Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Do you know your plastics ?


I read labels and now I turn it upside down before I make a decision as to the products I place in my trolley !

You will have noticed a number stamped into the bottom of products that you have purchased off the supermarket shelf and accompanying consumable packaging. These numbers represent a plastics identification code. A healthy home helper …

The Plastics Identification Code continues to be one of the most successful and enduring Product Stewardship programs run by industry. The simple, effective "1 to 7" numbering system identifies the resin composition of plastic containers (and other items intended for recycling). This voluntary coding system has been a key element in the successful collection, recovery and management of used plastics in Australia.” (PACIA)

The plastics coding scheme used and administered by PACIA is a voluntary initiative and although it assists consumers to effectively recycle plastic consumables it also allows us to identify the type of plastic materials that our products are made from or packaged in. These identification codes can assist us to avoid plastics that may contain ingredients that have been linked with health concerns.

Code 3 – PPVC or UPVC (polyvinyl chloride – plasticised and un-plasticised)
Commonly used for food storage bottles such as cooking oil, cordials, shampoo and detergents, including some food wrappings.
TIP : Considered the most damaging to the environment of all plastics and can leach phthalate chemicals that have been linked to many health concerns. Avoid PVC items.

Code 6 – PS or UPS (polystyrene and expanded polystyrene)
Commonly a ridged plastic used for take away containers, white ridged coffee cups, meat trays, plastic utensils.
TIP : Polystyrene can leach styrene a possible human carcinogen

Code 7 – PLA or polylactic acid -  Used for “Other” incorporating new plastics. Items may include baby bottles..
TIP :  Code 7 represents items that are not recyclable and given the unknown better to avoid.

Code 1 – PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)
Commonly used for soft drink & fruit juice bottles & medicine containers.
TIP : repeated use of the same plastic could cause leaching of DEHP a chemical that has been linked to endocrine (hormonal) disruption.

Code 2 – HDPE (high density polyethylene)
Commonly used for detergent bottles, juice, milk , sports bottles.
TIP : This plastic is a better alternative to number 7 that may also be used for the same products.

Code 4 – LDPE (low density polypropylene)
Commonly soft flexible plastic such as used for garbage bags, wrapping films, thin plastic carry bags.
TIP : Considered reasonably safe but avoid heating

Code 5 – PP (polypropylene)
Commonly a hard but flexible plastic that is used for food packaging such as ice cream and dairy/dessert containers, drinking straws.
TIP : Considered reasonable safe but avoid heating

Plastics contain phthalate chemicals (softeners) and other ingredients that have been linked to health concerns. Bisphenol A (BPA) is one ingredient that has been linked to disruptive hormonal concerns, early puberty in girls, developmental toxicity for fetuses and children. There are many reports that raise concerns over the cumulative effects of chemicals that can leach or off gass from plastic products.

Many argue that our lives have been enhanced and made much easier with the use of plastics. There is much to be said for the lack of testing on chemical migration from plastic to humans and the perpetual impact these products have on our environment and human health.

Opt for natural products and fibres where possible, choose glass, ceramic and stainless steel as alternatives for food storage. Support manufacturers and suppliers who consciously support plastic alternatives as they are looking after you and the planet for your children. Your purchasing decisions, daily practices and habits in the home with plastics may be impacting on your health. Creating a healthy home supports good health and the health of the environment.

Monday, April 12, 2010

BAGS ! Not so fab plastics ....

Plastic, plastic everywhere, but if you look and stare, it stays the same.....look and stare.....

Ok, I admit I have seen a little too much playschool, the above an adapted tune from music time.
Major stores in Australia have introduced a fee for shoppers to take home a plastic bag, but is this really making a big difference ?  Perhaps it would make people feel more encouraged to know that using alternatives to plastic bags is great for human health as well as the health of the environment and in some cases aids the financial health of small underprivileged international communities where bag products are made in countries such as India, Indonesia and Bangladesh.
Alternatives to plastic bags use more material and energy to make than plastic bags. Research at RMIT University found that a reusable (green shopper bag) is only more environmentally friendly than a plastic bag when it is used more than 100 times. I recently read in an inflight magazine that Philip R Rozenski, a director at US based Hilex Poly Co (largest plastic bag recycling plant), claims that reusable bags are used on average less than eight times before being thrown out.

So it is not very helpful for us to get a momentary urge to buy reusable bags and then leave them in the cupboard or the car. We need to buy quality reusable bags,  use them often, look after them and get longevity from the products we buy. Owning reusable bags and not using them equates to excessive energy consumptions and contribution to waste.

The Good news is that reusable natural fiber bags made from Jute are not toxic to the environment, not toxic to food, do not emit toxic VOCs and can be put into the compost bin when you are finished with them.