Spring Cleaning Carnival: Get the Plastics Out

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SPRING CLEANING BUTTON I’m pleased to feature Beth Terry of My Plastic-Free Life for today’s spring cleaning carnival. She is amazing in her commitment and her knowledge, as you’ll discover by the time you read her story below. Be sure to catch all the past topics and upcoming themes here.

My Plastic Story: From Addict to Activist

Before my awakening in 2007, I was a plastic addict. Requesting plastic grocery bags on purpose, buying a new plastic bottle of water at the gym every day, living on frozen plastic-packaged convenience foods and energy bars, I lived the modern plastic life. Until I didn’t.

In June of 2007, I stumbled across the article and the photo that would change my life. The article was Plastic Ocean, and the photo was of a dead albatross chick, it’s body full of everyday plastic pieces like bottles caps, cigarette lighters, even a toothbrush. And this animal lived nowhere near modern civilization but on Midway Atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from land. Stunned, I realized that my everyday actions could directly affect creatures I hadn’t even known existed. Suddenly, my life had to change.

I committed to living with as little plastic as possible and to research plastic-free alternatives. I created my blog, My Plastic-Free Life, as a way to keep myself on track and to record my discoveries. Each week (now, each month) I collect and tally my own plastic waste. In 2009, I generated just 3.7 pounds — 4% of the national average. And reducing my plastic consumption has not only made me feel better about my life; it’s made me happier as well.

When I started my blog, one of the rules I made for myself was not to buy any new plastic. But I also didn’t want to waste the plastic I already had. I continued to use plastic food containers, for example, because I figured as long as they were already in my kitchen, I might as well make use of them. I don’t do that anymore.

Plastic Food Containers: Not So Great, Actually.

So what’s wrong with eating and drinking from or storing food in plastic containers?

  • BPA: Some plastics are made from toxic ingredients. For example, hard polycarbonate plastic (#7 plastic) (the kind that some baby bottles, reusable drinking bottles, and 5-gallon water bottles are made from) contain Bisphenol-A (BPA), which is an endocrine disruptor that builds up in our bodies over time. Low doses may cause chronic toxicity in humans, posing the highest risk to pregant women, infants, and young children. BPA can leach from plastics into the food and beverages we consume. Read more about BPA here. And also here.
  • Phthalates: Phthalates are found in soft plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC, #3 plastic). Phthalates are used to make rigid plastics soft and pliable, and because they are not chemically bound to PVC, they can easily leach into food. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system. They can cause harm to the reproductive systems of babies and children, and some studies also link phthalates to liver cancer. Read more about PVC/phthalates here.
  • Antimony: Antimony is a catalyst used in making PET plastic (#1), the type of plastic that disposable water bottles and other beverage containers are made from. It’s not clear whether or not antimony poses cancer risks. But studies have found that the chemical may leach from the plastic. Read more about antimony in plastics here.
  • Antibacterials: Recently, antibacterial additives were found to leach out of polypropylene plastic (PP #5) containers, the kind that most of our durable food storage containers are made from. Polypropylene has long been considered a safe, BPA-free plastic. And yet with this new discovery, it’s clear that all plastics can leach chemicals. Read more about antibacterial additives in “safe” plastics.
  • NO Plastic is Safe: The conclusion is that as far as we know, no plastic is safe to eat or drink from. Consumers have no way of knowing what chemicals have been added to the plastics that contain our foods, beverages, or personal care products, because manufacturers are not required to disclose the chemicals they add to the plastics. Read more about organic food in plastic packaging here.

Think about it this way: Many of us buy organic food to ensure we are not ingesting toxic chemicals. And we demand that the label list all of the ingredients in our foods so we can make smarter choices. But there is no label for the chemicals in the plastic container that holds our organic food. How smart is that?

To Be Continued…Getting the Plastic Out

Today (Tuesday, coming soon!) at My Plastic-Free Life I’ll list steps for getting the plastic out of your kitchen, starting with baby steps you can take to avoid the worst plastics. I’ll be giving away a plastic-free baby bottle. I’ll also have a Linky up so you can add any plastic-related posts or articles that you want to share.

