The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

April 6, 2010

No More Toxic Plastic Food Containers, Please!

Plastic food containers: not so great. Even toxic.  And yet, how many of us have a ton of them stashed away in our kitchens? I still do, actually, high above the ceramic bowls and plates.  A reminder of the way I used to live.

Plastic food containers

What’s Wrong with Using Plastic Containers?

When I first started eliminating plastic from my life, I didn’t worry about the plastic I already had in my kitchen. I continued to use plastic food containers for eating and storage because I didn’t want to waste what I already had. But after learning so much about the chemicals that can leach from plastics, I eventually decided that eating from any kind of plastic was not worth the health risks.

Why? Because in addition to the chemicals we do know about and try to avoid: BPA, phthalates, antimony, and recently antibacterials, there are a whole host of additives in plastics we don’t know about at all. Plastics manufacturers are not required to disclose any of the chemicals they add to plastics, so we as consumers have no way of knowing if which ones, if any, are safe.

(BTW, my book Plastic-Free has a whole section on the chemicals in plastics and how they can affect our bodies.)

Now, I’m not advocating running out to replace every speck of plastic you have in your kitchen right away. And I’m certainly not in favor of tossing it all in the landfill. Here are a few ideas.

Baby Steps

If you want to keep using your current plastic containers for a while, here are some tips to reduce the likelihood of chemical leaching.

Stop heating plastic. Period. Do not put it in the microwave. Do not put it in the oven. Do not put it in the dishwasher, even on the top rack. Heat causes plastics to leach more readily. If you must eat food from plastic containers, please hand wash them with warm (not hot) water. Do not serve hot food in them ever. And, if you’re still buying bottled beverages (you’re not, right?), never store them in the hot trunk of a car.

No fatty foods. Plastic containers are not good for fatty foods either because plastic is lipophilic, which means that it attracts and binds with fats. Have you noticed how hard it is to clean grease from plastic containers? That’s why. So, when considering what foods to store in plastic, think about cold sandwiches, dried fruits, crackers, nuts, etc. Those kinds of foods might be the least likely to encourage leaching.

Keep away from sunlight. In addition to heat, light also causes plastics to break down, in a process called photodegradation. Keep them in the dark. Far back, in the darkest reaches of your cupboard or pantry, where you’ll forget you even have them and use something else instead.

Making Strides

Okay, so you’re ready to start replacing some of the plastic that you already have. Here are some tips:

Kids’ stuff first. Children’s developing bodies are much more susceptible to harm from leaching chemicals than adults’ are. As Jennifer Taggart writes in her book, Smart Mama’s Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child’s Toxic Chemical Exposure,

Children are not ‘little adults.’ [….] Children consume more food on a body-weight basis, and have a faster metabolism. They have a larger skin-surface area in relation to body weight, and have a different body composition. They experience rapid growth not seen in later life. Many of their systems are immature when born, including their immune system, and may be more susceptible to harm.

So replacing children’s plastic bottles, cups, food containers, toys, and anything else they might put in their mouths is probably more important than replacing your own at first. If you’re worried about breaking glass or ceramics, think about stainless steel or wood. Life Without Plastic carries children’s plastic-free tableware and food storage containers made from both of these materials.  Other great plastic-free containers for kids are Eco Lunchbox and LunchBots.  You can also find glass or stainless steel baby bottles with silicone nipples.  Check out the information about Pura Stainless bottles at the end of this post.

Drink from Stainless Steel. Get a stainless steel water bottle or travel mug and never buy a drink in disposable plastic again. Did you know that even paper coffee cups are actually lined with plastic? If you put cream in your hot coffee, you’ve got two plastic no-no’s in one: Heat and Fat.

Glass jars rock. To get started with plastic-free food storage right away, just stop putting your glass jars in the recycling bin and keep them to reuse. In our home, we store almost all of our leftovers and food from bulk bins (rice, beans, grains, nuts, baking soda, etc.) in reused glass spaghetti sauce jars. And yes, you can store glass jars in the freezer. Carefully. Don’t fill the jar all the way up to the top. And don’t subject jars to extremes of temperature, for instance, freezer to microwave. Food in jars needs to thaw a bit at room temperature (or in a bath of warm water) before heating.

