How to Live BPA Free – Plastic Container Tips

Are your plastic food containers BPA free?

I’ve heard about it, you have heard about it…BPA (bisphenol-A) has shown in some tests to be harmful to unborn children and small children alike. So after giving up my 24 water bottles a month and switching to a reusable plastic water bottle a year ago, I have now recycled the 32 oz plastic bottle and opted for a 20 oz steel reusable bottle. I continue to scour the tags and bottoms of all plastic containers for the recycle symbol as well as what number is inside it.

The safest plastic containers are #2, 4 & 5, while #1 and #2 are the best for recycling purposes. You should also avoid resin codes 3, 6, & 7 especially when used around food or storing food.

I have used Glad reusable plastic containers and Tupperware durable plastic containers for many years for storing leftovers. I thought Tupperware would last me the longest; however, after viewing a brief video from WebMD’s Health eHome, I am wholeheartedly reconsidering recycling those older stained and scratched containers.

According to Gregg Renfew, Healthy Child Healthy Home, plastic containers which have permanent stains, scratches or cracks have the greatest risk of releasing harmful chemicals into food, especially when warmed in the microwave. It is best to recycle or reuse these containers for non-food items. It is even better to use glass to store and reheat foods in the microwave and use a paper towel instead of plastic wrap to prevent spills during heating.

This helpful site also strongly recommends, for the health and safety of everyone in the home, buying food products in glass, recyclable paper or chipboard and bags. Yes, even canned food poses threats.

How to Live BPA Free? Do the following to prevent contaminants from entering your food:

  • Take out all your plastic containers, cups & dishes from your cupboards
  • Inspect each one for cuts, scratches, cracks & stains. If any of these are found, either recycle them or reuse them for non-food items like storing office supplies or hair notions in the bathroom.
  • Check the resin or recycle code that is usually found on the bottom of the container. Ensure it is one of the numbers listed above. If no number is found, consider using the container for non-food items or getting rid of it. These plastics could pose hazardous food contamination over time.
  • Consider buying more glass dishware for storing and reheating food, especially in the microwave. There are many good finds at your local thrift store as well.
  • Avoid using plastic wrap at all costs and do not use it when reheating foods in the microwave as it is more likely to release toxins into your food. Instead use recycled paper towels, cloth napkins or waxed paper to cover dishes for reheating in the microwave.

You CAN live BPA free and not be inconvenienced by it. There are new products on the market that are both recyclable as well as healthy for you. Consider products made from corn, which look and feel just like plastic as well as products made from post consumer material.

**News update…there’s more evidence that plastic food containers are leaching harmful hormones into our food…get the rest of the story here.

Additional Resources:

Mayo Clinic article


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31 Responses to How to Live BPA Free – Plastic Container Tips

  1. Jan says:

    I recently bought trader joes artesian spring water in a plastic bottle and noticed on the bottom was the triangle with 1 in it which found but on the left is a circle with A in it and I cannot find anywhere here in the U S an explanation for what it means or in NewZealand where it’s bottled. Do you or anyone know what this circled A means?

  2. Megan says:

    Instead of using plastics, is it just safer to find glass containers like cassaroll dishes with glass tops to store food? Like from a thrift shop or even new? Is all glass 100% safe period and safe from BPA? – Megan at ddsequin@yahoo.com It’s OK to email me as well.

    • Alicia R Young says:

      Personally, Megan, I prefer to use glass storage containers, baking dishes and anything that food touches. Glass is eco-friendly, functional and easily goes from frig to freezer to oven (or microwave oven). If it breaks or cracks, it’s easily recycled too. I still use plastic mixing bowls occasionally, but these don’t go in the microwave where they would have a chance to leak BPA.

  3. Raoul says:

    does plastic wrap contains BPA and plastic bags ?

  4. Daniel L says:

    Thank you for your article. I am a product designer in South Africa. In our studies, we learned about different plastics in order to understand their manufacture. I design plastic products including plastic water bottles. Despite this, I do hate the stuff. My theory is that the further removed a material is (or a food for that matter), from its most natural form, the more harmful it is. There is evidence for instance, that aluminium is a very harmful metal (although I have not personally studied this topic-don’t quote me).

