Plastic Use – Know Type of Your Plastics

This article has been written by Dr Sushma Sharma who is a medical practitioner. We would like to thank her for joining us and sharing her thoughts with the world.


Plastics are ubiquitous. Plastics has made its way to every field we can think of – automobile, construction, electronics, healthcare, textile, toys, home appliances, agriculture to name a few. Plastics have become an integral part of the modern kitchen. Plastic we choose for the kitchen should be of food grade. Plastics are coded to identify the plastic resin out of which the product is made. Other markings on the food grade plastic are to identify the safety of plastic with food as some plastics can leach harmful compounds into your food and usage.

Meaning of Recycling Symbols  and Safety coding on the bottom of Your Plastic Product

There is a code in between a triangle(1-7). Triangle itself determines that the plastic stuff can be recycled. The code is usually found on or near the bottom of the container.


Code 1: PETE or PET: Polyethylene Terephthalate
Code 2: HDPE: High-Density Polyethylene
Code 3: PVC: Polyvinyl Chloride
Code 4: LDPE: Low-Density Polyethylene
Code 5: PP: Polypropylene
Code 6: PS: Polystyrene
Code 7: Others (including polycarbonate, bioplastic and acrylic)

Why we Should not Drink Tea or Coffee in Plastic Cup?

Is it safe to use Plastics?

  • PET is generally considered safe, but it can leach the toxic metal antimony, which is used during its manufacture.
  • HDPE and LDPE have been found to release estrogenic chemicals.
  • The manufacture of PVC creates dioxin, a potent carcinogen and may disrupt hormones, so called as the “poison plastic.”
  • PP exhibits high heat tolerance making it unlikely to leach chemicals. It is microwavable.
  • Code 7 includes polycarbonate, a plastic made from BPA, a harmful synthetic estrogen act as an endocrine disrupter.

Also Read: Drinking Tea or Coffee in Plastic Cups can cause Causer

What is the significance of symbols imprinted on the plastic products?

Symbols are used on plastics to indicate their appropriate uses around food. Many times instead of symbols, just few letters are also written. Meaning of some symbols used in plastics are:

  • Cup and Fork: A symbol depicting a cup and fork means that the plastic is safe for storing food, and is, therefore, a food grade bucket.
  • Radiating waves: It means “microwave-safe”
  • Snowflake: It means “freezer-safe”
  • Dishes in water: It means “dishwasher-safe”
  • Capacity of container

What should we keep in mind while buying a Plastic?

  1. Properly check the labels on plastics used for food material
  2. Look for these numbers before you buy – Safer plastics are coded 1, 2, 4,5.  Avoid codes 3,6, 7.
  3. Recyclable plastics: Almost all types of plastics are recyclable. Code 1 plastics are the easiest and most common plastics to recycle), Code 7-  the most difficult to recycle.
  4. Avoid heating even food grade plastic. Whatever plastics you choose, never heat them in the microwave or subject them to other extreme stresses as chemicals (estrogen-like)may leach from plastic food containers may adversely affect health.
  5. PET is widely used for plastic bottles for water and carbonated soft drinks. These bottles are meant for single use only and then recycled
  6. Avoid using disposable food containers e.g cups and plates. They are made up of Polystyrene or Styrofoam. Hot foods and liquids (such as soups, coffee or tea) may trigger to leach harmful styrene from disposables, which can damage your nervous system and is carcinogenic.
  7. Look for plastics labelled “BPA- free”
  8. Prevention is better than cure: Opt for substitutes of plastics e.g Glassware, jute or paper bags, metal containers.
  9. Always recycle or throw away containers once they start to crack or break
  10. Don’t use the containers which are used to deliver food or carry food after a single use.
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