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Plastics: Practical Suggestions

  • Practice safe microwaving. A microwavable or microwave-safe label only means that the product will not melt, crack, or fall apart when heated. These labels do not guarantee that the containers will not leach chemicals into foods when heated. It is best to heat foods in ceramics or oven-proof glass dishes with lids instead of plastic.
  • Buy plastic wraps free of suspect plasticizers or buy polyethelene wrap. For a guide to information about different plastic wraps and everyday food storage containers, go to
  • If in doubt about the contents of a plastic product, call the manufacturer.
  • Know your numbers and the least toxic plastic alternatives. Often found on the bottom of plastic bottles, other containers, and shopping bags, the numbers and letters shown with the chasing-arrows "recycling" symbol mean the following:
    • #1 PETE or PET (polyethylene terephthalate): used for most clear beverage bottles.
    • #2 HDPE (high density polyethylene): used for "cloudy" milk and water jugs, opaque food bottles.
    • #3 PVC or V (polyvinyl chloride, vinyl): used in some cling wraps (especially commercial brands), some "soft" bottles. Contains plasticizers (phthalates and DEHA). Avoid Use.
    • #4 LDPE (low density polyethylene): used in food storage bags and some "soft" bottles.
    • #5 PP (polypropylene): used in rigid containers, including some baby bottles, and some cups and bowls.
    • #6 PS (polystyrene, styrofoam): used in foam "clam-shell"-type containers, meat and bakery trays, and in its rigid form, clear take-out containers, some plastic cutlery and cups. Made from styrene and P-nonylphenol, both suspected endocrine disruptors. Polystyrene may leach styrene into food it comes into contact with. Avoid Use.
    • #7 Other (usually polycarbonate): used in 5-gallon water bottles, some baby bottles, some metal can linings. Polycarbonate can release its primary building block, bisphenol-A, another suspected hormone disruptor, into liquids and food. Avoid Use.