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No! More! Plastic!

I think this is starting to become more commonplace - I want to keep my food away from plastic (and direct aluminum).

I started by replacing my food storage containers with vintage pyrex - non reactive glass, cute and "green" because it's reusing.

Now I'm starting to notice all the places our food comes into contact with plastic. There's a thread on here where someone is trying to find a coffee maker with no plastic. I'm looking for glass containers that can handle a gallon of milk, orange juice and also water. I like vintage so I have sway that direction.

I have some great ceramic pitchers from the early 20th century (I sell vintage house wares and kitchen ware as a small side business) but I know lead and cadmium could be concerns if the items are used frequently.

Anyone here trying to move away from plastic? What are you using?

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  1. Keep in mind the basic physical properties of metal, glass and plastic

    metal is tough, somewhat elastic, but not compressible, a good conductor of heat and electricity. To get a good water tight metal to metal seal you need well fitting surfaces and lots of pressure. To prevent rust you need paint, enamel, or relatively expensive stainless steel.

    For get really good water tight seals between metal parts, compressible O rings are required (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Sh...). Pressure cookers usually have a rubber or silicone seal.

    glass is hard and brittle. It is even harder to get a water tight seal. Glass stoppers in lab ware have a finely ground (or etched) surface. Rubber stoppers are also common in glass lab ware. Glass is nonconducting (electric) and a relatively poor heat conductor. Think also of how wine bottles are sealed - with compressible cork.

    Plastic can be hard or soft. It can be molded into small shapes. It usually is an insulator (heat and electric).

    What kinds of seals did they use on glass milk bottles? Foil or cardboard?

    What is used for glass jar lids? Now it is mostly plastic. When they used metal lids they had to use some sort of seal, either a waxed cardboard, or more recently a plastic ring. Paper liners worked ok in mayonaise jars, but disintegrated when I reused the jars for liquids.

    With electrical appliances it is virtually impossible to avoid plastic. Plastic has to be used for electrical insulation. Yes, stainless steel can be used for the container that holds the food. But windows, hinges, lids and seals are likely to be plastic, simply because that is best material (mechanically speaking) for the job.

    1 Reply
    1. re: paulj

      Yes, plastic is often the best material mechanically, dielectrically, etc., it can also be the best for nonreactivity with food. The material used for the highest purity processes in laboratory equipment is PTFE, for its inertness.

    2. I wouldn't say plastic is nonreactive. Well, it leaches at least. Many are concerned about health implications, especially when plastic is used in a heated setting (ie, re-heating leftovers in the microwave). BPA is a concern of mine (I know it goes beyond plastic, such as canned food). So then, what to do to at least minimize plastic?

      51 Replies
      1. re: Mojave

        Same post different thread. BPA is only in two common plastics, polycarbonate and epoxy. You won't find much epoxy in the kitchen, so it's down to polycarbonate. You shouldn't heat things in polycarbonate as you can extract BPA. BPA doesn't migrate at room temperature, and honestly, other than the reusable water bottles hikers use, there isn't that much in the way of kitchen ware that employs polycarbonate. Botteled water is in PET as are many of the storage containers that you buy in the store. Plastic milk bottles are polyethylene, there's nothing wrong with them either.

        Personally, I'd be far more concerned about lead in the glazes of your early 20th century ceramics than I would be most plastics.

        1. re: mikie

          I was active on a backpacking forum when we started to see news about BPA in Nalgene bottles. The concern did not arise from any problems people experienced (so much of 'simple observation'). Rather it came from a lab where a scientist observed problems in her mice, and came to suspect BPA that was being leached from the Nalgene labware by strong cleaning chemicals and/or sterilizers.