Sometimes buying new is okay. I invested in some Anchor glass refrigerator containers, which I love.  They have glass lids and can go in freezer, refrigerator, microwave, and oven.  (Just not immediately from freezer to oven, please.)  And they are eminently stackable.  The not-so-great thing is that the lids are not airtight, so they don’t work for transporting food (unless you are very careful) or for long-term storage.  For those needs, I have Life Without Plastic’s airtight stainless steel containers.  They can’t go in the microwave or oven, but they’re great for food storage.

A Giant Leap

Want to go all the way? How about committing to never buying/eating food in plastic again. Okay, depending on your situation and the resources available to you, that might not be possible. Here are a few tips to get you as far along the path as possible.

Bulk bin love. Check your local area and find out what stores sell foods in bulk bins where you can bring your own bags and containers. If the store is able to weigh your containers before you fill them, then bring your own jars or cloth drawstring bags (for example Eco Bags), and you won’t have to transfer your purchases when you get home. If not, reuse your disposable bags and transfer food immediately. Keep your bags to take with you the next time.

Rethink what you eat. My diet changed drastically when I gave up plastic. For the better! Instead of living on frozen convenience foods, energy bars, chips and fast food, I started eating whole foods like fruits, veggies, grains, and beans. Not only did I cut out the chemicals that could leach from the plastic, I also got rid of the chemicals added to the foods in the first place.

Make it yourself. Sometimes, when I can’t get a particular prepared food without plastic, I find a way to make it from scratch. No, I don’t bake my own bread, although I’m sure some of you are awesome bakers. But I did find a way to make my own chocolate syrup and mayonnaise and mustard.

Bring your own containers for leftovers. Those stainless steel containers come in very handy after a restaurant meal.   You don’t have to bring your food home in plastic when you have your own container with you.

Repurposing

So, what should we do with all our old plastic containers?  Instead of adding to the landfill, how about using them for storing non-food items?  Desk supplies.  Craft supplies.  Hardware.  The possibilities are endless.  Like I said, I think it’s important to reuse the plastic we already have.  Just not for food.

Pura Stainless

Back in 2010, when this post was first published, Pura Stainless sent me a baby bottle to give away to a lucky reader of this post, which I did.  To be specific, it was the Pura Stainless 11oz infant bottle with medium-flow silicone nipple and silicone travel cover.  The bottle is made from food service grade (#304) stainless steel.  Even the ring that holds the nipple is made from stainless rather than plastic (unlike Klean Kanteen’s.)  And according to the package, the paint on the outside of the bottles is “non-toxic and free of lead, phthalates, PVC, and BPA.”

Pura Stainless baby bottle

Pura Stainless baby bottle

Pura’s baby bottles come in a variety of sizes. And in addition to company’s own silicone nipples, the bottles will fit many other brands of nipples and sip spouts. However, I believe that right now, the only sip spouts available for these bottles are plastic.

What to do? To sip or not to sip? If I had a kid, I wouldn’t want a plastic spout stuck in his/her mouth. I don’t remember drinking from a sippy cup when I was a kid, and I’ve found numerous anti-sippy cup articles online tonight. But like I said, I am not a mom and have no experience in that department, which is why I need your comments!

You might also enjoy...

Leave a Reply

89 Comments on "No More Toxic Plastic Food Containers, Please!"

Notify of
Sort by:   newest | oldest

trying to also rid my home of plastic, a struggle but slowly getting there, it’s nice to hear there are lots of folks out there who hate plastic and trash in general and are trying to improve our lives and land slowly, thank you for your article.

Unfortunately “didn’t want to waste what I already had” is the problem that a lot of people are going to have when they embark on weeding out the plastic in their lives. Almost everybody I know is going to have a ton of the stuff in their storage rooms and to get rid of and replace all of it is no easy feat for sure!

I agree to decrease the usage of plastic material, it’s hard to recycle. I prefer to use the stainless steel item for durability.

