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Not all plastics are created equal. There is quite a variety of plastics that we surround ourselves with. Now I do not particularly like any plastic and I am slowly getting rid of as much plastic as I can…
However, there are times when plastic is the only option. Some plastics are safer then others; we now know that plastic can leach harmful chemicals like BPA. Which plastics are the ones we want to avoid?
Most plastics are labeled on the bottom by a number in the center of the standard recycling symbol. This number tells you what type of plastic the item is made out of.
Now there are some plastics that do not get a number label. Why is beyond me. Companies claim they do not label their plastics because it is a company secret, this sounds ridiculous to me.
In the case of unlabeled plastic, you are best to not buy it, as you have no idea what kind of plastic it is made out of.
Which Plastics Are Safe? – A Guide To Plastics
There is currently 7 numbers in the plastic labeling system.
1 PETE or PET: Polyethylene Terephthalate
Polyethylene Terephthalate is considered a safer plastic. However, a number 1 plastic is a single time use plastic as reusing them may leach chemicals.
2 HDPE: High-Density Polyethylene
High-Density Polyethylene is considered a safer plastic. You’ll usually encounter this plastic in milk jugs, laundry detergents, and toys as it’s a nice sturdy plastic. Should not be microwaved.
3 V: Polyvinyl Chloride
Polyvinyl Chloride is a plastic to avoid. It may contain/leach BPA, lead, phthalates, mercury, cadmium, and dioxins. Found often in soft vinyl plastics such as inflatable toys, teethers, bath toys, shower curtains, and plastic cling wrap.
4 LDPE: Low-Density Polyethylene
Low-Density Polyethylene is considered a safer plastic. It is not commonly recyclable however. You’ll find low-density polyethylene in items such as shrink wrap, bread bags, and squeezable bottles. Should not be microwaved.
5 PP: Polypropylene
Polypropylene is considered a safer plastic. It may not be recyclable in your area so you will want to check with your city or find a specific recycling center for number 5 plastic. Polypropylene is commonly used in cereal bags, disposable diapers, yogurt containers, packing tape, and straws.
6 PS: Polystyrene
Polystyrene is a plastic you will want to avoid. It may leach styrene, a toxin particularly when heated but could leach anytime. Polystyrene is also not friendly to the environment as it easily breaks apart and is left littering the beaches and water. You’ll often find number 6 plastics in styrofoam cups, egg cartons, and packing peanuts.
7 PC or Other: Polycarbonate or Other
Number 7 plastics is pretty much anything made with polycarbonate or other plastics. Number 7 plastics are ones you will want to avoid. Polycarbonate is made with BPA, which can leach from the plastic and is an endocrine disruptor. Plastics labeled “Other” can contain polycarbonate. It is best to assume it is unsafe. You’ll find number 7 plastic used in baby bottles, water coolers, and plastic lining in canned foods.
Safer Plastics are numbered 1, 2, 4, or 5.
Unsafe Plastics are numbered 3, 6, or 7.
Of course, as I mentioned ideally you would want to move away from using any plastics as there are so many reasons to go plastic free besides the chemical concerns.
If you are ready to start making more plastic free choices, take a peek at my post on 10 ways to go plastic free!