The plastic debate

The Kitchen: Apartment Therapy has a quick (but informative) blurb on plastic containers – what’s “safe” and what’s not. The Green Guide is listed as a good resource for making your life greener, not just as it relates to plastics. What I found the most useful, though, is the 1-page .pdf document that lists some of the more commonly used plastic containers and what to look for (in black) and what to avoid (in red).

Due to all the hullaballoo over plastics, leaching, and carcinogens, I had been considering tossing all our plastic containers and investing in a collection of glass containers. I looked at Ikea, since they are usually cheapest, and considered The Container Store, as it is a pretty cool store and I’l take any excuse I can get to go into one. We have many, many Gladware and Ziploc containers, in varying sizes, that we use to store leftover, transport cookies, portion out and freeze dinners for later, and just hold foodstuffs in general. We use enough of them that I would have had to purchase a lot of glass containers in varying sizes to replace the plastic ones. Then I had to consider the fact that glass containers don’t really nest inside each other like the Gladware-type and where would we keep them? Our cabinet barely holds the multitude of nesting containers as it is! I finally decided to take a hiatus on this debate and just make a conscious effort to not microwave anything in plastic. After all, how much chemical-junk can get into my food stored in the fridge or freezer?

So, when I read through the Plastic Guide, I was quite happy to see that our Gladware and Ziploc containers are made of #5-polypropylene (whew! Those organic chemistry classes paid off in spelling and pronouncing random chemical chains) and are on the “safe” list. Rubbermaid and Tupperware get a pass, too, except for the Tupperware Microsteamer and Rock n’ Serve containers. I’m guessing it’s still not a good idea to microwave food in #5-PP, though. The huge Costco-box of plastic cutlery probably doesn’t make the list (I’d have to check to make sure), but since we only use those for occasional parties, I’m not too concerned – healthwise, I mean. The environmental consequences of disposing all that plastic cutlery could be pretty bad, but let’s just focus on one disaster at a time, shall we?

Glad Cling Wrap and Saran with Cling-Plus (Handi-Wrap?) are okay; Reynolds Wrap or Saran Wrap (not to be confused with the Cling-Plus or Handi-Wrap) is not. Sadly, Stretch-tite is on the bad list (hi mom, are you paying attention?), which is unfortunate because that stuffs clings to surfaces like nothing else. I guess the #3-polyvinyl chloride will do that to a plastic wrap. Glad, Ziploc, and Hefty baggies are okay for storing goodies, so whisk those cookies into the lunch bag worry-free!

I’m glad I had procrastinated the plastic vs. glass decision, because now I know that there’s no rush to “green up” my kitchen (is that anything like “cowboy up”?). I try my best to keep things environmentally friendly in the house, but we tread a fine line between “green” and “convenient”. I’m also glad to see articles that take the time to explain why you don’t have to jump on the environment bandwagon 100% – some plastics are okay, not all organic food is a necessary purchase, etc. Yes, it is better to do as much as possible, but it’s reassuring to know that if you can’t go all the way, even a little bit of effort counts.

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2 responses to “The plastic debate

  1. Wow! Great post! Thanks for going to all the trouble to share it all with us. I’ve recently been trading out some of my random food storage containers for Cambro (but I have no idea if it’s a “good” plastic). It was bugging the heck out my having different styles.

    Unfortunately, I started buying them at a restaurant supply store, then found them cheaper at Smart and Final, then found them almost dirt cheap at a restaurant supply store in LA. But they went from crystal clear, to barely opaque, to almost white. Grr, I hate when everything isn’t matchy-matchy!

  2. Ha ha, I’ve given up on matchy-matchy plastic containers! We have both Glad and Ziploc containers, plus random Tupperware and Rubbermaid ones, and the Sharper Image yellow ones that keep fruits and veggies fresh longer. I did see a nice Rubbermaid set at Target the other day and almost bought it… maybe when our Ziploc ones get tossed once they’re too scratched and worn out I’ll do that.

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