Such Is Life…

Suchis Speaks Up

How Plastic Grading Works

35 Comments

If you are like me, and didn’t care much about the recycling sign with the number inside, you probably don’t think before you consume anything out of a plastic container. P told D and he told me that the number inside has a significance, which I thought was rather interesting. P was correct, and it helps to know what the numbers mean. So read on if you are interested in plastic vis-a-vis your health.

The arrows mean that the plastic is recyclable and the number printed inside the arrows is the plastic identification code.

recycle-resin-logos-lr_01So now, this sign with a 1 inside the triangle would mean that a plastic bottle, most often your cola bottle, that you call PET, is made of PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate). This one is in highest demand from manufacturers because it is inexpensive and lightweight. However, most of us (me, definitely included) use these bottles more than once. Please know that these PET bottles are for one-time use only. The one time use clause implies that you use the contents of the bottle, and then recycle it, rather than using the bottle to keep water at home. Reuse releases DEHP – a proven human carcinogen – as well as isphenol-A (BPA), which can cause breast and uterine cancer as well as an increased risk of miscarriage, and decreased testosterone levels – into the contents of the bottle. And, you cannot sue manufacturers for using PET because they intend it for one-time use of the consumer (seen that crush bottle after use sign on the lable?) and therefore “The use by consumers of PET polymer in food packaging, therefore, is demonstrated and considered safe,” says The International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). When buying plastic bottles at stores for use as water bottles for children or adults, please ensure that you do not buy PET and make sure you dump the cola bottles into the recycle bin or trashbin after consumption. PET is also most commonly used for water and beer bottles; mouthwash bottles; peanut butter containers; salad dressing and vegetable oil containers; oven usable food trays, etc.

Many manufacturers claim PET is 100% safe and reusable, but do understand that this is probably their way of justifying the use of inexpensive packaging.

recycle-resin-logos-lr_02This sign with a 2 inside the triangle means that the plastic bottle is made of HDPE (high density polyethylene). It is found most commonly in Milk jugs, juice bottles; bleach, detergent and household cleaner bottles; shampoo bottles; some trash and shopping bags; motor oil bottles; butter and yogurt tubs; cereal box liners, etc. It is a sturdy and reliable translucent plastic with probably no known leaching characteristic. It is therefore ok to reuse these plastic bottles provided you wash them with warm (not hot !!) soapy water after each use to prevent the growth of bacteria.

recycle-resin-logos-lr_03This one with a 3 inside the triangle indicates V (Vinyl) or PVC. Used in Window cleaner and detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, clear food packaging, wire jacketing, medical equipment, siding, windows, piping, etc, this is not food grade plastic. It is not entirely recyclable and can release a lot of harmful dioxins into the air. PVC contains  DEHP, a phthalate that is a

suspected carcinogen readily found in numerous PVC products. Do not sniff or eat from PVC because poisonous chemicals

continuously off-gas from this grade of plastic.

recycle-resin-logos-lr_04The symbol with a 4 inside the triangle implies LDPE (low density polyethylene). It is used in Squeezable bottles; water bottles,bread and frozen food containers, dry cleaning and shopping bags; tote bags; clothing; furniture; carpets, etc. It is completely safe toreuse provided you wash it with soapy water after every use. Leaching risks are low, and therefore this grade of plastic is good forstoring food or for use as water bottles. Reputed brands like Tupperware and Ziploc use this grade of plastic for their products.

recycle-resin-logos-lr_05The symbol that shows 5 inside the triangle indicates PP (polypropylene) and is used in ome yogurt containers, syrup bottles, ketchup bottles, caps, straws, medicine bottles, etc. This is also extremely reusable and safe, and used by Tupperware and Ziploc and as cling sheets. It has a high meting point and therefore makes a good material for containers that must hold hot food. Leaching is minimal and well below safety levels and the plastic can be washed and reused any number of times before final recycling.

recycle-resin-logos-lr_061The symbol with a 6 is PS (polystyrene) and most often used in disposable plates and cups, meat trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, aspirin bottles, compact disc cases, etc. This is difficult to recycle and is definitely not reusable because it leaches isphenol-A (BPA) – a harmful xenoestrogen that interferes with human hormonal messaging – along with other potential toxins intofood and drink. Recycle or trash these plastic items after one use and do not attempt to wash ans reuse these. Also, never ever use this grade of plastic in the microwave. It also contains styrene, has been associated with skin, eye and respiratory irritation, depression, fatigue, compromised kidney function, and central nervous system damage. Takeaway plastic containers fromrestaurants are made of this grade of plastic, so transfer the food into a safer container as soon as possible.

