Purging Plastic: If You Can Do Only 3 Things, These Are the Ones

Plastic Containers

Elisabeth is a 13-time Emmy-winner, a critically acclaimed personal finance author and a 20-year consumer advocate for programs such as Good Morning America and The Dr. Oz Show. Connect with her via Twitter @ElisabethLeamy and on her website, Leamy.com.

When we asked two New York families to purge as much plastic as they could from their lives, I felt secretly guilty. You see, I was asking them to do something I myself have not done all the way. And isn’t that modern life? There is so much advice about how to live wisely and healthily that if we tried to follow it all, we’d have little time left to live at all!

Therefore, for those who feel overwhelmed (supermoms, I’m talking to you), here are the top three takeaways about purging plastic. If you do nothing else, do this:

  • Don’t microwave in plastic. By now we all know there are problematic chemicals like BPA and phthalates in many plastics. But the operative word is “in.” As long as those chemicals don’t come out, they are less worrisome to us. That’s why you should avoid microwaving food in plastics, either the packaging the food came in, or your own food-storage containers. Microwaves work on a level that has the potential to disturb the ingredients of the plastic. Solution: Microwave in glass or porcelain containers.
  • Don’t automatically switch to BPA-free plastics. When consumers got worried about BPA, manufacturers started casting about for quick solutions, and in some cases they substituted other chemicals that are even less well understood than BPA. One of those is called BPS and researchers speculate it can have the same harmful health effects as BPA. Solution: Go retro. Try glass or stainless-steel containers instead.
  • Read recycling labels. You know the triangular recycling symbol on the bottom of many plastics? There are seven in all, and experts say you only need to avoid three of them if you want to be vigilant. Recycling #3 is for vinyl and PVC plastics and can often contain phthalates. Recycling #6 stands for polystyrene, otherwise known as Styrofoam. Experts say chemicals are more likely to leach out of this material than others. Recycling #7 is for “other” and includes hard plastics made of polycarbonate. This is where BPA is found. Solution: American stores contain a cornucopia of products. Choose plastics marked with 1, 2, 4 or 5. Or, better yet, avoid plastics altogether by using glass, porcelain, and stainless steel, as noted above.