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Types of plastic that can and cannot be recycled

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Once milk was poured into glass bottles, herring and butter were wrapped in paper, and canned goods were sold in cans. Today they have been replaced by plastic bags, PET bottles, plastic containers and disposable cups. Only not everyone knows how to handle popular plastic (or, as experts say, polymers) correctly - which is fraught with health problems. The leading researcher at the Hygiene Research Center Elena Yurkevich named GO.TUT.BY eight errors in handling polymer packaging and food packaging.

2 or PEHD

Thick polyethylene. It produces bottles for milk, packaging for soaps and shampoos, and caps. Plastic labeled “2” is considered safe for reuse. Like PET, it is accepted for processing without problems.

Polyvinyl chloride is a plastic that is considered dangerous for food use, as it may contain heavy cadmium metal. Mostly PVS is used for floor and window coverings, oilcloths and detergent packaging. Unlike previous plastics, PVS is not recyclable and, when burned, emits carcinogenic dioxins.

4 or LDPE

Thin polyethylene. From it they make packages that we meet in the supermarket at the checkout, cling film, garbage bags, tarpaulins and linoleum.

Packaging marked “4” can be reused. They are also accepted for processing without problems, but difficulties can arise with denser products. If you want to hand over such plastic, it is better to first call the recycling center and determine whether it will be accepted.

Durable and heat resistant plastic. It is used for a variety of purposes: from the interior decoration of cars to the creation of toys, disposable tableware and yogurt cups. In general, PP is safe, but its processing is more difficult, and it is accepted for processing less often than plastic marked with “1” and “2”.

Foamed plastic. Boxes for fruits and vegetables, substrates for raw meat and disposable dishes are made from it. In addition, PS is often used for thermal insulation of a room.

Plastic marked “6” can be recycled, but like PP, it is not accepted everywhere. In general, PS is recommended to be avoided: it contains styrene, which prevents the packaging from being reused and is extremely toxic if burned.

84 or C / PAP

Multilayer packaging made of paper, plastic and aluminum, which is commonly called tetrapack. C / PAP makes boxes for juice and milk, as well as packaging tubes for chips like Pringles.

In theory, packaging labeled "84" can be recycled, but it is much more expensive and more difficult than recycling ordinary plastic. Tetrapak easily gets dirty, it is difficult to wash and rot, and dirty packaging is not accepted for recycling.

Photo: Danil Yaroshchuk for the hungrywastepeople project

Types of plastic

Plastic is a material made on the basis of synthetic or natural high-molecular compounds and characterized by a wide scope. The most common types of plastic are:

  • polyvinyl chloride
  • polyethylene,
  • polypropylene,
  • polystyrene
  • polycarbonate.

All polymers are prepared by polymerization - i.e. “Stitching” of short molecules of a substance into longer chains. Upon heating, damage, aging, contact with other substances, these chains break and the monomers of the main substance enter the air or food.

How long can I use plastic dishes

Absolutely all types of plastics are subject to destruction when:

  • aging (they break down, releasing decay products)
  • damage (cracks, scratches)
  • heating to critical temperatures (see below)
  • alkaline cleaning agents
  • contact with alcohols
  • contact with fats.

Reusable plastic food items can be used as intended no more than 1 year (provided that their integrity is maintained - without cracks and scratches). Disposable dishes should not be stored with food for more 3-4 hours after packaging, the more used the second time.

How to determine that plastic is aging? It becomes cloudy, absorbs odors, poorly laundered, unpleasant to the touch. Such products can no longer be used. Even if there are only a couple of scratches on the plastic, it is already unsuitable for food purposes.

Plastic damage

Polymers are inert in nature and non-toxic, which is why they have found application in the manufacture of dishes - they do not get into food products. But.

  • By itself, clean plastic is brittle and unstable to high and low temperatures. And in order to give it proper properties, stabilizers are added: plastic becomes stronger, but also more toxic.
  • Solvents, processing aids and intermediates of production and products of the chemical decomposition of the polymer under certain conditions, enter the food and have a toxic effect on the body.