I have tons of plastic containers at home. That’s pretty much all I use. I found your post very interesting. I will take a baby step – and as you mentioned, will stop heating plastic. I had no idea of the consequences of heating plastic containers.

I don’t want to tell moms and dads what to do but as a registered dental hygienist I would like to point out that sippy cups full of juice or milk can encourage a child to sip all day. This leads to greater acid and sugar exposure for their teeth. So while the cup may be more convenient it may be better for the child to have to sit down and carefully drink from a cup a few time a day than suck on a sippy cup continually. Of course tap water is the best choice for in between meal… Read more »

These plastic containers are very durable. You can store anything right from medicines, food items to vegetables….

These kind of post are always inspiring and I prefer to read quality content so I happy to find many good point here in the post, writing is simply great, thank you for the post.<a href=”http://www.mykidsguide.com”>Baby toys</a>

I have shopped out of bulk bins for a long time (I have my own glass jars) but it only recently occurred to me that the bins themselves are plastic. And, the bulk items are probably shipped to the stores in plastic containers. We just can’t win. :(

Storing lefovers: plastic wrap wins? No way! yes! (Unless your Beth and jars, of course):

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/12/AR2010041203231.html?waporef=obinsite

Wonderful! Wonderful! I’ve been living like this for decades. It’s so deflating thinking you’re all on your own in the eco-fight! So happy to see you here. Great articles! I have added myself to your fans at FB and followers on twitter.

I choose the stainless steel container contest! But it’s just great to see more and more people really LIVING the sustainable life! Maybe all I did back in the early 70’s wasn’t for naught! :-)

1. We’ve been slowly eliminating plastic from our kitchen and finding substitutes. The most successful experiment has been the bread (homemade in bread machine) being wrapped in cloth and stored in an old popcorn tin.

2. I’d love to be entered in the giveaway for the stainless steel container! Still don’t own one yet!

3. I follow you in my RSS feed.

4. I’m not a huge fan of sippy cups, but we use KK with the sippy and sport tops for our kids when traveling.

I started phasing out the plastic containers in my kitchen by reusing them to organize my craft and office supplies. After what I’d read, I really didn’t want to eat out of them anymore! I started buying glass jars at garage sales and thrift stores and reusing the ones salsa and pasta sauce came in (I have quite a collection now!). Getting the plastic out of my kitchen has not just resulted in a healthy space and clear conscience, I’ve found that glass jars are much easier to organize than those messy plastic containers and their lids! I’d love to… Read more »
Lynn from OrganicMania.com
Beth, I was *almost* afraid to read this entry because as you may know, I still use (and advocate) the cheap plastic Gerber containers for food storage. I’ve done this simply because in the scheme of “going green,” there is so much to do and so much expense, and kids lose tops…BUT…after reading this, the connection between fats & plastic really connected for me. I’m going to be more circumspect when I talk about this on my blog, pointing back to your post. AND I’m going to stop packing my son’s peanut butter sandwiches in the reusable plastic containers! THANK… Read more »

Hey there, love your blog! We have been spending this month focusing on getting the plastic out of our kitchen (along with the non-stick, but that’s another story). Anyway, we’ve found that we LOVE stainless, and that pyrex rocks for hubby’s lunches (though they do have plastic lids…). I would love to enter for the SS Bottle for DD… and while I firmly believe breast is best, I was unable to breastfeed exclusively and could no longer produce after 5 months (talk about a long hard struggle… again another story). Anyway, I love the idea of a stainless bottle!!