recycle-resin-logos-lr_07The symbol with a 7 indicates Other implying plastics, including acrylic, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, fiberglass, nylon, polycarbonate, and polylactic acid. It is used in used in most plastic baby bottles, 5-gallon water bottles, “sport” water bottles, metal food can liners, clear plastic “sippy” cups and some clear plastic cutlery.olycarbonate is known to leach bisphenol A or BPA (a chemical that mimics the action of the human hormone estrogen) when heated or when harsh detergents are used (dishwashers with the combination of high heat and detergent could increase leaching). #7 is a catch all category for plastics that don’t fit into the #1-6 categories. Some may be labeled #7 “other” but are not polycarbonate. Do not reuse this plastic at all.

Enlightened? Me too !!

Updated later: You will find this post, word for word at aronyok.wordpress.com. Funny, huh?

35 thoughts on “How Plastic Grading Works

  1. Very informative….akebare public service information site hoye gachhe.

  2. After reading this R and I went back home and checked whatever plastic stuff we use. Turns out we were using all the wrong stuff. Threw everything out and got new bottles and jars etc.

    So thank you. This really helped.

  3. Thanks…this was a real eye-opener !

  4. Really? This is news. Looks like we’re using all the wrong things too. Wait, I need to get my peon to throw away the plastic bottle from my desk.

  5. Polystyrene products are recyclable and are currently being collected curbside in 40 states and being sent to reprocessors around the country. Products made with recycled polystyrene include insulation and other building materials, audio and video cassettes, cafeteria trays, household products, office and school products, and some food packaging products.

    For more than 20 years, the polystyrene industry has undertaken a comprehensive research program to understand the potential for styrene to affect human health. Tests results have shown that the very low levels of styrene that could leach from food service containers pose no health or safety concerns. Based on these results, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows polystyrene containers, which are marked with a #6, to be used for food service.

    While long-tern exposure to very high levels of styrene in the air — as may occur occasionally in some workplaces where styrene is handled — may cause headaches or symptoms of fatigue or dizziness, the general public typically is not exposed to such levels. To date, no regulatory agency has classified styrene as a known human carcinogen.

    For more information regarding the safety of styrene products, please refer to the Styrene Information and Research Center Website at http://www.styrene.org/.

    • We all appreciate your professional opinion, but I think you missed the point of the article. The topic is about which plastics ARE REUSABLE, and which ARE NOT REUSABLE. I notice your response had nothing to do with any plastic reusing. I study communication and your framework is well structured but it didn’t get past me.
      So, please tell me which plastics are safe to REUSE, as this article addresses.

      respectfully interested,
      -Jenny from Alaska

  6. interesting material, where such topics do you find? I will often go

  7. I noticed too that A LOT of the plastics we use at 1 or 3. And what’s up with Britta selling a #7 “reusable” water bottle??

    any who … can one purchase #2, 4 and 5 bottles from Walmart, Meijers, and the common grocery shop?

    I noticed 4 “reusable” water bottles and 3 cups we use purchased from Walmart are bad plastics….

  8. @Sunny, I am not too sure about Walmart and the others, but it seems that you can only buy Pets everywhere. Which are not terrible only if you use them once. I would personally recommend using a proper water bottle made of steel or any other material rather than plastic. It is not easy to find food-grade plastic bottles all the time, and thanks to some unscrupulous manufacturers, they are often misprinted with the wrong number.

    Welcome to this blog by the way. Hope to see more of you here.

  9. It’s good, it’s useful (as usual), actionable and concise. Love it.

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  12. wow..this is great info to know!

  13. its really an amazing article, we were using so many containers and bottles which we should through long back but now onward i will be more conscious

  14. Very informative… thanks for that!
    And hey i have used your description to inform my friends in Facebook. Hope you don’t mind. I have shown your website as reference too :)

  15. Very informative… thanks for this!
    And hey, i’ve used your descriptions to inform my friends on Facebook. Hope you don’t mind. I’ve shown your website as reference :)

  16. very nice topic

  17. What are pharmacy vials made from? I have been purchasing them for about a year for my pharmacy. Have always wondered, I use pop top containers are they the same as the standard vials? This is the website I’m using http://www.vialsondemand.com . Also can does anyone know if this type of plastic goes bad after a certain time period?

  18. Are ANY types ever safe to use in the microwave?? I realize that some can HOLD hot food with no problem (although, I’m still skeptical) but it is a whole different thing to actually re-heat food in the microwave. I’m always telling people at work to use NO plastics in the microwave to cook/reheat.