Depending on the type of plastic (see table below), certain toxic substances may be released:

  • Formaldehyde has a carcinogenic, mutagenic and allergenic effect, adversely affects the reproductive system, affects the internal organs and central nervous system (see symptoms of formaldehyde poisoning).
  • Phthalates - increase systolic pressure, lead to infertility.
  • Methanol is the most dangerous poison, it affects the organs of vision and the central nervous system, and causes chronic intoxication.
  • Vinyl chloride is a neurotropic poison with carcinogenic, mutagenic and teratogenic effects.
  • Styrene is a dangerous carcinogen. It has a negative effect on the reproductive system, affects the central and peripheral nervous system, disrupts the metabolism and the blood-forming system.
  • Bisphenol A - accumulates in the body, causing irreversible changes in the reproductive system, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, as well as the likelihood of oncology. Causes various pregnancy complications.
  • Vinyl chloride - released during the aging process from a polyvinyl chloride bottle, refers to neurotropic poisons and carcinogens, mutagens and teratogens. When ingested, it turns into chloroepoxyethylene and is capable of provoking the development of cancer of the lungs, brain, liver, lymphatic and hematopoietic systems. The longer the bottle with the drink is stored (and often this period is 12 months), the more polyvinyl chloride will be in the contents, and the beginning of this migration begins a week after filling the bottle at the factory.

There is no protective layer in disposable plastics, however, as in reusable plastics, this is a myth that is designed to console our minds. Just a scratch on the dishes can already cause the migration of plastic components into the food.

Cons Recycled Plastic

Another negative point is the spread of plastic recycling. In this regard, it is not always possible to identify the composition of the material and the allocation from it. Therefore, it is so important when buying plastic packaging or products in it to pay attention to the inscription on the bottom - this is an obligatory attribute of certified products. However, not all manufacturers mark the goods as expected and not all goods on the shelves of Russia are certified. This creates an even greater problem for the consumer when choosing plastic products.

Some studies of scientists about the dangers of plastic

Russian scientists say that certified plastic utensils are absolutely safe, but only if they are used correctly and replaced promptly.

American researchers argue that the presence of about 80% of the "plastic" substances in the human body is the result of the use of building and decoration materials from plastic, as well as its use in everyday life, and most of all - in utensils.

A study published in the British journal Human Reproduction, published by Oxford University Press, states that:

The substance diethylhexyl phthalate, which is used to soften plastics, is associated with an increased risk of:

  • development of obesity,
  • cardiovascular disease
  • and infertility in boys.

So, children with obesity had an elevated level of this substance in the blood. Despite the fact that in the last decade the impact of diethylhexylphthalate on the body of expectant mothers has decreased by about 50%, all the same, these risks do occur.

  • They lead to an increase in systolic pressure: after examining more than 3,000 children who were constantly in contact with plastic products, a 3-fold increase in the level of phthalates in urine and an increase in blood pressure were found.
  • In the course of their study, the team studied data from nearly 800 women and their children. It was confirmed that if in the first trimester of pregnancy the mother's body was exposed to phthalates, born boys had a higher risk of infertility. Boys may be born with a shorter anogenital distance, which is directly related to infertility and poor sperm quality.
  • There is no safe level of exposure to phthalates in pregnant women. To completely eliminate this substance, you should not only abandon the use of plastic utensils in everyday life, but also not use products packaged in plastic packaging.
  • Phthalates will still surround a person - they are in wallpaper, personal hygiene products, medical devices and almost everywhere, but in this form they are less dangerous.

  • In 2015, scientists from the scientific campus of Saudi Arabia conducted a study that proved the harmful effect of bisphenol A on the liver of experimental rats and their offspring. The work emphasizes that the presence of bisphenol A in the body can cause genetic DNA damage.
  • Bisphenol A scientists attributed to the "multi-stage" carcinogen, which accumulates in the body and has a negative effect both in the body and in the offspring. Empirically, the danger of certain concentrations of the substance was clarified. It turned out that even very low concentrations can lead to harmful consequences for the health of a person and his children (see plastic packaging is harmful to children's teeth).
  • Studies conducted at several foreign institutes with the participation of the US Environmental Protection Agency showed that of 204 experimental food samples (canned), the presence of bisphenol A was detected in 73% of them (released from resins that cover the inner layer of metal cans ) Alternative coatings are being developed that could replace epoxy resins. But in any case, the most environmentally friendly container for preservation is considered glass.
  • Australian scientists conducted an experiment - they examined the urine of volunteers, including pregnant women and children who drink bottled water (which is sold in large bottles). Bisphenol A was found in 95% of them. Yes, under normal conditions, the plastic does not release chemical elements into the water, but if the water is heated even a few degrees above room temperature, the “migration” of chemistry from plastic to water begins.

