Different types of plastics and which plastics are safe
What you can and can’t recycle
Plastics are everywhere, and in almost everything (whether we think about it or not). So how can we be responsible as consumers when buying goods from washing machines to drink bottles?
What is plastic really? It’s actually a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic materials which are made from the main ingredient referred to as polymers. These substances possess a particular characteristic named plasticity. This typically makes it possible for plastics to be molded, pressed or extruded into various solid shapes. The popularity of plastic can be attributed to the fact can be adapted to many different uses.
Plastics are generally versatile and lightweight, durable and flexible. These qualities have been used for many applications. Bottle manufacturers have long referred to plastics as a life-saving solution in countries with a poor quality water supply. This claim however, is now overshadowed and contested due to the growing awareness around the environmental impact of plastics, and climate change due to the role plastics manufacture has had in adding to the increase of carbon in human-environment. The increasing environmental impact of discarded plastic is clear. The conservative approach to counter the negative impact on wildlife and climate change, means that we need to either limit the use of plastics or use recyclable, long-life products to reduce the amount of single use plastic which can end up in our natural environment.
Why plastic recycling is important
Plastics occur in various forms around us. It is found in water bottles, wraps, car, household appliances, cleaning and beauty or hair products, packaging materials, containers – in many other forms of everyday items. If you really think about how many objects we use that contain plastic, it’s everywhere and it’s almost impossible to avoid. Fortunately, not every plastic is created equal, and it’s as recyclable as it is versatile.
If you choose carefully, you can buy plastic that can be used and reused over and over again. Plastic that you can use for years, plastic that enhances your daily life, saves time, keeps foods fresher for longer, and reduces waste.
If you choose to be part of modern society, buying plastics wisely and responsibly – through an informed and thoughtful process is one way you can do your part for the environment.
Recycling plastics obviously reduces their negative impact on the environment and helps to reduce cost. The somewhat complicated issue is that not all plastics are as recyclable as others. This is why a number which is each plastic’s recycling symbol is usually formed into the mold when manufacturing plastic containers so consumers can find information about their safety and biodegradability. These numbers are referred to as an SPI code. Each plastic type has its SPI code pressed, usually into the base understand the materials used in manufacturing it and so they can be sorted for recycling.
Modern Tupperware is all recyclable and made to an extremely high quality standard. Not only is is safe, durable and multi-use, it’s so popular it gets handed down from generation to generation.
By choosing Tupperware you know it ticks all of the boxes, but lets look at other types of plastic used in everyday products and what you can do with these as far as recycling goes.
Classifying plastics into types based on SPI codes and recyclability
As mentioned above, SPI codes allow consumers to acquire comprehensive information about the manufacturing material and recycling nature of plastics. These codes therefore form the basis on which plastics are classified, especially based on their recyclability. These include;
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET)
This is the most commonly used plastic in beverages bottles, mouthwash and perishable goods. This plastic type was first used in 1940, and it has since been accepted as safe for use although, it absorbs odors and flavors from contents stored in them. This plastic could be dangerous when exposed to heat. For example, if left in a hot car, heat causes antimony to leach out of the plastic and into the liquid content. This might not be so good for human consumption. This plastic type is easily recyclable. This is why most recycling plants accept them and make them into furniture, carpets and fiber for winter clothes. This plastic type is easy to dispose of as well.
High Density Polyethylene
Created by Karl Ziegler and Erhard Holzkamp in the 1950s, this is one of the newest types of plastics, It is the most commonly recycled plastic, thus it has been passed by the FDA as safe for food contact. It has a unique internal structure which positions it much stronger than PET, thus it can be reused safely too. This plastic is also used to store items that can be used outdoors, especially because it does well in both high and freezing temperatures.
When using HDPE, the plastic has a very low risk of leaching chemicals into foods or liquids. Products commonly made from HDPE plastics are milk jugs, body wash bottles, cleaning products container and yoghurt tubs among others. Many children’s toys, planter pots and pipes are also made from this plastic. This is also used in product packaging.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Historically, this is one of the oldest plastics known. Also known as Vinyl, it is a common plastic that usually start out rigid but becomes flexible upon the addition of plasticizers during recycling. The plastic contains a number of harmful chemicals linked to a variety of ailments. Bone and liver diseases as well as development issues in children have been specifically linked with this plastic. Therefore, it is not usually used near foods and drinks. Recycling takes specialized programs where plastic is made into flooring, roadside gutters and paneling materials to name a few. They are however most commonly found in plumbing pipes, tiles and windows products, medical equipment and credit cards. This plastic is seldom recycled.
Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
This plastic is confirmed to have the simplest structure of all plastics, thus it is easier to produce. The ease of production has been linked to why it is being used in the manufacture of the many types of polybags known. It is however very clean and safe, used in packaging, wrapping and transferring of household items like frozen foods. They are occasionally made into squeezable bottles too. In fact, more recycling programmes are beginning to adopt LDPE but it it difficult to recycle. Nonetheless, when recycled, LDPE is regularly made into paneling, furniture, bubble wrap and garbage disposal products.
The most characteristic feature of polypropylene is that it is hard, sturdy and can withstand high temperatures. It was first discovered in a petroleum company and largely considered as a safe plastic. While this plastic can be recycled, it is mostly disposed of. However, when it is recycled, it is turned into heavy-duty items like battery cables and ice scrapers. Many recycling programs will accept polypropylene. It has also been found in car parts, thermal vests, disposable diapers and yoghurt containers among others because it is a safer plastic option.
This plastic is easily recognizable because of its use in beverage cups, insulation and parking materials among others. Like a few plastics mentioned earlier, it is cheap and very easy to create. This is perhaps why it can be found almost everywhere. It was first discovered in Germany in1839 where it is found to be unsafe because it is notorious for leaching harmful chemicals when exposed to heat. It is also known for poor recyclability, hence it is usually thrown away. Some recycling programs accept reluctantly. And when they recycle it, they make polystyrene into items as insulation materials and license plate framing.
Miscellaneous plastics – plastics that are safe for food storage
These plastics generally have the SPI code 7. They typically do not belong in the group of any of the previously mentioned plastic types. They are regarded as dangerous and are extremely hard to recycle because they don’t break down easily. Recycling programs are usually skeptical about accepting it but when they do, they are usually recycled into plastic lumber and specialized products. Miscellaneous plastics contain a toxic chemical called bisphenol or BPA. Although it is considered dangerous, it can still be found in some countries in baby bottles, compact discs, sunglasses and computer casings.
All Tupperware plastic products sold on this website are BPA free and food safe. Even our cookware coatings are free of chemicals that have been associated with health issues.
Tupperware’s Recycling Policy
Tupperware actively recycles and uses recycled plastics in products such as our Recycline range. Our products contain plastic and rubbers, manufactured with very advanced formulas and design, which have been researched and developed over years before being released to the market. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that Tupperware products get passed down generations, reducing the need for single-use plastics. I remember my Nana’s biscuit containers, khaki green and mustard yellow.
When buying our products, people who are conscious of being a responsible consumer, can feel confident in the process and longevity of our products.