PET Peeve: Plastic Ain’t Fantastic

A cheesy pop song once said life in plastic is fantastic but it really is not. While it may be convenient and cheaply made and bought, the cost to the environment and your health is far greater. Plastic is toxic. It leaches toxins into your food and drinks, causing hormonal imbalance and contributing to cancers and fertility problems.

Not all plastics are created equal and it’s worth getting clued up on the little numbers on the bottom of bottles and packaging, to make an informed decision and know what you’re inadvertently eating.

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1. PET/PETE is what drinks bottles are made of and it releases hormone disrupting chemicals and antimony, which is a poison that can cause headaches, depression and vomiting in large doses. PET products should only ever be used once and they are recyclable.

2. HDPE is used in milk jugs, cosmetics packaging and food storage containers. It’s made from petroleum, is recyclable and is less reactive than most plastic.

3. PVC is extremely toxic and releases poisonous chemicals constantly. It’s widely used in clothing, furniture and even toys. It’s not easily recycled and doesn’t biodegrade.

4. LDPE is used in plastic bags and food packaging. It’s relatively safe but not very environmentally friendly.

5. PP is used to make yoghurt pots, margarine tubs and takeaway food containers. It’s one of the safer plastics and is easily recycled.

6. Polystyrene is commonly used for takeaway food and drinks containers, but it should be avoided as it leaches cancer-causing chemicals into the container’s contents and even more so at warm temperatures.

7. ‘Other’ plastics are the worst of all as they can contain a combination of all of the above, as well as other unspecified materials, which may not have been tested for safety and pass on a cocktail of chemicals to consumers. Some plastic bags come into this category and even some baby bottles, shockingly enough. One chemical created in these types of plastics is BPA, which disrupts hormones and has been linked to asthma and reproductive abnormalities.

Of course it’s impossible to avoid plastic entirely, but opt for greener and cleaner alternatives if you can. Glass is the perfect container as it won’t affect the contents within and is endlessly reusable and recyclable.

Be mindful of the impact of plastic, as a health hazard and burden on the environment. Check recycling guidelines with your local authority or recycling centre and, as always, be smart, savvy and always read the label.

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