Bottle of Tritan

Tritan is a heat-resistant transparent polymer developed by the American company Eastman in 2007. It is declared as a “healthy, ultra-safe" plastic. Literally right after the presentation, a line of baby bottles was released from tritan, which quickly spread around the world. Currently, tritan is used by many American companies for the manufacture of manufactured goods, utensils, including bottles with a capacity of 19 liters for water. The material is in high demand in third world countries, where consumers care more about the price of goods than about their own safety.

Eastman was founded by Dr. Andrew Weil, who promotes alternative medicine, including urine therapy. In 2014, chemicals used to make plastic were leaked at the site, causing water pollution in West Virginia and depriving 300,000 people of drinking water per month.

The popularity of tritan abroad is rather a lack of alternatives than the voiced safety of plastic. Consumers categorically refused to use polycarbonate bottles that emit Bisphenol A, and in the PET market, demand exceeds supply by 3 times. Companies are forced to buy expensive materials suitable for blowing bottles. Tritan is not seen as a competitor to PET in the United States, and companies with access to PET buy it. Tritan is used only by companies that, due to a lack of offers, are not able to purchase PET.

Eastman has repeatedly stated that Tritan has been rigorously tested for security, but the methods used in the research did not meet business standards. In 2008, Eastman partnered with Sciences International, a research company that lost a high-profile litigation. They conducted research for the tobacco industry and for 2 years misinformed consumers about the side effects of new types of cigarettes, which led to several deaths.

Meanwhile, Tritan contains synthetic estrogen triphenylphosphate or TPP, which is more harmful than Bisphenol A. But Eastman did not test Tritan as a single element, but divided it into several components. The CHP was not included in the list of analyzed factors, although it is the most dangerous component of Tritan.

Eastman conducted another study involving breast cancer cells, and the very first results were positive for estrogenic activity. A company researcher revealed the results for the presence of synthetic estrogens are negative, although they were positive. This was told by Michael Denison, a professor of toxicology at the University of California at Davis, who evaluated Eastman's Tritan safety report as an independent expert.

In parallel to the research of tritan, PlastiPure was also engaged in a search for a safe alternative to polycarbonate. As a result, it was found that the components of tritan are more dangerous for human health than Bisphenol A. Different types of tritan (and there are as many as 5 of them) emit harmful chemicals under the influence of ultraviolet radiation.

In 2010, Eastman began marketing campaigns and claimed that Tritan did not contain synthetic estrogens. In early 2010, Philips Avent, a leader in the production of baby bottles and non-spill cups, decided to find out if they could do their independent research on tritan, but for some unknown reason abandoned their idea. In the same year, Nestlé investigated tritan and found in it an extremely harmful leached synthetic estrogen, but, by agreement with the manufacturer, did not publish these results.

Today, Eastman is conducting litigation with independent laboratories that provide evidence of the harm of tritan.

Description of the main types of plastic

The table shows:

  • Comparative characteristics of plastics used for food products and potential risks associated with their use - these data do not mean at all that all food in plastic and utensils made of it is deadly dangerous, but, unfortunately, harm is not excluded (the probability of which is several times increases with misuse or reuse of disposable products).
  • The average softening temperature of plastic is the temperature at which polymer degradation and active release of toxic substances into food and air begin.
  • The digital designation is in the triangle of arrows - it should be looked for at the bottom.

Title

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET, number 1)

The most environmentally friendly polymer, but nevertheless, when recycled or used incorrectly, it can emit harmful substances

Designation, softening pointWhere is usedWhat can stand out

  • from 245 C
Disposable “soft” bottles for water and drinks, oils, sauces, beer, disposable tablewarePhthalates and formaldehyde
High density (HDPE, number 2) and low (LDPE, number 4) polyethylene containing melamine-formaldehyde resins

  • High Density Polyethylene from 80C
  • low from 60 C
Packaging for dairy products, refillable dishes, baby bottles, food wrap, food bagsFormaldehyde and methanol, which are released during photoaging (with prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light)
Polyvinyl Chloride (number 3, PVC)

  • from 75 C
Disposable bottles and caps for them, food wrap, containers, but more often - bottles for household chemicalsVinyl chloride, formaldehyde, bisphenol A
Polypropylene (PP, number 5). Relatively safe and most common. There are high, medium and low pressure, only 1 type is allowed for food packaging.

