learnt.
By understanding the different types of plastic we can all make informed choices both for recycling and what we re-use for our health.
So how do you check what type of plastic your item is?
You may have noticed that there is a little number on the bottom of plastic products, this informs you of the plastic type and whether it is recyclable or reusable.
Here is an example on the bottom of a Tupperware style box - you can see a number '5' in a small triangle. This indicates it is Polpropylene plastic.
Once you know the number of the plastic you can begin to understand what it is made from and whether it can be safely reused.
As shown on the graphic below, the safest plastics are numbered 2, 4, and 5.
The key culprits to check are takeaway tubs, tupperware style containers, reusable water bottles, plates, bowls etc. I recommend that you particularly check things that you heat up often as this is where certain types of plastic becomes most likely to leach dangerous toxins.
If plastics don't have a number - this is probably a red flag.
What type of plastic can mostly safely be re-used?
Some of this information may surprise you depending on how clued up about plastic you are, the first time I came across this I was surprised to find out that plastic bottles commonly used for water and fizzy drinks could be dangerous if re-used or heated.
The branded reusable bottle for children that I found in our home was actually made from PET Plastic - a number 1, a type which is acceptable for single use but should not be re-used. Needless to say, it isn't being re-used now.
This type of plastic which is used for disposable water bottles can leach carcinogens which can increase the risk of cancer, had I not have checked it frightens me to think I may have let my little one re-use it.
How can you reduce the risk posed from poor quality plastic?
The obvious answer to this is to avoid plastic, using glass, bamboo and stainless steel where possible is much better for the planet and for your health.
Of course this is not always practical and not very earth-friendly to throw everything away but certainly keeping an eye on what you are buying and re-using is one way to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals, less plastic, less risk.
1. Check what you are using in your home - I continue to be shocked by the number of plastic crockery items for children which use poor quality plastics. Plastic is often used by children because of its safety in relation to being dropped (...or occasionally thrown!) but it is worth checking that such items are safe to re-use and considering an alternative where possible.
My little boy has had a stainless steel tough canteen bottle like the one below since he was about 18 moths old, we're still using the same bottle 2 years later. I definitely recommend the range from One Green Bottle which is why they have a place in our shop! :)
Equally, it is worth checking the number on the bottom of your own reusable plastic bottle to see what plastic type it is.
Switching to a stainless steel bottle can offer peace of mind when it comes to avoid harmful toxins leaching into your drink. Stainless Steel bottles may be a little more of an investment to start with but they don't break as easy as plastic and are much better for your health and the planet.
You can browse our range of bottles here.
2. Do not use plastic containers/bottles to heat food or drink - this is especially true for those types of plastic which are not safe for re-use. When plastic is heated this accelerates the toxins which are released and dangerous chemicals can enter your food and drink.
A safer alternative for the microwave is to use a bowl, glass dish/jug or plates.
3. Avoid plastic wrap and film - Plastic film wrap is often made from an non-recyclable type of plastic. Avoiding it is also a way to limit exposure to dangerous toxins and alternatives can be found by using wax food wraps, BPA free sillicone, jars or a plate on top of a bowl for food storage.
Lots of alternatives are available, most of which are better for you and the planet.
4. Don't leave plastic water bottles in the car on a hot day - The same toxin risk is true for a single use water bottle. If the plastic heats up it is possible that the water you are going to drink contains harmful chemicals!
5. Keep your eye on what's in your cosmetics - A study in 2003 showed that adult women had higher exposure than men, likely because some phthalates are also found in many cosmetics as well as personal care products such as soaps, shampoo, and body washes. Check what you are using and being conscious of what you buying is the best way to avoid potential risks.
At Soul Good Stuff we focus on providing eco-friendly items which are plastic free, natural, good for our bodies and our planet. We also never use plastic in our packaging. It is super important to us that we do what we can for the next generation, and our health.
If single use plastic can release harmful chemicals to our bodies so easily - just imagine what it is doing to our planet and nature! The pollution issue is real and happening now.
Are you going to have a look at what plastic you have in your home? I'd love for you to let me know what you find!
Nick Fewings, Jordan Beltran, Brooke Larke (Unsplash)
Other images used where author could not be found - please message me to add credits.