          These days I use PET water bottles, rather than Nalgene, but that is more because of convenience than any safety concern. And I have collection of drinking cups and soup bowls made of Lexan (mostly REI or GSI Outdoors branded).

          http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-b...
          A recent thread on a Backpacking forum on BPA bottles

          1. re: paulj

            You're right paulj, the BPA issue wasn't from short term water storage. I still have Nalgene bottles, I'm not that concerned since the water is cool. I've switched recently to insulated SS bottles I bought at REI. If I'm hiking on a warm day, I like the water to stay cool.

            1. re: mikie

              when the whole BPA issue first raised its ugly head, folks in Florida followed everyone else to buy stainless drinking bottles.

              They found how fast the water gets hot (yes, hot) when left in the car in the summer time, and how you can taste the stainless in warm water, too.

              1. re: sunshine842

                That's why I found insulated SS bottles.

                There have been recent news reports on the health issues of leaving water bottles of any type in the car and letting the water heat up. The higher temperatures provide a breading ground for bacteria and a half full water bottle in a hot car is very unhealthy. I even heard something on the news recently about bringing your office coffee cup home at least evey other day to run through the dishwasher to keep it healthy to drink out of.

                1. re: mikie

                  plus, it's really unpleasant when you get back to the car and take a swig of hot water, particularly on a hot day.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Here in the desert I freeze my water bottles, and put them in an insuladed lunch bag so they stay cold

                  2. re: mikie

                    The insulated stainless steel water bottle and I are joined at the hip. They rank among the best things I have ever discovered. They are such a revelation that I give them as gifts.
                    They don't sweat in humid weather. HURRAY.
                    And they keep hot/icy cold for an entire day.

              2. re: paulj

                Lexan is a brand of polycarbonate and contains BPA. Nalgene is also a brand and has been reformulated to be free of BPA.

                1. re: GH1618

                  That's why I mentioned them in this context.

                  1. re: GH1618

                    I wonder how Nalgene did that? Polycarbonate is based on Bisphenol A and is a repeating unit with benzine rings attached by a carbon atom and an oxygen on the other end. Now I have something to research as that couldn't have been an easy substitution. Thanks,

                  2. re: paulj

                    LEXAN is a trade name for polycarbonate

                    1. re: BIGGUNDOCTOR

                      I also have a couple of polycarbonate contrainers - 2 quart Cambros. These are the clear plastic square containers that Good Eats likes to use for brining. Any restaurant vessel that is clear, and not obviously glass, is probably polycarbonate.

                      http://www.cooksdirect.com/product/ca...

                      http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

                  3. re: mikie

                    BPA migrates into food at room temperature. Look at tomatoes in a can.

                    Stainless steel water bottles aren't necessarily any better either if they are lined inside.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        It's not the heat from canning, it's the acid in the tomatoes. In fact, acid, fat *and* salt all increase the migration/leaching of BPA into food, even at room temperature.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          Eden Organics has moved away from BPA lining in most of its canned goods (they say which products on their website, I think), but of course, there's no guarantee that what lining they are using now isn't toxic in some way, but almost no one has been able to solve the problem of how to can tomatoes in something that isn't lined in some kindof plastic. Glass is a better choice, but there is still BPA in the lining of the lids. If you want to avoid BPA in canned goods, I've read that tetrapak (the cardboard) is the best way to go.

                          As far as portable food storage, I haven't really found anything that doesn't leak. I use Rubbermaid Premier (which is BPA free) and I never heat in it or even put hot foods in it.

                          If you're storing stuff at home, you could just use pyrex or glass but just make sure that any plastic lid or plastic wrap doesn't touch your food. It

                          ~TDQ

                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            The lining Eden foods uses is from a type of seaweed as I recall. I'll take my chances. But lots of tomato products are being sold in glass or waxed cartons now, too, like Pomi. Just have to check about the lining.

                            1. re: mcf

                              I try to buy the cartons--glass is a better choice than cans, but the underside of the lid is lined with a BPA plastic.

                              ~TDQ

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                Is it always touching? I think the best we can do is reduce, without making ourselves crazy and producing all our food at home! Crazy.

                                1. re: mcf

                                  and waxed paper and parchment paper? Take a good look at the ingredients....

