The Dangers of Plastic Food Containers and 11 ways to avoid them

Written by: Hendrik

Category: News, Zero Waste, Zero Waste Kitchen

Updated on:

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS; PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

You are here because you are aware of the potentially harmful chemicals lurking in the food containers designed to protect our meals and store our food safely.

It turns out that all plastic food containers leach toxic chemicals and are a threat to a healthy body.

Safe plastic doesn’t exist. It requires chemical bonds to make and shape plastics, and they can leach into food and beverages, especially when heated.

Our best option is to use stainless steel containers for food storage or glass containers.

Why is it important to use natural materials?

Since living in Canada, I changed my life around a bit. My morning routine has become one where I voluntarily get up at  5 am, meditate, journal, and drink lots of water. Now I don’t mean to brag, I am just an average human, and anyone can do this ( if you really want to).

I am telling you this because I have started to treat my body more like my temple. It is not just a vehicle that one day will break down, and I know this will be the case, but life is much more enjoyable when your body feels strong and healthy. 

This also led me to phase out most of my plastic containers in the house. Now, I am saying most since I still use my Nutribullet daily, and for those of you who know and love the Nutribullet (mixer), it has a plastic container to hold the content for blending. 

Apart from that, I no longer use plastic containers when storing my food or serving it. The main reason is that I do not want to add more toxins to my environment and food. 

Momentarily, I avoid canned food mainly because of the thin layer of plastic the cans have inside. Yep, I was also surprised when I learned this. Drinking water from a plastic bottle or consuming food out of a styrofoam container that you just heated in the microwave is adding an enormous amount of microplastic to your body, according to research.

93% of all water bottles tested had plastic particles in the water.

All but one of the tested sea salt brands contained plastic. Find out which sea salt is safe to eat in this article.

The dangers of plastic food containers.

Why do I avoid plastic containers and food cans? It is known and proven that plastic leaches harmful chemicals that can disrupt hormone function.

Scientific American says they can lead to breast cancer growth and low sperm count.

We are currently trying to make a baby, and I don’t want to risk having a sick baby just because I couldn’t be bothered to store my leftovers in a glass bowl or a stainless steel container. Would you?

Sorry Tupperware from the ’50s.  

Many think plastic lasts forever, but that isn’t entirely true. Especially when heating and cooling plastic containers, these endocrine-interrupting chemicals break down. And when they break down, they end up in our food. As a result, they can cause destructive and developmental health issues.

Related: What is Microplastic, and how to avoid it?

But what about “BPA-free” plastics? Aren’t these safe?

I hear this a lot. I used to buy into the idea that BPA-free plastics were safer too. But guys, we’ve been tricked!

Ages ago, I used to buy BPA-free plastics thinking this was a better alternative, while all I was doing was swapping one chemical for another. So for all the zero wasters or want to be zero waste out there, here is the scoop on why you should skip the plastic. 

BPA and BPS Are We Just Swapping one Bad chemical for another

What is Bisphenol A (BPA)?

BPA is an industrial chemical used since the ’60s to make certain plastics and resins. BPA has been found in Polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin.

Polycarbonate plastics are often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles, Tupperware and even baby bottles. Crazy right?

Epoxy resins coat the inside of metal products, such as food cans, bottle tops, and water supply lines. Other common usages for epoxy resin are in the building industry as adhesives or for coating on almost any surface. Remember those shiny wooden tables that look like they have a thin layer of glass on top of them? That is also epoxy resin.

Some research has found that BPA can seep into the food or beverages made with BPA. And BPA is toxic to the body. 

In September 2008, the National Toxicology Program of NIH determined that BPA may pose risks to human development, raising concerns for early puberty, prostate effects, breast cancer, and behavioral impacts from early-life exposures. Pregnant women, infants and young children are most vulnerable to the harmful effects of BPA, although a recent study linked BPA exposures to the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and liver toxicity. (Source)

BPA is so harmful that many countries ( China, The European Union, parts of America, and Canada) have completely banned baby bottle use. 

But an ongoing problem is the chemicals that remain in the plastics. Banning one chemical and replacing it with another one is not the solution.

BPA is so bad that many countries ( China, The European Union, parts of America, and Canada) have banned the use of baby bottles completely. 

The Problem with BPA Free

Now you may think, I’ll buy BPA-free, but BPA-free does NOT mean toxin-free. Think about it.

According to new reports, bisphenol A (BPA) has just been replaced with other equally dangerous chemicals, most notably bisphenol S. 

Breaking new research indicates that manufacturers worldwide using the toxic hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) may have switched to an equally toxic analog in the same bisphenol chemical class known as bisphenol S (BPS) to evade regulatory oversight.

