Plastic in kitchen
The past two decades have seen plastic being used extensively in our kitchen. Apart from being used for cooking, storing and serving food and drinking water, it is also entering our kitchen in other forms. Plastic is used in contact with nearly all packaged foods and in places where we are not expecting them too.
 Why should I be aware of this?
The purpose of the plastic determines the raw materials to be used in its manufacturing and the processing it should undergo. The safety of a product is tested by authorities keeping in mind its utility, temperature at which it can be used, durability and disposal. However, we tend to use a plastic product beyond its original purpose.
- Disposables become storage containers.
- Pet plastics and mineral water bottles become water storage bottles.
- Boiling food is poured into ordinary heat-resistant plastics such as lunch boxes.
- Pickles, acidic and oily food are stored in ordinary plastics.
- Non microwavable plastic is micro-waved.
- Cheap, colored plastic bags are used to pack hot foods.
 How does this affect me?
These practices can result in migration of chemicals (used in the manufacture of plastic) into food. The quantities of migrating chemicals depend largely on the nature and temperature of food and contact time. The chemicals of concern from packaging and plastic containers include styrene, bisphenol A and phthalates. The potential health hazards include toxicity to the nervous system, carcinogenic effects and haematological (blood) defects.
 All about plastic in kitchen
In kitchens, plastic is used up in containers, bottles, cups, plates, bowls, moulds and microwave-ware.
- Plastic baby bottles and sippy cups -- Plastics used in these contain Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is linked to ovarian dysfunction, lower sperm count and cardiovascular disease.
- Cosmetics and cling films -- These contain phthalates which are known to cause reproductive problems, tumors, liver, kidney and bone abnormalities.
- Containers, juice bottles and cling wrap -- Plastics used in these contain poly venyl chloride, associated with low birth weight, learning problems and suppressed immunity.
- Disposable cups, plates, trays, cutlery, takeaway containers, ice-cream and yoghurt tubs -- These contain styrene, a known carcinogen.
 Useful tips
- Commercial plastic packaging that has been used for storing non-food items (for example, detergents) should never be reused as food containers.
- Plastic packaging that are used for commercial packing of food and takeaway plastic food containers used in eating outlets are disposable items designed for single use and are not intended for repeated storage of food.
- Avoid using plastic containers in the microwave, instead use glass or ceramic containers, free of metallic paint. “Microwave-safe” doesn’t always mean there is no leaching of chemicals as these chemicals are released from plastic when heated. Also, avoid reheating or cooking food in a microwave or conventional oven in disposable containers like yoghurt and ice-cream tubs as they are not heat-stable.
- Plastic packaging for microwaveable convenience meals are designed for one-time usage with the type of food packed in it and should not be reused for storing or microwave heating of food.
- Beware of cling wraps, especially for microwave use; instead use waxed paper, a paper towel or a plate for covering foods. If you choose to use plastic wrap when cooking, be sure to keep it from touching your food by covering it loosely. Leave a corner turned back to vent. Avoid re-using plastic wraps.
 What can I do?
- Use alternatives to plastic packaging whenever possible. Choose glass, stainless steel or glazed ceramic.
- Discard worn or scratched bottles. Plastic water bottles are meant for single use only. Plastic water bottles exposed to sunlight and high temperatures can also lead to migration of chemicals into water.
- Choose bio plastics (made from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable oil, corn starch, pea starch or shrubs, rather than traditional plastics derived from petroleum), now available in a variety of plastic products like cutlery, cups, water bottles and take-out containers.
- Avoid baby bottles and sipper cups made of polycarbonate (#7). Instead opt for glass, stainless steel, polyethylene or polypropylene. Read the lables carefully to know the kind of plastic the bottle or the cup contains.
- If the plastic of a container, bag, serving or coking utensil is showing signs of wear – or is scratched, or has a cloudy appearance – discard the container.
- Most cardboard milk containers are now coated with plastic rather than wax.
- Paper plates are also coated with a thin film of plastic.
- Plastic is sprayed on both commercial and organic produce to preserve its freshness.
- Plastic is even used to irrigate, mulch, wrap, and transport organic food. *Organic bananas now come from wholesalers with a sticky plastic wrapping the cut stem to protect the bananas from a black mold.
 90 degrees
- FDA Office of Food Additive Safety, the regulations mandated in 1958 assume that all plastics migrate toxins into the food they contact. Migration is the movement of free toxins from plastic into the substances they contact — in this case it is the food. The manufacturer must "prove" that the migrations fall within an acceptable range
 Plastic in kitchen and the environment
- Plastic items are non-biodegradable, release toxic pollutants, litter and impacts landfills.
- It disturbs the ecological sanctity of water bodies as well as interferes with the recharge of underground water.
- The noxious substances emitted during the production of plastic are synthetic chemicals like ethylene oxide, benzene and xylenes. Besides hitting hard the ecosystem, which is already fragile, these chemicals can cause an array of maladies ranging from birth defects to cancer, damage the nervous system and the immune system and also adversely affect the blood and the kidneys. And, many of these toxic substances are emitted during recycling of plastic, too.
- Styrene monomer readily migrates from food contained in it. It makes no difference whether the food or drink is hot or cold, or contains fat or water. 
- When plastic comes into contact with oily or fatty foods, or when the plastic is scratched, worn, cracked, or becomes sticky, leaching of chemicals into the food increases.
- Recycling a single plastic bottle can conserve enough energy to light a 60W bulb for up to 6 hours. 
- If the the new generation of biodegradable plastics ends up on landfill sites, where they degrade without oxygen, they release methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
 See Also
- Don’t play with plastic
- Water stored in plastic