  • from 140 C
Jars, containers and containers for food, glasses, can be colored. Reusable dishes.Formaldehyde, especially in contact with fatty foods and alcohol
Polystyrene (PS, number 6)

  • from 90 C
Disposable glasses, trays for packaging products (similar to polystyrene foam), jars for dairy products, forks, spoons, disposable knives, disposable containersStyrene and formaldehyde
Polycarbonate (PC or PC)
  • from 220 C
Refillable and disposable bottles, including baby bottles, plastic dishes, plastic parts for dummies, the inner layer of metal cansBisphenol A
Меламин (Мелсаж, Melamin, М). Запрещен для пищевой промышленности!Меламин плавится при 350 С.Посуда, внешне очень похожая на фарфорФормальдегид
Смеси пластических масс (цифра 7). Сюда входит поликарбонат, полиамид и прочие виды пластмассБутылки для воды, упаковкиBisphenol A, formaldehyde and others, summing up the negative effect

Is ABS plastic and San plastic harmful or not?

These types of plastic are not used for food. SAN plastic is a styrene copolymer, the same as abs plastic. This is a hard, heat-resistant plastic of several classes, which is mainly used for industrial and domestic purposes, but not for products in contact with food and drinks. In the temperature range from -40 C to +80 C, both types of plastic do not change their properties and do not emit chemical elements into the environment. In addition, they can withstand short-term heating up to 105 C. But they can not be used for food.

Plastic SanABS plastic
  • Acrylonitrile is a carcinogen. With acute action, it causes irritation to the eyes, upper respiratory tract, negatively affects the reproductive system. The conditions under which these substances would stand out from plastic is a violation of the indicated temperature range.
  • styrene - see above
  • butadiene is a gas with an unpleasant odor that enters the body through the respiratory system, irritates the mucous membranes and has a narcotic effect. Causes chronic neurasthenia, dermatitis, diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and upper respiratory tract.
  • styrene
  • acrylonitrile.

Marking

Plastic, which is used for the manufacture of utensils and products in contact with food (food plastic), is subject to certification and undergoes mandatory examination for compliance with sanitary standards.

Food plastic manufacturers are required to label their products accordingly. There is a common marking of plastic utensils - a fork and a glass. But the crossed fork and glass indicate that the product cannot be used for food.

The product may indicate what products it is intended for (cold, hot, bulk, liquid), where it can be used (in the microwave, for freezing, etc.).

Some manufacturers sometimes indicate the temperature range of use.
Marking can be words or icons:
  • snowflake provides for freezing
  • wave oven - microwave use
  • dishes under the shower - the ability to wash in a dishwasher, etc.

Plastic for hot foods and microwave

Now there are effective methods of polymerization and plastic cleaning, which allowed to bring out heat-resistant types of plastic. On the bottom of such containers is written "for hot foods." Such containers are filled with devices for making hot drinks, it is often used in catering.

Plastic labeled "for hot products" and for "microwave" are different products:

  • You can only use containers in a microwave oven that are marked with the symbol “wave oven” or labeled “for microwave”.
  • Labeling for hot products - this means you can drink hot tea or eat hot soup, but do not cook and heat in the microwave.

When cookware is repeatedly used for hot food, an “aging effect” occurs: under the influence of oxygen and heat, long polymer molecules break up into short pieces, which enter the food.

Separately about plastic bottles

A plastic bottle (from soft drinks, dairy products) is a very practical and convenient container, which in everyday life, as a rule, turns from a disposable into a reusable one. It often happens that caring mothers pour a compote, juice, in a bottle from a baby vodka with a convenient nozzle on the neck for drinking, i.e. reused.

Plastic bottles are mainly made from polyethylene terephthalate, which:

  • unstable to shock
  • transmits ultraviolet rays
  • oxygen permeable
  • degrading content quality

and polyvinyl chloride - a polymer that is quite dangerous due to the release of vinyl chloride and bisphenol A.

Are there safe bottles that can be used several times?

Yes, these are reusable PET bottles, but you can’t pour anything but water into them.

In addition, there is a "home" way of identifying dangerous containers: you should press the bottle with your fingernail. If a white stripe remains, then plastic can be a health hazard.