Katie’s entry is the Monday Mission this week, where she challenges readers to get into their plastics cupboards and make whatever changes they’re ready to make to evaluate and get rid of plastic storage containers. Don’t tell Beth Terry…but she still has a plastics cupboard. And plastic cutting boards. Seriously – don’t tell Beth. But DO visit her post for the practical steps that everybody loves, the giveaway opportunity, and the linky to join up or visit other people’s fascinating posts. Thanks for “cleaning” with us!

Next week we’re tackling another big health issue: white sugar. Join Donielle of Naturally Knocked Up and I as we look at ways to get the refined sugar out of your diet (even a little less would be great!). See all the upcoming themes (and try to guess what I’ve lined up as giveaways!) here.

GIVEAWAY: Two Stainless Steel Food Storage Containers from Life Without Plastic

I’ve had a good old time reviewing some stainless steel food storage containers from Life Without Plastic, a company that calls Beth Terry their hero! They are the answer to the “what do I pack a school lunch in?” question and have some other fun perks. Check out my review and enter the giveaway here. You can also get an entry for joining up in the carnival at My Plastic-Free Life today!


Don’t miss the rest of the star-studded carnival line-up! Sign up for a free email subscription or grab my reader feed. You can also follow me on Twitter or get KS for Kindle.

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45 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. says

    Ha, Katie. I still have a cupboard full of plastic too. But the stuff just sits there, reminding me of what my life used to be like. It’s kind of like a museum, actually.

    We don’t still have the plastic cutting boards, though. Well, actually, I do. But they’re in my plastic stash, for educational purposes. :-)

    Life Without Plastic rocks. Can’t wait to read your review.
    .-= Beth Terry @ Fake Plastic Fish´s last blog ..Green: Are Some Shades More Selfish Than Others? =-.

  2. Emily Lorenz says

    Here’s my question: what to do about bottle nipples? Are silicone better? I guess for the few times they would be used here, I could live with it, but would rather not.

  3. Karin says

    Thanks for sharing about this … and for all the helpful links! I am motivated to move the “kids’ dishes” (all plastic) out of the kitchen and on to playtime.

  4. says

    I am sick of feeling guilty for getting rid of what looks like perfectly good food containers! I want them all out! Give me glass or stainless steel, please.
    Do you think it would be ok if I just store nuts or raisins in them in the cupboard?

  5. says

    What I mean is, I want to try and use what I have as safely as possible, so if I could repurpose some of the containers I would feel better about the ones I am getting rid of!

  6. Heather says

    Here’s a question that I never see addressed in articles about plastic: Where does old-fashioned melmac fall? It doesn’t seem to be used as much anymore, probably because too much microwaving will make it explode (I have seen), but we have dishes, especially kid dishes, made from it. If you don’t know what melmac is, think of the trays used for school lunch (at least in the ’80’s, when I went to school). My kids are 1 & 3. Definitely not time for glass, yet–not even that “kid pyrex” I saw being sold the other day. Also, I do have to keep stuff like this very budget-friendly. My next choice would probably be enamel-on-steel, for kid dishes.

  7. says

    So I’m with you kicking out the plastic, in fact I’m in love with mason jars BUT here are my issues. What about freezing bulk meat in non-plastic? I have a love/hate relationship with freezer paper and tape so I need an alternative. How do you avoid plastic when you buy a drink while out on errands? (Bringing a drink isn’t always an option)

  8. says

    We actually don’t store bulk meat. We eat very little meat in the first place (I don’t eat any at all now, and my husband eats it very moderately.) We bring our own stainless steel container to the butcher counter for ground turkey for our cats. And when Michael buys meat for himself, he brings another stainless steel container for it.

    Buying a drink while out: I always have my travel mug with me. If I forget it, I don’t buy a drink. Or I find a water fountain. Or I find some place with durable cups/glasses where I can sit down for a second. Or I just wait until I get home. I’ve learned that being thirsty won’t kill me, and it will help me remember my mug the next time.
    .-= Beth Terry @ Fake Plastic Fish´s last blog ..Reducing Plastic Waste: March 2010 Collection Results =-.

  9. Amanda W says

    I am VERY impressed with the plastic cutback you’ve done. I can’t even imagine that world yet, trying, but not there. With one toddler and one on the way, it seems like there is plastic in everything, even when we try to buy less, consume less, and buy second hand. It’s everywhere. You give me hope!

