Purging the Plastic

 Posted by on March 21, 2011  Add comments  Tagged with:
Mar 212011

In the last week, I did something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I got rid of my plastic food storage containers, and my two, very well-used non-stick pans. These were my last holdouts, because the rest of my cookware is stainless steel, and my bakeware is anodized aluminum. Anodization prevents the transfer of aluminum to food, and these pans produce excellent quality baked goods, but I prefer stainless steel, so I hope to replace them as funds permit.

Apparently, somewhere along the way I decided that I needed a gazillion plastic containers to store leftovers in, but recent concerns about the inevitable transfer of BPA and phthalates from plastic to food (combined with DJ’s penchant for scattering plastic containers and lids all over the house), pushed me to make the switch to glass. Also, I think that foods and beverages stored in glass just taste better, because glass is non-porous and doesn’t absorb odors. I can’t stand drinking from plastic cups, because I always think they have an off smell.

Last year, I went through all of our plastic cups and water bottles, and kept only those with numbers 2, 4, or 5, which are the safest food grade plastics. We then had a shortage of non-breakable cups for the little ones to use, so I bought a set of 6, BPA-free plastic cups. When the kids get older, and can be trusted not to drop and break cups and glasses, I plan to get rid of the plastic ones altogether.

I already store most of my pantry staples, such as pasta and rice, in glass canisters, and I have a set of round, nesting Pyrex bowls with lids, which I’ve been using for leftover storage. For small amounts of leftovers, I’ve been saving small, wide-mouth food jars, which I soak to remove the labels, and then run through the dishwasher. This one was handy for storing a small amount of leftover spaghetti sauce.

For now, I’m not going to purchase more glass containers, because I want to wait and see how we do with what we have. If I do buy more, I’m going to go with a set like this:

Also, I must admit that with all of those pesky containers and lids gone, I’m really enjoying my spacious, orderly cabinets. I’m not eager to fill them up with more stuff again.

After I went through our plastics, I found about a half dozen containers that were still like new, so I put them in the consignment store bin. The others showed signs of deterioration, so my husband is going to use some in his shop to organize his vast array of nuts, bolts, screws, and other small pieces and parts. The rest will be recycled.

If you’re not quite ready to part with your plastic, here are some safety tips:

* Don’t microwave food in plastic containers. Transfer it to a microwave-safe plate, and use a paper towel, instead of plastic wrap, to cover it.
* Avoid plastic containers with the numbers 3 or 7, and don’t reuse plastics with the number 1 (IE: soda and water bottles). They are single-use only. Consider a stainless steel water bottle that you can fill at home, and use over and over (I just bought one on sale for only $3.99).
* If you use plastic baby bottles, make sure they’re BPA-free, and don’t heat them.
* Consider storing leftovers in glass containers, instead of plastic.
* Discard scratched or worn plastic containers, and those that show deterioration, such as pock marks from acids or grease.
* If you or someone in your family takes a sack lunch to work or school, wrap sandwiches in waxed paper instead of plastic wrap.
* If possible, avoid storing fatty or acidic foods in plastic containers, as these foods deteriorate plastic and cause more chemical leaching.
* Hand wash plastics, instead of putting them in the dishwasher, as the high water temperature breaks down plastic.