How to use dishes and other plastic products so that they are safe for health

Plastic dishes for food are unlikely to go out of the everyday routine of most people. It is hygienic, inexpensive, lightweight and comfortable. In order to prevent harm to health, you should adhere to safety rules:

  • Use utensils for their intended purpose. If it is indicated that it cannot be used for hot products - this should be strictly observed, etc. Nobody knows how plastic in contact with a product for which it is not intended to react or in conditions that it is not designed to react will react.
  • do not use ordinary plastic utensils for microwave ovens that are not intended for this appliance, even if it behaves perfectly when heated, does not melt, etc.,
  • do not use disposable plastic packaging (even the most convenient, durable) as a container for storing and freezing food,
  • Do not use disposable dishes repeatedly. When it is used again (mechanical action, hot water and alkaline detergents), the material itself is proved to be damaged, and carcinogenic and harmful substances released from plastic, such as phenols, formaldehydes, heavy metals, get into the product.
  • be very careful about disposable plastic utensils in catering - often it becomes reusable: removed from the urn, washed and used for the next customer. Feel free to crumple the glass, plates and disposable appliances when leaving the cafe,
  • Do not cook foods with a high content of fat, acids and sugar in plastic utensils, even if labeling requires it. These components of the food are heated to the melting point and deformation of the plastic,
  • do not heat food in plastic bags: they can withstand freezing well, but when heated they emit formaldehyde,
  • Do not drink alcohol from disposable plastic glasses. Alcohol can wash away chemically aggressive components,
  • when coming home from the store, remove the packaging film from the products,
  • Buy baby food in glass jars or special cardboard boxes. If you are comfortable using only plastic baby bottles, look for products with the “BPA-free” badge. It’s better not to use plastic dishes for children at all,
  • do not allow stagnation of water in pitcher cleaning filters. Change the water to fresh as it is consumed, but at least 1 time per day. The clouded jug should be thrown away
  • any polymer product “ages” under the influence of heat, light, heat, contact with aggressive substances, fat, sugar, so try not to allow the influence of these factors on the dishes,
  • Do not wash plastic reusable dishes with hard brushes and brushes. This will damage the plastic,
  • Do not burn empty plastic bottles and other plastics in bonfires, stoves and fireplaces. All of them burn well and beautifully and melt, releasing a lot of chemical poisonous substances into the air, including new compounds that are combustion products. Dispose of plastic in special containers,
  • Only from reputable manufacturers and in trusted stores, buy pre-packaged food in PET packaging, cling film and plastic utensils with labels. If disposable tableware has an eco or bio badge, it is biodegradable and safe. However, it costs more, but this is the price of our health!

If possible, discard plastic utensils altogether and replace them with ceramic, porcelain or glass, especially for children: the safest feeding bottles are made of glass. Yes, they are fragile, but today on sale you can find products in a special silicone braid that will not break if accidentally dropped.

There is also environmentally friendly disposable tableware made of cane, bamboo, eggshell, cardboard. It is only safe for health, but it does not clog the environment, but, naturally, is more expensive.

Summing up, we note: when a person develops an oncological disease, it is unlikely that anyone understands his causes, and all the forces are sent to treatment. Of course, this is correct - in the fight against an ailment of roads every day. But it is important to understand that none of us is safe from oncology. So why increase the likelihood of its development and voluntarily introduce carcinogens into the body? Think about it and do not put your life at undue risk!

How to distinguish hazardous PVC products from safe plastic? Is disposable tableware dangerous?

Plastic bottles, containers and utensils firmly entered our everyday life. But at the same time with “plasticization”, more and more often there are reports of the danger this material is fraught with: under certain conditions, it releases toxic compounds that, when they enter the human body, gradually undermine their health.

American scientists say that up to 80% of the “plastic” substances found in the human body get there from building and finishing materials, in particular from such popular plastic windows, furniture, but most of all from utensils: from food plastic all kinds of compounds pass into products nutrition. Domestic manufacturers, in turn, claim that certified plastic utensils are absolutely safe. True, they make a reservation: if you use it for its intended purpose.

The most common polymeric materials (or plastics) are polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polypropylene, polyethylene, polystyrene and polycarbonate. Both technical and food plastic are produced from them. The polymers themselves are inert, non-toxic and do not "migrate" to food. But here are the intermediate substances, technological additives, solvents, as well as chemical decomposition products that can penetrate into food and have a toxic effect on humans.

