Add to GuideAsk a Question
To Top

Using Plastics Wisely

Category Advice
It seems impossible to avoid plastics, but people do have choices of the kind and amount of it that they bring home. This guide is about using plastics wisely.
Ad

Solutions

Share on ThriftyFunThis guide contains the following solutions. Have something to add? Please share your solution!

By 0 found this helpful
March 1, 2006

A new generation of disposable plastic has arrived and it's going to revolutionize the way we produce and dispose of thousands of products. Derived from renewable plant-based raw materials, these newly developed plastics are not hazardous to produce and decompose when discarded. So does this mean we've finally seen the last of our conventional, non-biodegradable, toxin-leeching, petroleum-based plastics? Not exactly.

Ad

The Good News

Bioplastics are synthesized from corn, soy, sugar cane and other crops. In North America, two components of corn starch, Mater-Bi and Polyactide, are the most common resins used in the manufacture of bioplastics-usually fashioned into food packaging. Bioplastics are certified "compostable plastics" according to standards set by several international organizations. To become certified, plastics must meet the following conditions:

Biodegradable under the right conditions the plastics must break down into carbon dioxide, water and biomass at the same rate as cellulose (paper).

Disintegrate once fully broken down, you should not be able to distinguish the plastics from other compost.

Eco-Toxicity: as the plastics biodegrade, they must not produce toxic substances and their compost must be able to support plant life.

Ad

In addition to their compostability, unlike petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics are made from fast-growing renewable resources. Unlike most of their conventional counterparts, bioplastics can also be recycled into the same or different products indefinitely.

In addition to their compostability, unlike petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics are made from fast-growing renewable resources.

The Not-So-Good News

Ad

As with every new technology, it takes time to work out the bugs. When given the option, most consumers prefer bioplastics to conventional plastics, usually because they perceive that they are better for the environment. The problem is how to properly dispose of them. Unfortunately, it isn't as simple as setting them out with the recycling or throwing them on top of the garden compost pile.

Bioplastics take different amounts of time to decompose based on the type of plant material used to make them. To speed the process along, they need to be composted in a commercial facility where higher temperatures are reached in a shorter amount of time. Because the majority of the population does not have access to these commercial or industrial composting facilities, many bioplastics end up in landfills. Here, a lack of light, heat and air can keep them from degrading. Recycling isn't currently a viable option either. Until the use of bioplastics becomes wide-spread, most recycling facilities can't justify the cost of accepting them.

Ad

Another concern is that it takes enormous amounts of energy and chemicals to grow and process the corn needed to make these "eco-friendly" substitutes. In addition to the large energy required for production, most of the corn used to make bioplastic has been genetically modified. To address these two concerns, some manufacturers are now purchasing green power to off-set their energy use and are offering GMO-free options to consumers.

How to Use Bioplastic Now

Despite some problems, there are still situations where bioplastics are the best alternative. In the case of outdoor festivals and fairs, for example, vendors cannot usually wash or reuse disposable foodservice items. Bioplastic food containers and service ware (cups, plates, utensils, etc.) can be used, collected and eventually sent to large municipal composting facilities afterwards. Bioplastics garbage bags may also be the best option for yard and garden waste that is destined for municipal composting sites because the bags can biodegrade alongside the plant waste.

Ad

New bioplastic materials and technologies are constantly being invented, perfected and brought to the market. Eventually bioplastics will make up a large percentage of the plastics in the marketplace, helping us reduce our dependence on petroleum and reducing our impacts on the environment.

Comment Was this helpful? Yes

By 1 found this helpful
July 15, 2008

Plastic is everywhere. We eat from it, drink from it, build with it, and our children play with toys made from it. Some of us even wear it. Unfortunately, the production, use, and disposal of plastics are all fraught with serious health and environmental consequences. Since plastics won't be going away anytime soon (give or take 1,000 years in your local landfill), here are some steps you can take to use them more safely.

Understanding the Numbers

Plastics are manufactured from petroleum, and different types of plastics are manufactured for different type of uses. For example, some plastics are made specifically to contain foods and beverages. Others are manufactured for building. Whatever their use, most plastics are stamped with a number between 1 and 7, that codes them according to their ability to be recycled.

Note: The #7 stands for any plastics that fall outside the 1-6 code. While #7 (PLA) is safer, #7 (Other) is dangerous.

The "Safer" Plastics

It isn't the plastics that are so bad, it's the chemicals added to them during the production process that are dangerous to our health. These additives give plastics their various characteristics, like strength, flexibility, rigidity, and so on. No plastics are completely safe to use, because all of them can leach chemical additives. Plastics coded #1 (PETE), #2 (HDPE), #4 (LDPE), #5 (PP), and #7 (PLA)* are currently considered the safest to use (at least for now), because they are the least likely to leach chemical additives into what we eat and drink.

Spotting the "Safer" Plastics

The "Unsafe" Plastics

Plastics coded #3 (PVC), #6 (PS) and #7 (Other) are the plastics to steer clear from. They all contain known or suspected carcinogens seriously detrimental to human health. Ironically, these plastics are also usually not recycled.

Spotting "Unsafe" Plastics

Dos & Don'ts for Using Plastics More Safely

Comment Was this helpful? 1

Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

January 21, 20090 found this helpful

My husband takes the honey in the plastic bear and microwaves the whole plastic container every time he wants to use a little honey. Is this healthy or safe to microwave it so often in this plastic container?