    Some things I can help you to understand about various plastics though:
    “The safest plastic” categories according to your article are :
    Code 2 – High-Density Polyethylene
    Code 4 – Low-Density Polyethylene
    Code 5 – Polypropylene
    All three of these plastics are “polyolefins”, meaning they are manufactured from oil, which is why they are resistant to cracking and scratching and they generally float. Plastic containers that include a “living hinge”, or an integrated hinged portion that flexes, such as many lunch boxes, are generally #5 – Polypropylene.
    Polyolefins are the plastics that can be hard to print graphics onto, and will probably not hold the ink from a permanent marker if you write on them. They are very hard to glue or repair, because of the oil oxidisation on the surface. This may be why they are safe for food and water (oil and water don’t mix, etc.)

    Of the plastics you said to avoid:
    Code 3 – PVC
    Code 6 – Polystyrene
    Code 7 – Other

    I don’t know very much about PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), because very few manufacturers still use it today. This is probably because people started to realise the health risks of this plastic a while ago, due to its chlorine content. This apparently sinks in water.

    I wasn’t aware that styrene (#6) was harmful. This is a common plastic used for disposable containers, and you will find a lot of it at fast food outlets. Generally it is used for disposable cutlery, clear lids for microwaveable food containers, and the round plastic lids found on your cardboard take-away coffee containers. Thicker styrene parts have a distinctive metallic sound when tapped. This plastic cracks and snaps quite easily, which is why it is usually used for disposables. Also sinks in water.

    Code 7 – Other; includes plastics such as acrylic (perspex), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), fiberglass, nylon, polycarbonate, and polylactic acid (PLA).
    PLA is one of the newer plastics that are allegedly biodegradable and environmentally-friendly, although that still remains to be seen.

    To answer the question about the coffee maker: the most likely plastic for this type of product is ABS. It seems this plastic doesn’t really have an official code like the others do, but apparently it is sometimes grouped under #7 – Other, and sometimes identified with the number 9. I don’t know much about the health risks of ABS, but it contains a styrene component, so I imagine it isn’t great.
    ABS is the most common plastic used for parts such as casings for larger electronic products. Vacuum cleaners, computer cases, remote controls, computer keyboards and mice, etc. Some low-cost cars might even have ABS dashboards and hub caps. This material is resistant to impact, which is the main reason they use it, besides cost and other factors. With enough force it can be torn, and shears with a very distinctive ragged edge.

    Another plastic you didn’t mention much is Code 1 – PET. I’d be interested in what you have to say about this, as PET is the most common plastic used for beverage containers. Usually clear water bottles and soft drink bottles with a precise moulded neck and thread, are made from PET. The manufacturing process is good for very fast, mass production and it can be made crystal clear which is why it is used for these products.

    In my opinion, the more natural a material, the better. Wood, glass, ceramic, natural fibers, steel and other metals are not only safer in many ways, but also infinitely better for the environment (although here you also have to look out for the energy taken to produce and refine the materials and products). In any case, I will always favour a glass bottle over any plastic.

    I hope this post will help you all to identify and sort out your plastic products.

  5. Yvonne A says:

    You mentioned using glass in microwaves. Do some research on what microwave food does to our bodies. If you care enough to get BPA out of your life to avoid toxins, you should also get rid of the microwave. It is just as dangerous. For all you health conscience people out there do research on the dangers of Fluoride in our water supply too.

  6. Kathy says:

    I discovered another source of BPA contamination that surprised me. Several web-sites list heat-activated paper, the kind used in many cash register receipts. The BPA content could be as much as 3 percent by weight.

  7. The importance of getting BPA out cannot be overstated. It’s really scary how this stuff is everywhere, in so many products we use in our daily lives. I wasn’t aware of the numbers on containers before, but I’ll be using these tips to make sure I’m steering away from BPA as best I can.

  8. Mica Halberg says:

    Oooh, you’re such an inspiration. I love this blog!