  10. says

    This is all good info – my primary food storage is mason jars. I must admit that I still use plastic. I use much less than I used to but today I can’t see life without saran wrap. Seriously. How does one pack a sandwich and send it off to work with her husband without saran wrap? I have to pack a lot of my meals and they wouldn’t fare well in mason jars.

    Switching from plastic to glass is something that I know I need to do but it’s like everything else – it requires time and commitment. Baby steps for me!! (and I still don’t think I’ll give up my saran wrap….)
    .-= Amy @ Simply Sugar & Gluten Free´s last blog ..Slightly Indulgent Tuesday 4/6/10 =-.

    • says

      Hi Amy. There are some great alternatives for sandwiches these days.

      You can go for metal, for instance. LunchBots are great for sandwiches:


      Or you could go for cloth, like Graze Organics:


      And you can also find handmade reusable cloth sandwich bags via Etsy.
      .-= Beth Terry @ Fake Plastic Fish´s last blog ..Where Should Fake Plastic Fish Live? =-.

    • Anita says

      ah, I have a potential answer to the wrap the sandwich and cling wrap issue. Now I try to use more wax paper-the bags for sandwiches. And I will actually put wax paper over the plate or bowl and then the cling wrap if I really want to properly cover it. Was paper and a rubber band to hold in place? Or lots of time I can just put a plate over a bowl-my salad plate are just the right size for a couple of my bowls that I cool broth or other cooked food in.

      now that I am trying to contain my carb consumption (calories!) I often plop some leftovers into my tiffin tin that I brought home from India-then I get to use my souvenir and avoid plastic and be correctly using a re-usable container. Triple smug! One can buy tiffin tins here-I see them from time to time in those kinds of shops that have cute stuff, foodie type food, etc. And of course online!

      • says

        Yes to saucers as lids. We often store leftovers in bowls with saucers or small plates on top. The beauty is that you can then stack something else on top. Can’t do that with plastic wrap or wax paper.

        We don’t keep our leftovers long enough to need any other kind of lid. Or if it’s something we won’t be eating for a while, we put it in a glass jar or metal airtight container in the freezer. But usually, our food is gone before we need to do that.
        .-= Beth Terry @ Fake Plastic Fish´s last blog ..Natural Flea Killer. Need Help! =-.

  11. says

    Simple in France — I do talk a little bit about plastic stuff you already own in the follow-up post on Fake Plastic Fish. Repurposing to hold other things besides food is my best idea. Or you could put on Freecycle to donate to a local artist. Or see if schools in your area want them for holding supplies and for art projects.

    Heather, plastic kids’ toys are indeed an issue. You might want to check the web site ZRecommends for info on safer toys for kids.
    .-= Beth Terry @ Fake Plastic Fish´s last blog ..No More Plastic Food Containers, Please! =-.

  12. Frances says

    Thank you for this post! I watched the whole video and appreciated it very much – Beth is a great example. Definitely thinking about that glass straw – I had never seen one before…

  13. Sonia says

    Your plastic reduction is amazing. We are decreasing the plastic we generate as well. We use cloth grocery bags and have even made some of our own produce bags. We store food in stainless steel or glassware but are still increasing our stash of those items. Some places are harder though. Our bulk store only allows you to use their bags/containers (plastic). I try to just reuse the ones we already have though.

  14. says

    so right about the “if it is there, why don’t I just use it.” Already crossed off my spring cleaning check-list…get the plastic plates and cups out of my kitchen. I have found mason jars work well as cups, and are less breakable for toddler use.
    What about using plastics in things like the food processor? does this contain bad stuff?

    • Katie says

      I actually called the company on a food dehydrator to check what kind of plastic it was – no. 5, generally thought to be safe, although new research is showing maybe it’s a problem. The thing is, you do need some time for leaching to happen, and heat speeds it up, so most likely for a food processor you won’t have either. If it’s something you store things in or gets heated up, it’s good to check into it: avoid nos. 3, 6 and some 7s completely!
      :) Katie

    • says

      I do have a food processor that I got before I started reducing my plastic. The pitcher is made from polycarbonate, which contains BPA. So I use that food processor very rarely and never for anything hot. I use my blender more often, which has a glass pitcher. However, I do like to make pesto and hummus, both of which are really hard to do in the blender. Z Recommends has a write up about food processors and blenders and which ones are safer than others:

      .-= Beth Terry @ Fake Plastic Fish´s last blog ..How Fair Is Your Sugar? And How ‘Bout All That Plastic? =-.