Kathy

Answers

By guest (Guest Post)
January 21, 20090 found this helpful

A lot of people are saying that it isn't safe to microwave plastic. It is fine. You see, plastic is made from petroleum based sources. Over time, it out-gasses, making it brittle. The gasses that it releases aren't the greatest, but they are going to be released whether or not you microwave them. Microwaving it won't hurt anymore than leaving the honey in the container. It would take a very very very long time for it to have a negative effects.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
January 21, 20090 found this helpful

I am guilty of doing this myself. Never thought about safety issues of microwaving the plastic. My problem was that the plastic bottle got too warm and went out of shape--it listed to one side and the bottom was no longer flat--it wouldn't stand upright.

Problem solved--I transferred the honey to an empty glass jelly jar. No more worries about the plastic container. Do the same thing and your husband can microwave all he likes.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Anonymous
January 22, 20090 found this helpful

Certain plastics are indeed carcinogenic when heated in the microwave so you probably should find out what kind of plastic container the honey is in and do a little research about it.

My other thought is that heating and reheating is 'cooking' the honey over and over again and is probably depleting the honey of nutritional value.
Might be best to just transfer the honey in to a large mouth glass jar and scoop out with a spoon.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
January 22, 20090 found this helpful

If you have the plastic that is hard/brittle, misshapen, you have the kind of plastic advised NOT to do this with. If the plastic stays soft and pliable, it is safer. Again, to keep using the microwave, just jar it. Infact, find a bee keeper and get it FRESH. A whole different favor. By the time you buy it in the store it has been so filtered that the flavor from each 'capture of pollen' has gone elsewhere. I have even gotten it from the beekeeper to strain and sort royal jelly, etc. Talk about learning experience and flavor! I buy about 25 lbs a year for family use, cooking, etc. And plain old stick your finger in the jar.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
January 22, 20090 found this helpful

One more info about plastic. There was the recall on certain plastics containing the chemicals that are harmful. As with anything, there are different kinds of plastic. Even baby bottle of certain kinds were found to contain the harmful chemicals.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
January 22, 20090 found this helpful

I myself would think that just squirting out a portion into a glass measuring cup and then microwaving would be better. That's what I do with pure maple syrup on pancake morning. I buy it in a fairly large container that stays in the frig. I just pour some into my small pyrex measuring cup and heat that way. I don't put plastic in the microwave anymore if I can help it. I don't think it's good for the food or the plastic container. Also I would wonder if heating and reheating the whole bottle of honey over and over is good for the honey....not sure about that but why would he need to heat all of it each time?

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
January 22, 20090 found this helpful

Pour the honey into a glass syrup or vinegar carafe and then the plastic wont be an issue. Reheating honey over and over might cause it to crystallize eventually (like cooking sugar or syrup, I'm guessing) but glass is better all around if you ask me.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
January 22, 20090 found this helpful

I also agree that microwaving that bear container is fine. Of course, if it is melting the container, that is not fine, but more for the mess factor than any other reason.

If the honey has been pasteurized, the reheating in the microwave is not going to make any difference to the honey, except to make it liquid.

If the honey has not been pasteurized, heating might destroy some natural "stuff" in the honey, but I personally wouldn't be overly concerned with this.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
January 22, 20090 found this helpful

If he does it too often or too long he's going to melt your little bear! Believe me,,,my poor little bear died that way.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
By guest (Guest Post)
January 23, 20090 found this helpful

No, it is toxic. Try plunging bottle in hot water first. Any plastic microwaved is very toxic.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
By guest (Guest Post)
January 25, 20090 found this helpful

Don't do it! All the research on cancer sites tell you never to microwave anything in plastic as it releases toxins into your food. Only use glass or ceramic/porcelain.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
March 15, 20090 found this helpful

Plastic plus microwave seems like a bad idea to me, we all get enough toxins. I'd put it into a mason jar if it were my honey er guy er both. If you don't have the squeeze thing around then no arguments can ensue. :o)

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Answer this Question...

By 0 found this helpful
September 20, 2010

We purchase water at the grocery store using the large refillable plastic bottles. Is it safe to keep using the same plastic bottle? Thanks.

By Laura from IL

Answers

Anonymous
September 22, 20100 found this helpful

If the recycling code on the bottom of the bottle says 2, 4 or 5 then it is safe for reuse but to be on the safer side I would replace every few months and be sure to wash between refills.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Answer this Question...

By 0 found this helpful
June 27, 2008

As we all know, the amount of plastics produced, purchased and ultimately discarded is vast. In one house alone the number of platic items used in virtually every aspect of home living is astronomical. Many plastics are bad for people's health, as well as being bad for the environment during production, and after the fact in the form of litter. It seems almost impossible to avoid plastics, but do people here have any input on how one might go about reducing the amount of plastic that comes into a home?

Michael from NB Canada

Answers

By guest (Guest Post)
June 27, 20080 found this helpful

Check out this article on care2.com:

http://www.care … sy-greening.html

This website also has other great green living articles as well as an area where you can click to donate (free for you and paid for by sponsors) to different causes.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Answer this Question...
Related Content
Categories
Better Living Green Living AdviceJanuary 30, 2014
Guides
plastic bowls and cups
Safely Using Plastics for Food
cigarette smell computer
Removing Cigarette Smoke Odors from a Computer
Couple moving heavy cabinet
Moving Heavy Furniture
Watering Barrel in front of DownSpout
Watering Wisely
More
🎃
Halloween Ideas!
Facebook
Pinterest
YouTube
Contests!
Newsletters
Ask a Question
Share a Post
Categories
Desktop Page | View Mobile

Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Contact Us

© 1997-2017 by Cumuli, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Published by .

Generated 2017/10/09 14:34:08 in 3 secs. ⛅️️ ⚡️
Loading Something Awesome!