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Plastics Guide

​Most plastics are made from non-renewable petroleum.  Some cause dangerous pollution during manufacturing, and some contain dangerous chemicals with known health risks.  The plastic recycling codes on products and packaging can help you select the products that are the safest for your family and the environment. 
 
Look for these numbers before you buy.  The safer choices are marked with the numbers 2, 4, and 5. Try to avoid 3, 6, and most plastics labeled with number 7.
Plastics 1

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE) is a clear hard plastic used for disposable food and drink containers including water, soda, and cooking oil bottles.  It can be recycled into textiles and furniture.  Plastic #1 is only intended for one time use.  These bottles should not be reused, refilled, or heated.  Cleaning detergents and high heat can cause antimony and other toxic chemicals to leach out of the plastic.

Plastics 2

High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) is also a hard plastic but it is not transparent.  It is used for items like shampoo bottles, yogurt containers, and toys and can withstand higher temperatures than Plastic #1.  Plastic #2 can be recycled into pens, bottles, and other consumer items.  It is safe to refill and reuse.

Plastics 3

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) contains phthalates, which makes it softer and more flexible than Plastic #2.  It can be found in bottles, cling wrap, shower curtains, inflatable toys, car interiors, and vinyl flooring.  It is difficult to recycle.  Manufacture of Plastic #3 releases dioxin into the environment.  Dioxin is a potent carcinogen that accumulates in animals including us.  Plastic #3 also contains phthalates, a hormone disruptor that is linked to reproductive health issues.  It should be avoided.

Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) is a soft, flexible plastic. It is used for plastic bags including shopping bags and garbage bags.  It is one of the safer plastics, but it is a big contributor to environmental pollution and harms marine life.  Many of these bags could be replaced with reusable bags.  Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Plastics 5

Polypropylene (PP) is a hard but flexible plastic with a high resistance to heat.  It is used for drinking straws, caps, and containers.  Plastic #5 is one of the safer plastics, but it contributes to environmental pollution and should be recycled whenever possible.  Plastic #5 is often labeled microwavable and dishwasher safe which means it does not warp when heated.  It does not mean that it is a healthy practice.  It is better to use glass or ceramic containers to heat food.

Plastics 6

Polystyrene (PS) is found in rigid plastics and plastic spoons and forks.  It is also found in Styrofoam which is used for disposable cups and take-away food containers.  Styrofoam takes a long time to degrade and is difficult to recycle.  It is not permitted at the Good Market.  Plastic #6 contains styrene, a known neurotoxin and carcinogen.  It should be avoided.

Plastics 7

Number 7 represents miscellaneous plastics but is most often Polycarbonate (PC).  Polycarbonate is used in water cooler bottles, reusable water bottles, and baby bottles.  It contains Bisphenol-A (BPA) which is a known hormone disruptor.  Polycarbonate should be avoided.  Make sure children’s water bottles and baby bottles are labeled BPA free. ​The #7 code can also be used for newer compostable Bio-Plastics that are made out of corn, potato, or rice.  Avoid #7 unless it is labeled as one of the new Bio-Plastics.