Saturday, August 22, 2009

Plastic - Get Smart

So I'm posting on the weekend because some days I just want to shout to the world about things that bug me.  And lately it's plastic.  It is such an integral part of our lives.  Look around.  Where don't you see plastic?  And yet, most of us don't realize it is not good for us.  Not in any way, shape or form.  Plastics are derived from chemicals.  Chemicals and our bodies?  Not good.

I gave up bottled water at the beginning of the year.  It was my way of using less (and heck, I've got perfectly good tap water that I buy a filter for), and I know that plastic leaches chemicals into anything it comes in contact with.  My usual thing was to buy those half-size bottles (aren't they cute!) and sneak into the movie theatre because I wasn't about to lay out $3.50 for their bottled water.  Well, now I have a Klean Kanteen and stick that in my purse when I go to the movies.  

If you do one thing good for yourself today, get yourself a stainless steel water bottle and stop using plastic bottles.  And check for a reputable manufacturer like Klean Kanteen.  Their bottles are not lined with BPA (as some are; you can't buy just any old steel bottle from Walmart).  BPA (Bisphenol A) is another of those nasty chemicals that is in the process of being banned from baby bottles.  It is a xenoestrogen, a known endocrine disruptor, meaning it disturbs the hormonal messaging in our bodies.  (It is linked to breast cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, and insulin resistance)   Yet BPA is used in an epoxy-liner by food manufacturers that puts their product in plastic or metal to line that container to make the food come out easier.  Seriously.  ALL metal cans, such as pop, canned veggies, beans, etc., are lined with BPA (or similar chemical)  Eden Foods is the only manufacturer (at present) that does not line their cans with BPA (except for their tomato products).  

Okay, back to plastics.  So do you really want to toss yet another plastic bottle into the trash?  Didn't think so.  And if you absolutely cannot kick the habit, then recycle.  But next time you take a swig from a plastic bottle, take a moment to wonder about the various chemicals used to create that plastic and what, exactly, those chemicals do inside your body.

Now a primer on plastic numbers:

#1 PET - Polyethelene terphthalate.  It is used most often in soda bottles.  It is designed for one use only, and does leach BPA. 

#2 HDPE - high-density polyethylene.  This one is considered a 'safe' plastic (though, seriously, I wouldn't put that label on any plastic).  Milk jugs and water bottles, and shampoo and detergent bottles.  This are made of harder plastic and are not supposed to leach BPA.  

#3 V or PVC - polyvinyl chloride.  The dreaded PVC that is the worst of the numbered plastics.  Avoid at all costs.  It is used for plumbing pipes and shower curtains and some clear food packaging.  These plastics can be made soft and are used in children's toys.  Very toxic and designed, generally, for one usage before they must be tossed.  Difficult to recycle.

#4 LDPE - low-density polyethylene.  Usually you'll find these as bread bags and in packaging materials.  (Received anything from Amazon lately, it probably had those blow-up, pillow packing bags.)  Can easily be recycled at sites that take plastic bags.  Check the numbers on all your grocery products.  You may be throwing away #4s that can be recycled!

#5 PP - polypropylene.  This one is considered the next 'safe' plastic after # 2.  You'll find this holding yogurt, margarine and TV dinners.  It should not leach, either.

#6 PS - Polystyrene.  Styrofoam-like plastic product that most recyclers dread because this ends up in landfills and animals' tummies far too often.  You'll find it in take-out food containers.  

#7 OTHER - The dreaded OTHER plastic.  Don't buy this stuff.  It's got a mix of chemicals and could be made of literally anything.  Obviously plastic manufacturers are so baffled by what it contains they just call it 'other'.  It does contain BPA.  Doesn't make you feel too good, eh?  Know where you'll find it most often?  Holding your freshly-bought roast beef.  Yep, you heard that right.  The sturdy plastic meat trays that you can often put directly in the oven.  Ugg.  I've stopped buying meat in plastic.  Buy it fresh from the butcher's counter and give your body a break from those chemicals.

Now, of the above plastics, you can easily recycle #1 and 2 at your curbside.  So what do you do with the others?  Check your city recycling programs.  Most will take #1-6.  Our city does.  I make a run there about once very two months with the numbers you can't recycle at the curb, including plastic bags.  Unfortunately, no one takes the dreaded OTHER #7.  Sigh...  

And a note about the plastic caps and covers.  Most recycling plants remove the caps and toss them.  They jam up their machines.  So there's a huge pile of plastic not getting recycled.  Did you know the Aveda salons will take those caps?  Yep!  Yay, for them!  So save your plastic caps and make a run to the salon every other month.  You can recycle all hard plastic caps, including shampoo caps, juice, milk, detergent, peanut butter, etc.  You can't recycle the flexible covers like cottage cheese or cream cheese covers (unless the cover has a number; check all plastic for recycle numbers!).