This process can occur during storage of products or when they are heated. In addition, polymeric materials are subject to change (aging), as a result of which destruction products are released from them. Moreover, various types of plastic become toxic under various conditions - some cannot be heated, others should not be washed, etc.

Dangerous fragility of plastic

Polyvinyl chloride is a chlorine-based polymer. It is common throughout the world because it is extremely cheap. It makes bottles for drinks, boxes for cosmetics, containers for household chemicals, disposable tableware. Over time, PVC begins to release a harmful substance - vinyl chloride. Naturally, from a bottle it gets into soda, from a plate - into food, and from there - directly into the human body. And vinyl chloride is a carcinogen. A bottle of PVC begins to isolate this dangerous substance a week after the contents have been poured into it. After a month, several milligrams of vinyl chloride accumulate in mineral water. From the point of view of oncologists, this is a lot.

Often, plastic bottles are reused, they are poured tea or fruit drink and even alcoholic drinks into them. In the markets, milk and butter are sold in plastic bottles. Five-liter bottles replaced bucket and canisters for summer residents, and advocates of a healthy lifestyle go with them to sources for “living” water and store baptismal water in them for a year. Experts are unanimous: nothing but water can be re-poured into water bottles. And even then, not everything. Only PET bottles can be reused. Toxic PVC chloride is released from PVC bottles.

However, many experts are sure that any bottle plastic remains neutral only in the absence of oxygen access, i.e., while the water retains its original chemical composition. As soon as the bottle is opened, water quickly changes its properties, after which the plastic inevitably changes its properties. As for the "living" and holy water, its healing properties can be preserved only in glass containers.

How to distinguish hazardous PVC products from safe plastic? Need to inspect the bottom. Conscientious manufacturers put at the bottom of dangerous bottles an icon - a three in a triangle. Or they write PVC - so in English is designated PVC. But there are few such bottles with honest inscriptions. A harmful container can also be recognized by the influx on the bottom. It happens in the form of a line or a spear about two ends. But the surest way is to press the bottle with your fingernail. If the container is dangerous, a whitish scar forms on it. The “correct” bottle remains smooth.

Convenient, practical, but risky

Picnic is approaching, and we, in order to minimize domestic inconveniences, stock up on plastic plates. Pour tea from a thermos or alcoholic drinks into plastic cups. Cheap, practical, but not safe.

Disposable tableware made of plastic costs a penny. But plastic is a delicate material. Cracks in the light. It melts from the heat. For strength, stabilizer substances are added to it. Plastic gets stronger and. more toxic.

Polystyrene (indicated by the letters PS) is indifferent to cold liquids. But it’s worth pouring a hot or alcoholic drink, as a harmless glass begins to secrete a toxic compound called styrene. Polystyrene plates are often used in summer cafes under a barbecue. And the client, in addition to hot meat and ketchup, also receives a dose of toxins.

Watch the marking

At one time, to simplify the sorting of plastic, a special international marking was developed - triangles formed by arrows with a number inside. The number indicates the type of plastic. Instead of a number or under a triangle, at the same time as a number, you can find the plastic letter code:

  • PET
    Polyethylene terephthalate: bottles for carbonated drinks, water, juices, dairy products, vegetable oils, cosmetics and so on.
  • HDP
    High Density Polyethylene: Packing Bags, Garbage Bags
  • PVC
    Polyvinyl chloride: construction and decoration materials, furniture, shoes, medical products, water bottles, food packaging film
  • Ldp
    Low Density Polyethylene: Detergent Bottles, Toys, Pipes
  • PP
    Polypropylene: medical products, dishes for hot dishes, food packaging film
  • PS
    Polystyrene: disposable tableware, cups for dairy products, yogurt, electrical insulating film
  • Other types of plastic: multilayer packaging or combination plastic

Disposable packaging - only once

To make plastic utensils safe, use them strictly for their intended purpose. Food grade plastic of different brands has different properties. One brand of this polymer raw material is intended for the production of bottles for water, the other for bottles with carbonated drinks. Glasses for yogurt are made of plastic of a brand that allows casting to produce a light and cheap container, which is neutral with respect to milk fat, and glasses for pudding must resist sugar.

Therefore, experts insist: in no case should you use plastic packaging as containers for storing food, and disposable tableware - repeatedly. No one has investigated how plastic will react to contact with ingredients for which it was not intended, and which compounds may be formed in this process. Fats and acids, which can draw free toxic compounds from plastic, are especially insidious.

