Not All Plastics Were Created Equal – Identifying Safer Plastics

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I’ve become pretty sceptical about plastics in general after having found out that companies can put whatever chemicals they want in their products. Whilst they are more than happy to tell us what isn’t in them, showing us ‘BPA-free’ and if we’re lucky, ‘phthalate -free’ labels, they rarely let us know what their product is actually made from, particularly when it comes to toys and baby products.

Some companies however do endeavour to let us know what plastic they are using, and so I decided that I better educate myself and learn what’s what. I’ve found that there are some safer plastics – ones which maintain their form and function without the need for added chemicals like BPA, BPS, phthalates and lead which are what scared me off plastics in the first place. The safest plastics are made without these toxic additions and have a proven history of being much safer.

Given the choice, I would still always choose wood, stainless steel, silicone or glass. However, avoiding plastic completely isn’t easy and I’m not on a mission to make my life impossible. Without plastic, Isabella’s toybox is much less interesting and diverse and then there’s plastic in all those places that you don’t even think about, from yogurt pots to coffee cups. So to make my life easier, I’d like to know what I don’t have to avoid as well as what I should avoid.

How do you know what type of plastic is in products from bath toys to sippy cups?

Well the companies which are trying to make non-toxic products want to publicise this and will tell you the type of plastics they use in the product description on their website or packaging. If a company doesn’t let you know, I’d steer clear or write to them asking for more information. For storage containers and food products, you’ll be able to see what type of plastic they are by the number in the middle of the recycling triangle made up with arrows ♻️.

So what are the safe plastics?
Plastics ♻️2 (HDPE), ♻️4 (LDPE) and ♻️5 (PP) are the safest of the plastics. These are what yogurt and ice cream containers, milk and juice bottles and safe plastic toys are made from. They don’t need BPA, BPS, phthalates or lead in them for them to have their needed form or function.

Plastic ♻️1 (PET) is used for bottled water and drinks. It’s designed to be single use and begins to break down with heat and detergents, so shouldn’t be reused.

Even though these are safe plastics, they should never be microwaved. Heat can break down plastics, releasing their chemical additives into your food.

The plastics to avoid are:
♻️3 (PVC) – often in bibs, mattress protectors, some cling wraps, pool toys and bath mats. PVC is often softened with phthalates which are hormone disrupting chemicals.

♻️6 (Polystyrene) – used for disposable cups, meat trays and disposable cutlery etc. This can leach a known neurotoxin called styrene. Definitely something to avoid if possible – it certainly made me re-think takeaways!

♻️7 – is a mix of different plastics some of which contain BPA and BPS and some don’t. They each have to be individually researched.

With this list, I now feel much more confident about making safe choices of plastic products when I do buy them. Whilst I will always endeavour to find plastic free alternatives, there are some great products out there which would be a shame to miss out on (including some fantastic toys in Isabella’s toy box! – watch out for the post later this week.)

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