  9. Karen says:

    I usually stay away from all plastic water bottles because I can taste the plastic in it when it is at room temperature (cold water hides this taste). Recently I bought a BPA free plastic spring water bottle and just tried it but guess what, I still taste the plastic. So I am wondering whether BPA may only be one of the culprits, or, whether BPA free products aren’t using something else just as harmful as a replacement? I have super taste and smelling senses so can always pick up impurities…

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  11. april says:

    BPA is craziness and I just started selling Princess House products and I am learning about PFOA and Teflon. I’ve got great products for cooking and storage that are safe. Let me know if you’re interested… princesshouse.com/asilva012

  12. Freespirit Writer says:

    I’ve posted another great article about Tupperware products that are BPA free (or not) on the Green Blog Just About Living Greener. Several readers have asked about these containers, and it looks like Tupperware has finally conceded to the public’s inquiries!

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  15. Alicia Young says:

    Cathy B – here is an answer for you regarding plastic tops and bottoms – BPA free or not. From my research, BPA can be released to your food when the container is heated such as using it in the microwave, washing it in a dishwasher, etc. So, if you have a container that has a lid that is a #6 or #7 remember to remove it before using it in the microwave and never wash it in the dishwasher. Also, be cautious when placing food in this container, leave room at the top of the container so food is not directly touching the lid.

    If anyone has other sources for these answers, I would love to hear from you!

  16. Cathy B says:

    OK, I have a ton of Rubbermaid Premier storage containers, the #7 is on the bottom. Their website talks about BPA, but what about the “other” non-BPA toxins released from Polycarbonate (which #7 may contain)??? I want to throw these away now.
    I also have some Rubbermaid containers where the bowl is #5 (which is ok for food), but the lids are #7 (not ok for foods)…
    What about the food containers that are plastic but not labelled with recycling resin codes?
    What about the plastics that have a clock-looking circle (the arrow points to “04″ or “09″…what do these mean?
    Help!

    • Alicia Young says:

      Here is some information I gathered from a recycling site located in Colorado, and thanks for the question because I’m sure many of my readers are thinking the same thing.

      Many people are asking about the plastic resin codes that are stamped on the product. These codes don’t always indicate whether the product is recyclable or not. Even those numbers inside the triangle? Well, yes, they are – but the codes were never intended for consumers to use to judge what is recyclable and that is why most recycling organizations and businesses provide examples or lists of what plastic products are and are not acceptable for
      their systems.(Many communities that accept recycling in the US will accept numbers 1-5, but not all.)

      A good example of this is a container that has both a lid and a body. Although both the lid and the container
      may be manufactured from the same plastic resin, the two were created through different manufacturing
      processes. The processes give them different melting points. At the same temperature, one may melt to the
      consistency of tapioca or pudding, while the other is more liquid or viscous. For that reason, the recycler knows
      that the two are not compatible, and may ask you to recycle only the body and to throw the lid away in the trash.

  17. michelle says:

    great Question.. I’d be curious on that too!!!

  18. Andy says:

    Coffee makers are commonly made with hard plastic tanks to hold water, sometimes for hours prior to heating. What type of plastic are these made of and do they leach BPA and other toxins?

    • Alicia Young says:

      I never thought of this, Andy. A very good question. However, I wonder if the paper coffee filter doesn’t absorb these toxins, if any, into the glass coffee container? I will investigate this further, thank you for the inquiry!

  19. Alicia Young says:

    April – Thank you for this great Rubbermaid link – I had to check which rubbermaid containers I had that were BPA free or not.

    I hope the rest of my readers take a look as well. Thanks for your contribution!

  20. April says:

    Sara.Jane – The Rubbermaid Premier set DOES contain BPA, check it out here: http://www.rubbermaid.com/rubbermaid/bpa-info.jhtml#bpa

  21. Susan says:

    Hi, if you have damaged Tupperware, cracked chipped or peeling I can get it replaced for you -it has a lifetime warranty :) contact me -I would love to help!

    • Alicia Young says:

      This would be fantastic! I took out all my scratched Tupperware and am now using it for other purposes!

  22. Rachel says:

    I use coffee filters to keep food from splattering in the microwave. Its much cheaper than papertowels.

  23. sara.jane says:

    Thanks for this info! Recently my boyfriend and I purchased the Rubbermaid Premier food containers and they are BPA free (For other BPA free by Rubbermaid: http://www.rubbermaid.com/rubbermaid/bpa-info.jhtml). These are odor, stain and shatterproof AND they can go in the dishwasher so that’s a plus. Check them out! You can find them at your local Wal-Mart.

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