I’m interested in winning either the ss container OR the baby bottle (if I win the latter, I’ll probably give it away as a gift). 1) We use Pyrex bowls with (ahem, plastic) lids to store our leftovers – they’re great for my husband to take to work and pop into the microwave for lunch. 2) I exclusively breastfed my baby girl for 6 months and we’re still nursing at 14 months. We tried bottles a handful of times and she never took to them. So I’ve learned by experience that they aren’t necessary. Moms just have to be committed… Read more »
I am very much interested in the stainless steel containers. I haven’t done a whole bunch about getting rid of plastic containers in my kitchen although I have been feeling increasingly guilty that I still use them. Two things I have done: 1. I purchased a glass butter dish – rather than my used yogurt container. 2. Got glass canisters from my honey for Christmas and purchased other glass canisters with Christmas money. Now I am storing a fair bit of dry goods in glass rather than old recycled plastic containers. My goal over the last year has been to… Read more »
Hi Beth, Here are my entries for give-away (both stainless container and baby bottle): (1) Reading your blog has gotten me really interested in decreasing the amount of plastic in my life. Sometimes I find it frustrating when food items I need (or at least I think I need) aren’t available in a non-plastic container. I think I just need to find time to check out some different stores in my area. We have a Whole Foods nearby, but they don’t have the same bulk selection you describe in your posts. Getting rid of plastic storage containers has been the… Read more »
I started weeding the plastic out of our kitchen when I got pregnant with our second child (now 6 mo old). I replaced all the BPA bottles with new BPA-free ones (still plastic but better). I found a way to repurpose the old ones (since you can’t recycle, didn’t want them in a landfill, and didn’t want them used by anyone else). My son’s preschool class is going to use them for a craft project for their Mother’s Day tea; they are going to decoupage tissue paper on them and make bud vases. This week I have cleaned out all… Read more »

I have been sending the links and relevant product sites for all my friends and family who have had babies…none of them bought it though…I am planning a baby right now and will def. buy only such products for my baby….that makes me an ideal candidate for the giveaway…(lol)…:)

as for eliminating plastics from the kitchen, I have seven containers…all food storage (dry( which were a gift for my wedding…:(…looking for a clean green way of replacing them…but as of now will only use them

I would love to win either items! I have a 4 month old baby and would love a more sturdy sippy cup. To get the plastics out of my house my hubby and I watched “the story of stuff” video. Very convicting. Now we don’t buy water bottles at all. I’ve tried to teach my kids to recycle, and we even make a game out of it.

I wanted to respond to Kelly G’s post: “I even went and bought two stainless steel sippy cups (one for each child) and they have NOT held up well. The one had a plastic flip top to open and close, but the hinge broke when my toddler dropped it from his booster seat onto the tile floor. I had JUST bought it and can’t bear to spend another $10-20 on one when I don’t know if it’s just going to break again. ” Kelly, you should contact the manufacturer. Email their Customer Service and ask them how you can get… Read more »

Hi Beth,

You probably already know this because you’re super on top of things, but you can send your old #5 plastic (like Gladware) to Preserve Products (the toothbursh people). If you go to their website, they have some drop off containers, but none in my neck of the woods. I agree with repurposing your plastic, but this is a good option if you’ve lost the top or bottom of the container.

Hi Beth, Sippy cups and bottles were a must have for my kids. My husband was the stay at home parent and I pumped while at work. We did use plastic bottles, but I would use glass today. One of my sisters-in-law used glass baby bottles and I saw those bottles dropped a number of times and they never broke. For sippy cups, we use Klean Kanteen bottles with the sippy lids. There are just some times when a cup won’t work (like in the car) and you need to have some protection against spilling. My kids never drank much… Read more »

I became a fan on facebook.

I have two kids and am finding it very hard to get rid of the plastic in my kitchen. It seems so durable and quick to grab. I for the most part didn’t use baby bottles, but do have one glass one in case we needed it. However, sippy cups are my problem. I don’t really like relying on them, however I could not imagine the amount of liquid I would have spilled everywhere if I didn’t use them. I even went and bought two stainless steel sippy cups (one for each child) and they have NOT held up well.… Read more »
I love your site! I have gotten so many great ideas from you! Thanks. I have been trying to get rid of plastics for a while now. My husband has reused spaghetti jars for years and we found the natural peanut butter comes in glass too. I have and EcoLunchbox that I bring to work. I work 12 hr shifts and it has plenty of room. I also picked up a tiffin for when we have leftovers from eating out, and it works great. I just got some gallon size glass storage jars for our pantry and I am planning… Read more »

I would like to enter the stainless container giveaway. I just subscribed to Fake Plastic Fish.

Thanks for sharing your wisdom. I’m going to be trying your mayo recipe in the very near future.