There is another important point. Before reuse, the plastic container must be washed. Disposable packaging was not intended for washing, so the result is unpredictable.

Allocation of various compounds from plastic is greatly enhanced by heating. Therefore, only special containers can be used in the microwave oven.

Useful Tips

  • Store food in glass and ceramic containers.
  • Try to avoid plastic products when possible; give preference to weight.
  • Cut off the top layer of products stored in plastic packaging.
  • Take off the packaging film immediately at home.
  • Buy drinks only in PET bottles and do not reuse them.
  • Buy baby food only in glass or cardboard.
  • Do not use plastic dishes for baby food.
  • Do not microwave food in plastic dishes.
  • Do not keep water in jug filters for long periods. In the morning and evening, replace the remaining water with fresh.
  • A clouded water jug ​​needs to be thrown away.

Flexible packaging

Mayonnaise, ketchup and other sauces, seasonings, juices, jams, as well as ready-made soups and cereals that need to be warmed up, are sold in packages - regular or “standing”. Such bags are made from multilayer composite films. The choice of film depends on the properties of the product, the period and conditions of its storage. Soups, cereals, main dishes are packed in bags of films having a high melting point. Dishes in such packaging can be heated in the microwave or boiled directly in the bag. But physiologists advise eating less often: the less chemistry in life, the better.

Приобретая продукты быстрого приготовления (те, которые нужно лишь залить кипятком), обратите внимание на упаковку (стаканчик, пакетик, тарелку). Хотя Роспотребнадзор и сертификационные органы следят за безопасностью материалов, тем не менее производители часто пользуются полистирольной упаковкой. И когда она соприкасается с горячей водой, то начинает выделять вредные мономеры — стиролы. Therefore, it is better to transfer products to ceramic or enameled dishes and then pour boiling water.

Frozen ready meals in trays in which they can be heated in the microwave or oven are made from crystallized polyethylene terephthalate. Its properties remain unchanged in the range from -40º to + 250ºС. True, some brands may lose the necessary heat resistance after being subjected to deep cooling.

Small doses are big problems

How to determine acceptable and safe doses of chemicals? Scientists differ. Some argue: if you do not exceed the permissible level, there will be no harm. It is necessary to eat more than 2 kg of canned food per day in order to approach the maximum permissible dose. Others insist: the more chemicals a person consumes, the more he destroys the body. If there are no symptoms of poisoning, this does not mean that the substance is safe. Toxins can build up over the years, undermining health. Even a small amount of them is poisonous if exposed for a long time.

Plastic came into our life only about 30 years ago. Now the first truly “plastic” generation is growing, while for conclusions about the effect of plastic on the body, at least five generations need to be observed.

We believe that plastic is no different from glass, metal or paper packaging.

Most plastic packaging is not reusable for food. It is correct to consider its safety conditional: that is, the absence of harm is guaranteed as long as these containers are used strictly for their intended purpose, subject to certain storage conditions and no more than the specified period.

“Unlike the same glass, any polymers tend to age,” explains the specialist. - That is, their integrity is violated over time, as a result of which various potentially hazardous substances that were added during production in order to give the material a shape or strength can migrate to food.

At home, toxicologist recommends abandoning plastic dishes at all. It is considered justified to use it only when there is no other container at hand: for example, on a camping trip or on a picnic. As for chopping boards, if the hostess wants to use plastic, the specialist advises changing them more often.

We do not pay attention to marking

About a dozen types of various polymers are used for the production of food packaging and containers. What the bottle or wrapper is made of, you will be prompted with triangles in the form of arrows with a number inside or in Latin letters at the bottom.

The least safe are polystyrene (PS, or "six"), polyvinyl chloride (PVC, "three"), other (O, "seven"), polycarbonate (PC). These materials often contain dangerous "ingredients" - phthalates and bisphenol A. In the West, it has been proven (and confirmed by our own research on hygiene of the NPC) that, when they enter the human body, these substances can increase estrogen levels, increasing the risk of developing cancer of the prostate, testicles, and mammary glands , worsen sperm quality, reduce brain activity, provoke allergies, delayed brain development in children and cardiovascular disease.

