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Front Page » August 4, 2009 » Carbon County News » Consider pros, cons before recycling plastic containers t...
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Consider pros, cons before recycling plastic containers to store edible items, water

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USU Extension writer

Some plastics can be recycled for water or food storage.

However, other plastics contain toxins not suitable for storage.

Still other plastic containers may be difficult to disinfect, allow evaporation or begin to collapse during long periods of time.

In general when determining which plastics can be reused, a good rule of thumb is containers that originally stored food can be safely used for storage purposes, pointed out Kathleen Riggs, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences agent.

The USU Extension family and consumer sciences agent recommended that Carbon County residents consider the following information before opting to recycle containers for food or water storage.

•PET or PETE - Polyethylene terephthalate plastic is listed as number one inside the recycling triangle diagram.

PET plastic is clear, tough, and has gas and moisture barrier properties.

The plastic is commonly used for beverages such as soft drinks, juices and bottled water.

It is also used for foods such as peanut butter, pickles and salad dressing.

People should keep in mind that there will always be a remaining scent in containers that originally stored food with strong odors, advised Riggs.

•HDPE - High density polyethylene is the plastic commonly used for milk bottles, some juice containers and laundry products. It is shown as number two on the triangle code.

The containers can be translucent or colored and are somewhat stiff and well-suited for packaging products with a short shelf life, such as milk.

However, used milk jugs are not well suited as food storage containers, cautioned Riggs.

While the plastic is considered food grade, milk containers are difficult to sanitize properly and the plastic will break down during extended periods od time.

Chlorine bleach containers hold up somewhat better. But if water is stored in the containers, it should be used for purposes other than drinking such as for laundry or dishes.

People should avoid using plastic garbage bags or plastic grocery bags made from the plastic as food storage liners, indicated the USU Extension family and consumer sciences agent.

•PVC - Most people think of plastic pipes when the term polyvinyl chloride is used. The triangle code lists PVC plastic as the number three.

The plastic weathers well, is stable for surrounding electrical cables and is a staple in home window frames, floor tiles and siding. PVC can be used for both food and non-food purposes.

However, people should make certain the container has not been treated for use in industry or construction before storing food in it, cautioned the USU Extension family and consumer sciences agent.

•LDPE - Low density polyethylene plastics are listed as the number four on the triangle code.

The plastics are used for a wide range of items like dry-cleaning as well as bread or frozen food bags and squeezable bottles for mustard.

To recycle the items for food storage, people consider what was in the containers previously and how easily they can be sanitized.

LDPE is probably not the best plastic for long-term food storage.

•PP - Polypropylene is noted as the number five on the triangle code.

The plastic is tough and may be stiff or flexible, noted Riggs. Yogurt containers, margarine tubs and medicine bottles are examples of food grade PP plastic containers.

Polypropylene is also used to make ice scrapers, oil funnels, rakes and pallets along with refrigerator food storage bins.

Polypropylene is a widely used plastic.

•PS - Polystyrene ranks as a number six on the recycling triangle.

It is a rigid plastic or a foam that is clear, hard and brittle. Typical uses include cups, plates, cutlery, egg cartons, meat trays and compact disc jackets.

While PS is widely used in packaging, it doesn't usually come in containers suitable for food storage, commented the USU Extension family and consumer sciences agent.

•Other - The last category is the number seven. The code means that the package is made with a resin other than the first six or is a combination of two or more of the plastics.

Number seven containers are commonly found in three and five gallon reusable water jugs, some citrus juice containers and ketchup bottles.

As a general rule, the most common plastics suitable for food storage are made from number one PET or PETE or combination number seven, concluded the USU Extension family and consumer sciences agent.

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