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        Not a problem. Gave me a chance to post about non toxic products. :-)

                                      2. re: mcf

                                        Those are the brands of waxed paper and parchment paper we use too. That aluminum foil might be non-toxic, but it's also non-usable. It doesn't make me crazy to buy Pomi tomatoes, but it makes me crazy to buy that foil! It tears easily, it's super thin and just doesn't seem to mold well to whatever you're wrapping it around.

                                        Do you know of any other brands to recommend?

                                        ~TDQ

                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          The box of recycled aluminum in my cabinet right now is Reynold's. Been wrapping and unwrapping left over meat loaf for days, each of us more than once so it may be tougher. Recycled never has the strength of the heavy duty stuff, which I use if there's a need for it, too.

                                          I agree with you about the glass jars... I want to reduce exposure while not creating a new burden or source of stress.

                                              1. re: paulj

                                                I still don't have a clear bead on any toxic effects of silicone in such an application. Have you found anything conclusive anywhere?

                                                1. re: mcf

                                                  Here's what someone had to say in a different thread... http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8016...

                                                  ~TDQ

                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                    Thanks... for now, I'm pretty comfortable using the parchment, as rare as that is for me.

                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                      I just added a post to that thread about trivalent chromium in quilon coating.

                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                        Thank you, Paul, but mcf and I are using parchment treated with silicone: is that toxic? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8921...

                                                        ~TDQ

                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                          Would it be allowed in food grade applications if it was toxic? I have silicone spatulas, a silicone baking mat. I've nearly finished a role of this brown parchment paper. Silicone baking pans are common. But no doubt someone out there worries about it being artificial and chemical, and therefore, toxic.

                                                          But don't forget, 'toxic' is dosage dependent. Water is harmful in the large quantities and when ingested in the wrong way.

                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                            they implant silicone into the body every single day for medical purposes -- Not just boob jobs -- IVs, ports for chemotherapy and antibiotic delivery, artificial joints, heart valves, bone and cartilage replacements, facial reconstructions....etc., etc., etc.

                                                            There are an awful lot of people walking around who would be more than happy to tell you that silicon has made their life better, longer, and/or less painful.

                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                              Isn't that slicone, not silicon?

                                                              There are three grades of medical grade silicone, from what I read on a quick search.

                                                              1. re: mcf

                                                                both are accepted spellings, I believe -- one UK and one US, though I'd be hard-put to tell you which was which.

                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                  As I re-read it, my spelling isn't one of the accepted at all!

                                                                  As I understand it, they are not the same substance, though my understanding may be shallow: http://www.wcaslab.com/tech/silicone.htm

                                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                                    Hmm. So it's not. I blame the journalists and writers who use the terms interchangeably.

                                                                    SiliconE is the plastic.

                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                      Yep, which I don't think I knew until someone else mentioned it, PaulJ, maybe?

                                                                    2. re: mcf

                                                                      They are pretty difference. Kind of like the difference between H2O (water) and just H2 (hydrogen). Don't worry about the typo. I saw it last night. I knew what you were getting at -- slicone.

                                                                    3. re: sunshine842

                                                                      No, "silicon" is element no. 14; "silicone" is a class of compound made from silicon and oxygen. The New Shorter Oxford gives "silicon" for the compound as being obsolete, and shows no difference for UK and US usage.

                                                                2. re: paulj

                                                                  Please don't make me have to worry about ingesting water, too. ;-)

                                                                  Thank you for your response here and in the other thread. I had always understood that silicone was a a good choice in the kitchen, so I'm glad to have that confirmed.

                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                    Water toxicity is a different thing altogether. It's not a matter of having too much of a poison which can be tolerated in small doses, but having too much of somethong which is not inherently poisonous at all. It's a meaningless comparison which nevertheless gets trotted out again and again.