Therefore, when choosing products from food-grade plastic, Elena Yurkevich recommends giving preference to those that are marked “Without BPA” or “Does not contain bisphenol A”, “BPA free”. If there are no such labels, it is better to refuse such products, especially if it is for a child or a pregnant woman. If this is not possible, give preference to packaging made of polypropylene (PP, or "five").

One of the safest polymer materials for health is PET (“unit”). It makes bottles for soft drinks, mineral water, milk, some types of disposable tableware, boxes and blisters for confectionery products. The maximum shelf life of such containers is one year. Over time, its protective properties are lost, and toxic substances are released. With external influences - damage, high temperature - the destructive process accelerates.

We give polymer packaging a “second life”

Some frugal housewives use PET bottles as reusable. They are washed with alkaline liquids, thoroughly rubbed with brushes and rough sponges, and then compotes, water, and milk are poured there. And in vain!

“Any scratches, chips, abrasions on the PET container become the“ gateway ”for the transition of toxic substances into a liquid, the toxicologist says.

From this point of view, you should not re-pack the products in plastic bags (denoted by "four" or "two"). "Washing" and the second life of the bags are permissible only if you plan to transfer or store something inappropriate.

In a microwave, we heat food in a plastic bag

If you carry a home-made lunch with you and heat it up in the microwave, use only containers specially designed for this — they are marked with the “waves with a stove” icon. You can heat food in a bowl made of polypropylene ("five"). Keep containers of other types of plastic away from heat. When heated, it is possible to release substances hazardous to the body - formaldehyde, hexane and benzene.

“And I have often had to witness how whites and pies in plastic bags warm up in cafeterias!” - I draw the attention of a specialist.

- Poorly! It is necessary to carry out educational program! - says Elena Yurkevich. - If this happened to you once, they did not manage to stop the seller, nothing terrible will happen to the body. But if heating in polyethylene becomes a habit and you, for example, do this every day, harmful substances will begin to accumulate, and the risk of their poisoning will become real.

We store bread and vegetables in bags

On a product wrapped in polyethylene, mold will more likely appear, and even it will lose taste faster, says Elena Yurkevich.

- Bread is allowed to be stored only in the packaging in which you bought it (it was tested before production, and there are special openings for air exchange). But the best option - after they brought the bread home, remove from the packaging and put in a wooden and metal bread box, a package of thick paper.

Freeze food in inappropriate polymers

Packaging made of polystyrene (“six”) is best suited for freezing. It can be distinguished from other polymers in appearance - it resembles polystyrene foam. A special container with a snowflake icon is also suitable. But ordinary packages, in which products are currently actively packed in hypermarkets, are not suitable for the freezer, according to the expert. Do not be too lazy to look for packages specially designed for this in the economic departments.

It is harmful to freeze polyethylene repeatedly: repeated changes in temperature destroy the structure of the material. And in no case should you put berries, water, vegetables in a PVC package ("three") in the freezer - the toxic substance dioxin will begin to stand out in food. Accumulating in adipose tissue, dioxin can ultimately lead to cancer, in particular breast cancer.

We store fat, hot, sour and alcohol in plastic for a long time

These are the so-called aggressive media: they activate the process of transition of toxic components from polymer packaging to the product.

It is especially dangerous to drink alcohol, hot tea and coffee, soda from cups made of PVC ("three") and polystyrene ("six"). It happens that this rule is ignored in some coffee machines.

We leave the products in a vacuum polymer packaging after opening it

A very common way of packing fish, cheese and meat is in polymer packaging under vacuum. When air is removed or the space is filled with inert gas, the product stays fresh longer. Hygienist-toxicologist warns: immediately after opening the package, such products must be transferred to a metal, glass or porcelain container. Because as soon as oxygen enters there, the so-called spoilage microorganisms (mold, yeast) will begin to multiply intensely, which before that have been “dormant” in an oxygen-free environment. Leaving the uneaten herring in an open package in the refrigerator, you can easily get food poisoning. And accusations that the product turned out to be “bad” will be unfair. Faulty handling of the packaging.

“Certainly, it is not easy for an average person to understand the variety of plastic packaging and containers,” concludes Elena Yurkevich. - But this is only at first. It is important to form a healthy habit. And those who do not want to bother and delve into all the nuances should use glass, porcelain and other safe dishes to the maximum. And when purchasing a product in a plastic package or container, immediately throw it into a garbage container for recycling plastic.

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