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The 7 Most Common Plastics and How They are Typically UsedShare

Which plastic numbers are safe?
Understanding different types of plastics is crucial when making decisions on items for your family and home. We offer a variety of safe plastic food containers and reusable BPA-free water bottles, and each product page contains details on the materials used.

What follows is a general outline of most types of plastics (check out the bottom of many standard plastic products to see what number they're classified as) along with their most common uses.

#1 Plastics: Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE)

Common uses: 2-liter soda bottles, single-use water bottles, cooking oil bottles, peanut butter jars, etc.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, PET or PETE plastic is commonly understood as safe. Some studies, such as those published in Environmental Health Perspectives, contend that PET has been shown to leach endocrine disruptors into contents under some conditions during common use, such as use during prolonged high temperature.

Similarly, according to an article from the Journal of Environmental Monitoring, water stored in PET bottles remains within the EU's permissable limit of toxin levels even when stored in temperatures up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The same article argues that after storing water at room temperature for approximately a year, levels of toxins such as phthalates and antimony may exceed the EU limit. So, though it's primarily safe for single-use, we recommend not reusing, refilling or reheating.

What is recycled PET or PETE?
Because of its recyclability, value in the market and the large amount of PET that is produced and eventually thrown away, recycling PET and using that material to produce other products (like textiles and other fabrics) is easier to do than with other plastics.

explore recycled PET eco-friendly products >   

#2 Plastics: High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

Common uses: detergent bottles, yoghurt tubs, milk jugs, bottle caps, backpack frames, hard hats, hula hoops, etc.

HDPE is a sturdy and reliable non-leaching translucent plastic; it's a stiffer and "milkier," non-transclucent plastic. HDPE resists UV penetration, which can damage and discolor the plastic. Dishwasher-safe and able to withstand temperatures from -148 to 176° F (-100 to 80° C), it's ideal for beverage and food storage containers.

see common HDPE plastic products >

#3 Plastics: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

Common uses: plastic pipes, Saran wraps, outdoor furniture, flooring, siding, etc.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, vinyl chloride, vinyl products and polyvinyl chloride plastic is classified as a human carcinogen. Acute exposure to higher levels of PVC through inhalation has been shown to result in a variety of effects on the central nervous system, such as dizziness, headaches, giddiness and drowsiness.

For this reason, we do not recommend products made from PVC for food storage.

find PVC-free and safe food storage alternatives >

#4 Plastics: Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

Common uses: plastic film, grocery bags, dry cleaning bags, produce bags, trash can liners, food storage containers.

According to the British Plastics Federation, LDPE plastic is highly resistant to breakdown due to chemicals from acid, oils, greases, alcohols and more. Too, the Recycling Operators of New Zealand point out that recovered LDPE packaging is capable of being recycled in new products. Most research has not shown leaching of carcinogens or hormone-disrupting checmicals Flexible, impact-resistant and tough, it's approved for use with food and beverages.

explore more ways LDPE is used >

#5 Plastics: Polypropylene (PP)

Common uses: bottle caps, food containers, drinking straws, etc.

As the Environmental Working Group points out, polypropylene is not classifiable nor likely to be a human carcinogen, not suspected to be an environmental toxin and not suspected of being bioaccumulative. BPA-free, polypropylene is commonly used for injection molding. Its durability makes polypropylene plastic a good option for reusable bags and food and beverage storage.

see more everyday polypropylene items >

Plastic #6: Polystyrene (PS)

Common uses: packaging pellets or "Styrofoam® peanuts," cups, plastic tableware, meat trays, to-go "clam shell" containers.

Harvard's Polystyrene Fact Sheet, among other sources, identifies numerous environmental impacts of polystrene, such as urban litter, marine debris, wildlife detriments when ingested and many more. Futhermore, the California Integrated Waste Management Board contends that polystyrene food containers leach the toxin Styrene when they come into contact with warm foods or drinks, alcohol, oils and acidic foods—causing human contamination and posing a potential healthy risk to people who come into contact with it.

For these reasons and more, polystyrene should be avoided.

find alternatives to polystyrene containers >

Plastic #7: Other

Common uses: LEXAN, certain kinds of food containers and Tupperware. This plastic category, as its name of "other" implies, is any plastic other than the named #1-#6 plastic types. These containers can be any of the several different types of plastic polymers.

Mother Earth News and numerous other credited sources are quick to point of that polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins are produced using BPA. Polycarbonate is the most commonly-known #7 plastic. Proven to leach BPA, it is not recommended for food storage. Not all "other" plastic is polycarbonate, however. Plastics labeled #7 can also be a combination of several safe plastics. Individual research should be done when making decisions about #7 plastics.


What is Eastman Tritan?

Tritan is the brand name for copolyester, a tough, BPA-free material that has similar properties to common plastics such as polycarbonate. Tritan has chemical resistance and maintains its integrity in environments where other materials may degrade. Products made from Tritan can have the look of glass—without the weight and with more durability.

Is Tritan considered a safe plastic?

Extraction tests completed by independent 3rd party researchers, verify that Tritan meets all requirements as set forth by organizations such as: FDA food safety standards, European Community food safety standards, Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare, California Prop. 65. CamelBak has verified that all materials used in the bottle including Tritan meet the stringent guidelines set by California Proposition 65. In addition, after rigorous third-party testing of the BPA-free Tritan bottles, no harmful chemicals were detected to come in contact with or leach into food/beverage surfaces. A FCN (Food Contact Substance Notification) notice #729 declared that Tritan is safe and meets all EPA and FDA guidelines for material that is to come in repeated contact with food.

Our customers have been requesting Tritan products like CamelBak and Nalgene bottles for a while, but we wanted to make sure Tritan was safe before deciding to carry it. Based on our research, third party test results released and confidence expressed by other leading organizations and retailers, we believe Tritan is a safe alternative for manufacturing bottlesutensils and food containers.

(Photo by geotheref)


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