I just had to share with you my shopping experience today! I went to WF and I came prepared! I had my glass canning jars, I went to the customer service center, I had them weigh my jars so I could fill them up in the bulk isle. 2 ladies were watching me and exclaimed they had no idea they could do that! They said they were going to bring their own jars next time too. I felt so happy to have been a good example, but I wouldn’t have done it w/out your guidance. So thank you!!
blessings, Rachel

I am totally interested in the baby bottle give away. I’m trying to switch from plastic to less toxic containers. Starting with my baby’s things first. My husband thinks I am crazy! haha My problem is I am new at all of this and just had a baby not long ago all our bottles are plastic and brand new! My husband thinks all this is a waste of our money :( I’ve been breast feeding my baby, but often have to supplement when my supply is down. The plastic bottles are making me worry. I’m trying to start by saving… Read more »

Hey there! Would like to enter give-a-way for bottle or containers. I have been slowly whittling away at petroleum products in my life and many have thought me a bit crazy. It was a relief to search the internet and find other people out there that were just as “crazy” as me–helps to have a place to get new ideas! Any body out there have any ideas on available 100% cotton bras? Trying to avoid plastic in my undergarments has been dizzying! Thanks, gabby

Just became a fan on Facebook :o)

I’d love the bottle, a close friend of mine is currently pregnant, and I’m putting together a gift pack of non plastic items.

Love the stainless bottle. Even a few years ago when my son was a baby, I could not find anything but plastic and it felt wrong, wrong, wrong. I’ll need to gift some stainless bottles to my soon-to-be-born great-nephews.

I really appreciate your blog and have been following it for some time. It gives me many great ideas (and encouragement) in my efforts to try and eliminate plastic from our lives. I would like to enter the giveaway for the containers. I have been coveting these for sometime, especially with summer coming on and the need to transport picnic items. At home, I use the pyrex glass food containers and use those instead of tupperware. I have just ordered eco-bags to try and free myself from using (and washing) those plastic bags for the bulk food bins. I was… Read more »
Slightly off-topic, but I was thinking about how you switched from milk in your cereal to water and maple syrup. My local dairy does the same thing — glass milk bottles with plastic caps — BUT another local dairy doesn’t! Windsor Dairy ( http://www.windsordairy.com/ ) is a raw-milk dairy, and I live in a cow-share state (you can’t buy raw milk by the carton, but you can “buy” part of a cow, and then drink milk from that dairy), but I know (from visiting the farm) that you pick up your milk in Ball Jars, and then return them for… Read more »

1. I try not to store food in plastics and I definitely don’t heat anything in plastic containers.

2. I”d love to be entered in the giveaway for both items!

3. I follow you in my RSS feed.

4. I”m not a huge fan of sippy cups, but they are nice in a pinch!

Amy @ Simply Sugar & Gluten Free

I’m so happy to know that I’m already practicing a lot of your suggestions. It’s funny to think that when challenged to ‘get out the plastic’ I’m a little nervous. I can’t imagine being stuck with water fountain water all day at school. Ugh. I have a metal bottle but I can’t yack down the mineral laden water.

I LOVE my glass jars – you should see my pantry. I buy in bulk and everything is stored in glass. Couldn’t imagine going back to all those clunky containers.