    • I think it is fine to use microwave-safe dishes (with the safe mark) to cook or reheat. While I couldn’t find any documentation to support this, surely if they were unsafe, companies making them would have faced hundreds of lawsuits by now?

  19. I have begun to research this topic after seeing it on ABC’s daytime show Revolution. Many of the claims made are in step with the information stated here.That makes two sources with similar information However they made it very clear to NEVER microwave food in any type of plastic. Also I am a little concerned about the grammatical errors made in this article.The run on words and misspelling may be of little consequence but in explaining the characteristics of HDPE (high density polyethylene), marked # 2, the line “It is a sturdy and reliable translucent plastic with PROBABLY no known leaching characteristic.” Probably? What does that mean? The rest of this piece seems to thoroughly researched and well presented but this claim comes off as a guess by the author leading the reader to wonder if anyone knows the leaching characteristics of HDPE. PLEASE EXPLAIN.. Other than that I found this to be highly informative and like others who have posted above I went to my refrigerator and threw out all of the two liter bottles I had for cold water storage. I also checked my wife’s water bottles she uses during her workout and the containers my stepdaughter reuses as well as my dogs food and water bowls.

    • Chris, I apologise for the typos made in the post, but honestly, I did not find anything that could remove the “probably” part of HDPE. Hence, I could not explain that one with too much certainty.
      I think the jury is still out on plastics that can be used in microwaves.

      • I do not understand how we can make a statement that is is safe to purchase a large container of a major brand of orange/tangerine juice for our families, packaged in plastic plainly marked #1. We have no knowledge how long it has been stored in this container, or what type of larger container it was stored in before being divided into these smaller home size containers. If we know this #1 plastic CAN NOT be re-used safely because it has been proved that DEHP, a human carcinogen, PLUS isphenol-A (BPA) can leach from the container into WHATEVER is stored inside and this substance can cause breast and uterine cancer, increase the risk of miscarriage and cause decreased testosterone — WOW! All of that into the contents of whatever is stored in the re-used bottle? Am I just foolish in thinking that I don’t want it in my refrigerator the first time around? Why does it only cause these risk with re-use? Are we tricking ourselves into feeling safe because the juice will be finished in a week or so, but using it for water means it has a longer life-span to poison us? We have made some head way in the fight against breast cancer, but it is still beating us.

    • The best way I can say this, all ‘true’ food safe plastics are rated #2, but not all #2 plastics are food safe. Some #2 plastics are made with toxic releasing agents(to release them from the forming molds) and therefor can’t be used for food, but the ones marked food safe(typically by the fda or other egulating agency) were made without that release agent so they are typically fine for long term ‘re-usability’ without harmful side effects. Hope this helps!

  20. Thanks for the concise information for the plastic coding system. My take away is to avoid plastic where possible and use code 2,4,5,7 where there are no options.The popular Lock and Lock plastic container is Coded 5 and Gladwrap and Ziploc is Polyethylene (either coded 2 or 4).

    Go glass !

    NT

  21. Hi…thanks for the information. Just confused about the GRADE 5. As per your article, it says this is safe to reuse. But some place it in the safe category. Copying the link for your reference

    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_number_of_plastic_is_food_grade_safe

  22. Informative. Can you please help with which plastic will be stronger to make furniture parts and joints. im planning to make some

  23. Reblogged this on lizznomor and commented:
    Very enlightening and shocking too. In Africa we just never care, here the PET is reused countless times even for large scale marketing of food drinks like kunu, nono and zobo!

  24. Hi Suchis, thanks for sharing this very useful information. May I request to also share the sources / references.

  25. Hi Suchis,

    You mentioned above that PET is for one time use. If this is true then what about water bottles that are sold in the Indian market? They are all PET and are commonly used in Indian households for storing and cooling drinking water in refrigerators. I am sure there are standards and regulations set out by the government, that these manufacturers are meant to comply with?

    VS

  26. thanks, whats the solution now

  27. Thanks for the details.
    But the point that : ”
    Reuse releases DEHP – a proven human carcinogen – as well as isphenol-A (BPA), which can cause breast and uterine cancer as well as an increased risk of miscarriage, and decreased testosterone levels – into the contents of the bottle. And, you cannot sue manufacturers for using PET because they intend it for one-time use of the consumer

    Which is your source of information? I am curious to understand more.

    Because, how come bottle knows it is first use or second use ?
    If it releases so n so carcinogens in second or more…, why it does not release those in first use itself?

    Thanks !

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