  15. Anita says

    A bunch of random thoughts:

    If you are trying the baby step approach to weaning from plastic by reducing your worst exposures a small comfort is that if the food is cool not so much bad stuff leaches out. Until one is fully weaned be careful to cool food before putting into plastic. If you are using a food processor the food isn’t in there for very long and is generally at room temperature. I am telling myself as I transition to not plastic that frozen is relatively stable and that is probably the last set of containers I need to stop using. As long as I put only cooled food into the containers. And don’t thaw in hot water! I try to freeze food that has a higher fat content in glass.

    Reading these posts I just realized that the plastics issue may be why stainless steel immersion blenders are now the norm-I was only thinking about my LeCreuset pots getting scratched using a stainless immersion blender in soups. Now I have the plastics issue to balance that concern! Guess I will replace mine with stainless steel when it dies.

    Try shopping for an electric teakettle that is all stainless steel. The ones that are not plastic have a plastic water level viewing window. Which starts leaking shortly after the warranty expires as well as leaching plasticizers! Double bad.

    The best baby step may be to start with protecting your children. Children are much more vulnerable than adults and their systems can’t detoxify as much or as easily.

    I have begun using straight sided canning jars in the freezer and so far I have been careful enough and lucky enough not to break one. It does take more care not to overfill and more forethought to thaw food out. My biggest challenge is to manage my freezer to avoid avalanche conditions when I open the door!

    Depressing thought re freezer paper-it is all lined with plastic now, not wax like the good old days.

    We live in a plastic world and our culture is that government regulations to protect the people are bad. Get the government out of business is the second most popular political line after reduce taxes.

    And while we are on the get get plastic out of our bodies issue think about “new car smell”-my last new car gassed off for over a year! People would get in and go “oooo, still smells new!”. Like that was a good thing.

    The new refrigerators have more drawers (altho plastic, not metal like my old frig). When I have to switch I am going to try layering my veggies into the drawers with cloth tea towels and hope the better humidity management of the newer refrigerators will keep produce as crisp and fresh as plastic bags. I could I sew up tea toweling bags but….so far this hasn’t gotten very far up my to do list!

    • Katie says

      Love your randomness! I wondered about freezer paper…I guess we could double line with waxed paper.

      I have been noticing all the plastic in the world much, much more after this series. It’s crazy! I don’t think Beth Terry would fare so well being plastic free if she had kids, though. The kids’ plastic stuff is crazy (and not just toys).

      Thanks for your thoughts!
      :) Katie

  16. nadr says

    Does anyone know about plastic toddler pools? Are there any on the market not made of the “bad” plastic or any other material?


    • Katie says

      I’ve never looked into that, probably because my kids won’t be consuming the water in the pool (well…typically). 😉 Let’s see what others have to say…

      :) Katie

  17. Hilary Bataille says

    Hello all,

    In an effort to be clean and organized in our kitchen, we just went to IKEA and bought like 15 PLASTIC food storage containers. Then the plastic question popped into my mind and I thought immediately of this blog. Oopies, bad purchase. So my question is, is ANY glass OK? Would this be a good alternative to food

    Also, when it comes to things pre-packaged in plastic should you not buy them in the first place, or should you just re-organize them into glass when they come home from the grocery store. (I’m thinking milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, and dry cereals — we can’t afford the milk in glass bottles!)


    • says

      Hi Hilary!
      Arg, buyer’s remorse! :( Any glass is all good, yes, and those containers look cute. If they fit your needs, awesome! But I will say that for food storage for DRY goods like rice and dry beans and grains, I end up with a lot of them in plastic and I don’t worry about it. Dry goods aren’t going to leach much if anything out of the plastic, and if my lazy Susan was filled with all glass, I think it might get too heavy!

      I don’t bother repackaging things I buy in plastic either – you can only do so much, and if there’s going to be any leaching, it’s already happened/happening in the store. Although I do make my own yogurt in glass jars of course! http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2012/05/29/making-homemade-yogurt-easy-picture-tutorial/

      Hope this helps ease your stress a little bit – it’s awesome to do what you can to ditch the plastics, but it’s also important to accept that you can’t avoid everything, all the time.
      :) Katie

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