Sunday

Plastic not so fantastic

We have been trying to reduce the amount of plastic in our home for a number of years.

The first thing to get tossed were all plastic dishes used for heating in the microwave, and now we use all pyrex (glass dishes) which can be chucked in the dishwasher and are fine for the freezer too. They have a plastic seal, which is not so bad, as it never touches the food, and Michael has no worries taking one of these to work with leftovers in, to heat in the microwave.

Next to go were all the plastic drink bottles, and now we have 6 stainless steel Klean Kanteens which are working really well.


What did people use for food storage before plastic was around? How cool are these retro pyrex fridge storage containers? I'd love to get something like this for the fridge.


We still do have some plastic food containers in the cupboard which I am slowly replacing with glass, stainless steel, ceramic and wooden containers and it seems that we are slowly seeing more choice for plastic alternatives becoming available in Australia (although we still have a long way to go).

Instead of plastic bags at the supermarket, the main option up until recently has been to have a heap of great, huge green bags in the back of your car which really annoyed me, and I would always forget to bring them into the shop with me.

We now have this nifty little pack of 5 Envirosax that is small enough to fit in my handbag, and yet when you open the bags up, they are very big and very strong so at last I am able to stop bring plastic bags home with me after every shopping trip!

For those who don't want to steer away from plastic altogether, you can make sure that at least the plastics you are using for food storage and cooking are BPA-free.

If you are unaware of the dangers of plastics in food uses, there is an excellent printout which outlines the main problems for you.

http://www.agobservatory.org/library.cfm?refid=77083

It is 4 pages long and is definitely worth a read, but here is the general gist...

The main problem is that the use of plastics in cooking and food storage can carry health risks, especially when hormone-disrupting chemicals from some plastics leach into foods and beverages causing a range of problems, including stimulating cancer cells, ovarian dysfunction, early onset of puberty, decreased fertility, and decreased testosterone.

The worst culprits are those with the recycle symbols
3, 6 and 7.

7
is "other" and is usually polycarbonate which is used in most plastic baby bottles, large "cooler" water bottles, “sport” water bottles, metal food can liners, clear plastic “sippy” cups and some clear plastic cutlery.

Polycarbonate contains BPA which exposure to may bring about:

• Early onset of puberty, and stimulation of mammary gland development in females
• Changes in gender-specific behavior
• Changes in hormones, including decreased testosterone
• Increased prostate size
• Decreased sperm production
• Altered immune function
• Behavioral effects including hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, impaired learning and other changes in behavior.

3 is DEHA which is found in PVC clingwrap, peanut butter jars, cooking oil bottles and some plastic squeeze bottles. It can leach into oily foods on contact and when heated. DEHA exposure is linked to negative effects on the liver, kidney, spleen, bone formation and body weight. It is also a possible human carcinogen, affecting the liver.

6 is Polystyrene, used in Styrofoam food trays, egg cartons, disposable cups and bowls, carry-out containers and opaque plastic cutlery. Styrene can leach from polystyrene plastic. Styrene is toxic to the brain and nervous system, among workers with longer-term exposures, but also has been found to adversely affect red blood cells, liver, kidneys and stomach in animal studies.

Most important things you can do right now:

  • Stop using plastic containers in the microwave to reheat food.
  • Avoid clingwraps against food, especially in the microwave (use waxed paper or paper towel to cover food).
  • Use alternatives to plastic packaging whenever possible.
  • Use alternatives to polycarbonate plastic baby bottles and “sippy” cups.
  • Avoid plastic water bottles unless you are travelling and have no alternative. Don't reuse single use plastic water bottles.
  • Avoid PVC plastic products such as plastic containers, toys and building products.

Some more great links to browse:

http://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/cart/childrenprod.htm
http://www.naturemoms.com/blog/2008/02/21/bpa-free-feeding-gear-for-kids
http://www.ecodepot.com.au/product.php?productid=16151&cat=248&page=1
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=plastic-not-fantastic-with-bisphenol-a


12 comments:

  1. You raised some great points Ruth. I must admit I haven't ever really given my use of plastics much thought until now! I can see I need to do some research to better inform and educate myself about the use of plastics (not sure I am ready to say goodbye to my extensive Tupperware collection!)

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  2. I was microwaving in plastic for years until recently, I'm glad I stopped. I have a set of three of the ones with plastic lids, and they are so insanely useful I just love them!

    We found a number of those retro Pyrex containers at antique stores, another place you could check. The ones we found were inexpensive and clear glass. My mom went nuts for them.

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  3. What an eyeopener! Thank you for sharing this! With smaill children in the house, I'm starting asap! Out with the plastic!!
    We have an aluminum (JIGG) water-bottle for our daugther, but I have been putting off buying one for our son....why?! Well, no more. It'son the shopping list for today!
    Thank you thank you thank you!!

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  4. This is a very good post - definitely an eye opener.

    I'm a big fan of Pyrex and I love Envirosax. I didn't know that you could buy packets of 5. I've bought mine individually. I should get some more!

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  5. Wow, it's made me think about the way we use plastic now - thanks for letting us know!

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  6. katef - www.picklebums.com5 September 2008 at 08:24

    This stuff scares me silly.. we have a cupboard full of cheap plastic that I know is not great... but the $$ to replace it is not around at the moment. I think I'll ask for my pyrex for Christmas though.
    Do you know if tuppaware is bad? I am too lazy to go look right now with a sleeping baby on my lap LOL
    And do you have some suggestions for lunch box containers?

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  7. good info here. We had those pyrex containers while I was growing up- I had forgotten about those- i would like to find some to use. We try to be careful with plastic around here too. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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  9. We stopped using most of our plastic when our oldest son was diagnosed with cancer. We were warned too (by our oncologist no less!) that heating plastic in the microwave can cause particles of carcinogen to latch onto your food. *shudder* What an awful thought! Better safe than sorry! It's an added bonus for us that we're helping planet earth a bit by switching over to glass.

    Oh how I love my pyrex now :) lol

    I have never seen anything like those Envirosax you shared! Thanks for passing that along. I'll have to search for those now. Good for the environment and pretty! What a great combination.

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  10. Ohhh, I've just agreed to have a Tupperware party and have a pantry full of it. Have stopped using plastic in the microwave though and very keen to get more glassware (probably a whole other set of issues with using the microwave anyway!!). Now I'm torn!

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  11. thanks for sharing this very useful information. hope to re-blog it by others so many people may know about this. thanks!

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  12. thanks for sharing this blog. really useful. :)

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Hi! Thanks for leaving me a comment... I love to hear from people :-)
Ruth xx