Recycling Numbers – What do they mean?
Ever wonder what the different numbers on your plastic products mean? They range from somewhat safe to downright unsafe when used for food and drink products.
Why should you even care what number is on your plastic container? Because some plastics are worse for your health than others. Some can leach harmful chemicals like BPA which have been linked to infertility, hyperactivity, reproductive problems, and other health issues.
Here is the definition of BPA per the Mayo Clinic.
BPA is found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics are often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles. They may also be used in other consumer goods.
Epoxy resins are used to coat the inside of metal products, such as food cans, bottle tops and water supply lines. Some dental sealants and composites also may contain BPA.
Some research has shown that BPA can seep into food or beverages from containers that are made with BPA. Exposure to BPA is a concern because of possible health effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.
Just like we want to know what is in the food we eat and the products we use, we should know what the containers include because they are touching our food.
Here is a breakdown of what the numbers mean so you can make a better decision on what numbers you choose to use.
#1 PETE or PET – Found mostly in soda bottles, water bottles, beer bottles, salad dressing containers, mouthwash bottles, and peanut butter containers. Some consider it safe, but this plastic is known to allow bacteria and flavor to accumulate.
#2 HDPE – Found mostly in milk jugs, household cleaner containers, juice bottles, shampoo bottles, cereal box liners, detergent bottles, motor oil bottles, yogurt tubs, and butter tubs, milk jugs, detergent bottles, juice bottles, butter tubs, and toiletries bottles are made of this. It is usually opaque. This plastic is considered safe and has low risk of leaching.
#3 V or PVC (Vinyl) – Used to make food wrap, plumbing pipes, and detergent bottles. These plastics used to, and still may, contain phthalates, which are linked to numerous health issues ranging from developmental problems to miscarriages. They also contain DEHA, which can be carcinogenic with long-term exposure. DEHA has also been linked to loss of bone mass and liver problems. Don’t cook with or burn this plastic. This plastic is best to be avoided.
#4 LDPE – Low density polyethylene (LDE) is most found in squeezable bottles, shopping bags, clothing, carpet, frozen food, bread bags, and some food wraps. This plastic rests among the recycling symbols considered to be safe.
#5 PP – Typically found in yogurt containers, ketchup bottles, syrup bottles, and medicine bottles. This plastic is also one of the safer plastics to look for.
#6 PS – Polystyrene (PS) is Styrofoam, which is notorious for being difficult to recycle, and thus, bad for the environment. This kind of plastic also poses a health risk, leaching potentially toxic chemicals, especially when heated. Most recycling programs won’t accept it. This plastic is best to be avoided.
#7 OTHER – All of the plastic resins that don’t fit into the other categories are placed in the number 7 category. It’s a mix bag of plastics that includes polycarbonate, which contains the toxic bisphenol-A (BPA). These plastics should be avoided due to possibly containing hormone disruptors like BPA.
Bottom line – Remember this rhyme
“With your food, use 4, 5, 1 and 2. All the rest aren’t good for you”
After learning about the differences of all the numbers, the hubby and I went frantically looking at every single piece of plastic for the numbers. We checked our remaining plastic containers and every plastic bottle in our fridge and cans in our pantry.
Turns out we had a #7! I was horrified lol. I was like “how did a #7 get in our house??” It was a gallon jug bottle for one of our favorite teas. Boo.
Look for a more in depth article on BPA and the dangers not only to our health but to the environment.
For more information visit Nation of Change.