So I'm not trying to freak everyone out with messages of doom.  You do the research.  You decide for yourself what is good for you and yours.  I dropped my plastic bottle habit this year, but I admit, it's very hard to buy groceries NOT in plastic.  So now I'm always careful to check the number before buying that product.  Lots of deli meats are packaged in #7!  But many are also packed in #5, which I consider a lesser of the evils.  :-)

Anyway, why not start getting plastic savvy?  The trip to the grocery is tedious, but you can add a little plastic sleuthing to shake up the dreary trip.  Oh, and just because it's in the organic section doesn't mean you have to be less leery.  I've found organic products in #3 plastics.  It baffles me. And you're not carrying home your groceries in plastic, I hope. Start carrying your own bags to any store you shop in. Today. Once it becomes a habit, you'll never grab a plastic bag again.

Here's a great blog to add to your blog crawl in the mornings if you want to begin to learn more about your health, food, and the products we use every day, and how they are all connected: Enviroblog

Now here's a trailer for a new film TAPPED that is fascinating in and of itself.  I hope you'll watch the whole thing; it is five minutes long.  It's interesting!

So what about you? What's your take on plastic?


Jill Sorenson said...

Wow, Michele! I have never heard of this chemical. I'm cringing because I often reuse plastic containers (esp water bottles) and I had no idea any of them could be considered unsafe. Holy smokes. This has been very eye-opening, thanks.

Michele Hauf said...

Wow, Jill, it surprises me when people say they haven't heard about plastics! I'm glad I put up this post if just to get one person interested in learning more about the thing we use every day of our lives.

catslady said...

Wonderful blog. I do know something about it but I didn't have all the definitions for each plastic so thank you very much. I have a nephew who lives and breathes recycling. My community only does #1 and #2 but he knows where to recycle 3, 4, and 5. Unfortunately 6 and 7 don't have anywhere that we know of. I rarely use and drink bottled water. I think it's the result of our throw away culture which I abhor!

Michele Hauf said...

Catslady, i used to drink bottled water all the time. But it's finally dawning on me. When did we decide it was fine to pay outrageous sums for bottled water when we already get it free from our taps? I know, some people live in areas where the tap water tastes awful. Do filters help the taste? We use a filter, but our water tastes fine to begin with.

Anyone out there have icky tap water? Do you use bottled water? Does a filter change the taste?

Kathleen O said...

I have stopped buying plastic when ever I can. I do not buy cases of water anymore, I use my Brita system for my drinking water. I got so I didn't like to always be lugging in a case of water all the time. I also do not use plastic bags when grocery shopping. I use my cloth bags. At the cottage we use our water jug system, you know those 5L ones you can buy and take back and refill.
I never really did like drinking from a bottle I always prefer a glass.

Michele Hauf said...

Kathleen, I used to love the Brita filter too. I just tasted 'slickery'. So nice.

Tori Lennox said...

I live on Diet Coke, so I was thrilled when the Powers That Be here in Hooterville decided to start collecting recyclable stuff. Not as much as they SHOULD but at least they're making an effort.

Our local water tastes awful to me, so my parents have been going out to my cousin's farm to get water from their well. It tastes VASTLY superior.

Cindy Gerard said...

Thanks for the post, Michele - REALLY. I've recycled for years - even before it was 'fashionable' and while environment was one of my top priorities for doing so, I'm simply big on conserving ANYTHING. We have to carry water to our cabin (where we are now!!) when we go because our only water source in the cabin is lake water. It's beautiful and clear as glass but we don't drink it because, well, you know what fish do in it :o) So bottled water is simply too convenient although we do bring several gallon jugs of tap water with us.
I'm really interested in the Klean Kantin, though for the dh as he takes juice with him every day in a plastic bottle when en goes to work. I'm going to get him one of those.
Thanks again.

Michele Hauf said...

Cindy, I love my Klean Kanteen. Got one for the hubby too to stick in his lunch box. And it comes in a manly stainless steel for him and a pretty pink for me. :-)

Aly said...

I am not allowed to answer this question since I work for a polymers company. Now we make high end polymers that are in things like the iPhone, fuel lines for vehicles, dialysis filters and many others and not your everyday plastics. I will say that we do also have some baby bottle customers so the BPA thing is high on our radar...

I do agree with 90% of the concerns regarding plastics!

Wonderful research and information Michele!

Johnny Lucid said...

Sure, you're cool chicks who rock and roll, but it's very clear you didn't take any science courses.

Flying Nun said...

Johnny is quite right. Your "facts" are wrong and you clearly don't understand science.