Despite the industry-wide move away from BPA towards BPS, they both exhibit similar estrogen-like properties. 

According to a report in Scientific American:

95% of Canadians between the age of 3 and 79 have tested positive for the chemical BPA in their urine. 

“Nearly 81 % of Americans have detectable levels of BPS in their urine. 

It can affect cells when it enters our bodies, similar to BPA exposure.

A 2013 study by Cheryl Watson at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that even picomolar concentrations (less than one part per trillion) of BPS can disrupt a cell’s normal functioning, which could potentially lead to metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity, asthma, congenital disabilities or even cancer.” 

The more I learned about plastic, the more shocked I was that we are making baby products out of this stuff. We use it to store our food and precious water, which, especially in the hot summer months, becomes a ticking time bomb. If left in a warm room, car, or direct sunlight, your water becomes a toxic juice.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to knowingly store, wrap, or serve my food in known endocrine disruptors linked to obesity, diabetes, cancer, infertility and more.

Here are a few ways to avoid BPA and BPS (and all their evil pals) in your everyday life.

You can also have a look at these zero waste swaps for your healthy lifestyle.

Tips to avoid plastic containers

To dramatically reduce phthalate exposure and other chemicals from entering your body, follow the below actions for a healthier life.

  • Avoid plastic water bottles and opt for glass or stainless steel reusable bottles like the Kleen Canteen or the Yeti.
  • Store your food in reusable glass or stainless steel takeout containers.
  • Use glass bakeware for all your baking needs.
  • Avoid plastic-lined paper cups, and carry a KeepCup or a reusable coffee cup.
  • Make your coffee in a glass french press or, my favorite, the percolator.
  • Avoid aluminum soda cans (an excellent reason to kick the bad habit in the butt).
  • Avoid buying plastic-packaged food. Homemade tastes so much better, anyway.
  • Avoid using canned food.
  • Although BPA is still found in receipt paper, can linings, and many plastic products, I recommend avoiding it altogether. Thankfully we can take a quick snapshot of our receipts, with Expensify, for example.
  • Dust and vacuum your house regularly since carpets and curtains are often made from synthetic fibers and get airborne.

Yes, your coca-cola can also is lined with a thin layer of plastic. Don’t believe me? Check out this little video to prove it to yourself at home.

The secret of the aluminum can: what is it hiding?

Final thoughts

The dangers of plastic containers for food are real.

I know it’s impossible to avoid ALL plastic containers; I get it; EVERYTHING comes in plastic.

I’m not saying you should obsess over every piece of plastic (please don’t), but be smart about eliminating it in places where it’s easy to replace…like beverage containers, food packaging, dishes, and baby bottles.

Remember that life isn’t about perfection; it’s about making smarter decisions and doing what you can.

There have been times when I have come out of the ocean after a kitesurf session on a hot summer day, and I needed to hydrate. The only best thing was to buy a water bottle from the milk bar. I’m not going to dehydrate because I’m avoiding BPA, and I’m going to buy water in a plastic bottle because that’s a better option than going to the hospital for heat exhaustion.

How about you? Have you implemented these tips in your life? Are there some safe products that you love and that I missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Until next time!

Photo of author

Hendrik Kaiser

I've studied biology and lived for 3 years on an off-grid permaculture farm. I love kitesurfing and keeping my body healthy and fit. Hence, I care so much about keeping our environment clean and being as zero waste as possible. Being a zerowasteman is a superpower everyone has inside of themselves, and I want to teach you how you can unleash it.

4 thoughts on “The Dangers of Plastic Food Containers and 11 ways to avoid them”

  1. The dangers associated with the use of plastic to the environment is generally bad and the dangers associated to our health by the use of plastic food containers are just way too alarming and hazardous than to be ignored. Seriously, I think plastics should be banned for real. However, pending the time proper sanctions would be melted on it, the tips you have shared up here concerning ways to avoid them is great and I’m definitely going to practice them. Thanks

    Reply
  2. Wow, I had no idea that I was consuming plastic when drinking from a coke can or tinned food.  I have heard that so much estrogen from plastics and cosmetics have entered the eco-system, that we are all getting micro-doses of estrogen in our water supply.  Have you heard this?

    Perhaps there is a conspiracy to reduce male potency to reduce the population?

    Reply
    • Yes and especially when you are living near or in a big city and your water doesn’t come from a well. The water treatment plants aren’t set up to filter out hormones or in our case microplastics. I don’t think there is a conspiracy, I think there are just too many people using toilets as a magic box that makes everything disappear. 

      Reply

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