                                                  2. re: mcf

                                                    It doesn't make me crazy to buy the Pomi tomatoes since I like to buy those anyway, but for prepared sauces, etc., in a glass jar is often the best alternative to canned if you live in the real world where you don't have time to do everything from scratch all the time. You just make the best choices you can.

                                                    The BPA in products in glass jars is considered to be trace levels.

                                                    ~TDQ

                                          1. re: cutipie721

                                            Why would they be lined? Is there a brand in particular that you are referring to?

                                            1. re: splatgirl

                                              they started lining the cans with plastic to cut down the metallic taste that tomatoes can sometimes take on.

                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                Sorry--I thought you/we were talking about SS water bottles.

                                                1. re: splatgirl

                                                  That's something I read quite some time ago I forgot about the details. Google it if you want more details. Since this has been outed, I'm sure there has been an outcry and issue got erected.

                                                  My point is, run your finger inside the bottle to make sure it doesn't have lining before you deem anything 99.9% safe.

                                          2. re: mikie

                                            Hey mikie,

                                            Chemicalkinetics suggested I reach out to you re: plastics used in a cheese press. Could you please chime in on this thread?

                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/901901

                                            Thanks!

                                            Mr Taster

                                        2. <Anyone here trying to move away from plastic? What are you using?>

                                          For heating things, yes. Otherwise, no, I am not moving away from plastic for storage. It has a lot of nice properties I like.

                                          Forgive me, but are you trying to minimize your own plastic usage at home, or are you trying to minimize what happened outside of your household? For example, are you trying to buy milk where it is stored in glass containers instead of plastic containers? Are you trying to food wrapped in paper instead of plastic wrapper?

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            you're echoing my thoughts.

                                            Because I'm really, really not managing to get my head around buying milk in plastic jugs and other food in plastic wrappers, then taking them home and repackaging everything.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              You can buy milk in cardboard cartons or even glass (although, the glass milk containers I've seen still have plastic lids).

                                              If you're buying your produce, cheese, meat and baked goods directly from the producer or from a specialty shop, you can often influence how its wrapped (butcher paper for the meats, for instance) but it's pretty impossible to avoid plastic entirely.

                                              ~TDQ

                                          2. I've just started to notice how much plastic is in my life & am replacing food storage containers with glass. I read that cardboard milk cartons are now lined with plastic, not wax, so I'm starting to evaluate what I can buy in recyclable containers and what I can re-use - and how to avoid unnecessary plastics without trying to elminate plastic completely.

                                            Look for local ceramic artists who glaze with safe glazes, too.

                                            Stainless steel, less expensive if you can find it in resale shops.

                                            I just read about a reusable beeswax-based wrap to replace plastic film. Cotton/hemp impregnated with beeswax, jojoba oil, & "tree resin." You wash in cold water with dish soap.

                                            1. I hear you. I try not to be totally psycho about it, which in my life means trying to ignore what I can't control and trying to avoid it in circumstances when I can.

                                              I have yet to see anything that seals that would be ideally suited for a liquid gallon, but there are some things in the beer-brewing supply category that come close. Glass carboys in particular come to mind. You can probably also find gallon glass jugs with the loop handle and narrow mouth. I buy apple cider in these in season.
                                              Half gallon is easier. I just saw a some wire-bale stopper bottles in 1/2 gallon-ish size yesterday, and pitchers are pretty easy to find in this size.
                                              For a full gallon, what about a stainless steel or glass something with a spigot that could sit on your fridge shelf? I have a now very old gallon glass tea jar that the (plastic) spigot wore out on, and I was able to get a new SS one for it. Milking pails?

                                              My co-op sells one brand of milk that comes in glass 1/2 gallons.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: splatgirl

                                                bale wire stoppers usually have a plastic (or rubber) gasket.

                                                http://www.ebottles.com/showbottles-b...

                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  Yea, I file under "isn't in constant contact with food" in the ignore category.
                                                  Natural rubber is actually quite a bit less offensive, assuming one isn't allergic to latex and doesn't need it to last an eon.