Hi there! My first time here (via your guest post) and I am going to be spending a lot of time looking around! Another new blot to learn about…it may be bordering on addiction :) Here are a few of my thoughts (and the entry numbers!) 1. We are working hard to eliminate plastics in our life too, in baby steps. I’ve started canning a lot of our own foods and also use the glass canning jars for storing pastas, rice, dried beans, etc. We’ve got the reused glass jars from assorted purchases, but since I buy fewer and fewer… Read more »
1) As I begin canning more produce (yummy organics from the Hollywood farmers market), I find myself with a surplus of empty jars ALL the time (from eating my tasty canned salsa and the cranberry relish that just keeps getting better). As I empty one glass jar, I recycle one plastic container and forever replace it with a happy Kerr canning jar. Yay! (also, please enter me for both of the giveaway items. My cousin is having a baby in August!) 2) Baby bottles are pretty rotten — I think that, if you’re willing to have a baby, you ought… Read more »
I want to enter in the draw for both the bottle and the container!! I was in the process of trying to become plastic-free when I stumbled on your blog just over a year ago. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m getting closer!! I now use spaghetti sauce jars and glass juice bottles to store my bulk bin items such as rice, nuts, etc. I use a vegetable soap that is made locally and wrapped in recycled parcel paper as packaging. My shampoo is still in a plastic bottle, but you buy one bottle and you can refill it… Read more »
Okay, so secondly, you asked about the necessity of bottles, sippy cups, etc, and I struggle with that one. My son had to be weaned earlier than I’d hoped so we switched to bottles for a while because he wasn’t ready for sippy cups, and now we use sippy cups because I can’t handle the messes (and we’ve tried regular cups for him regularly but the spills from a busy child are crazy). Perhaps I’m just a bad disciplinarian, but it saves my pregnant self from going crazy. I also need the convenience of him having water wherever we go.… Read more »

We’re trying to use less plastic, which is hard because it’s so prevalent, but we’re using glass mason jars for a lot more stuff when possible. And definitely entering the giveaway for both.

I have always shuddered to see cases of bottled water stacked in the windows of stores (convenience stores and the like). Can you imagine?!? :>)

Yes! I’d love to win the stainless steel container (fortunately, my babies are all big boys now). Here’s my getting the plastic out of the kitchen post: http://remainsofday.blogspot.com/2010/03/getting-plastic-out-kitchen-edition_31.html I did not get rid of my plastic containers. They are all #5, we don’t heat in them, and usually food does not spend a lot of time in there, so I’m not too worried. I did breastfeed all 3 of my kids (including twins) for over two years each, but I would never advocate “not bottle feeding.” Exposure to a little plastic, even BPA, is not as bad as starving to… Read more »

“But I did find a way to make my own chocolate syrup and mayonnaise and mustard.”,

So, I worked my fanny off last year coming up with homemade catsup and you don’t make it? Harumph.
I submitted a link up at the mclinky thing on your blog if anyone is interested.

Ah yes I too am in the looong process of converting away from plastics. I am using all of our old tupperware stuff for storing homemade playdough for the kids, and for organizing other arts and crafts supplies.
I mainly breastfed with both my kids, but bought all glass bottles with BPA free nipples. I wish I had known that there were stainless steel bottles when I was buying those! We all have our own stainless steel water bottles (even the dog, along with their stainless food and water bowls).

Jana @ The Summer House

The Summer House is almost plastic free….just trying to figure out how to freeze in glass jars. And what to store my bread dough in while it’s in the fridge. I can’t wait to look around your blog!
Jana

I would love to enter for both items! Here’s what I have to say: First, I am pregnant with twins! I don’t have kids yet, so I don’t know much about taking care of them. I’m hoping to breastfeed, but I have registered for glass baby bottles for two reasons. One is that I think breastfeeding twins will be tough, and I want to pump and freeze milk for those tough times. The other is that I would like my husband to be able to bond with the babies as well as help me out with feedings, so I’d like… Read more »

I’m gradually working on getting rid of the plastic in my kitchen. I’m saving jars to use for storage. I got rid of all the plastic cooking utensils my husband seemed to love. I have some stainless steel water bottles. I buy bulk from my local co-op whenever I can. I mostly breastfeed my children but do occasionally pump and use a bottle. I would be interested in both giveaways but would especially like the bottle as I am expecting baby #4

I am just starting the journey to get plastic out of the kitchen. The first step I have taken is to get stainless steel water bottles. While I still am storing leftovers in plastic, I never heat them in the microwave. I guess I should rethink even using them for leftovers though.

We’ve ditched almsot all the plastic containers. I love my Anchor Hocking! We use the plastic that we’ve acquired over the years for storing dry goods, like pasta and my son’s crayons and stickers. I didn’t really use baby bottles much, but I did get some a few years ago that were BPA free. I mostly nursed and pumped a few times to go out to dinner. So the bottles only got a little use. I passed them on. But, we are going to try for another one next month and I may try pumping more! I love, love, love… Read more »
wpDiscuz