There’s nothing fantastic about plastic

imageI accept the usefulness of plastic and the fact that we’d be pretty lost without it in a modern world but I do wish that, where alternatives are possible, food manufacturers would use them. Plastics are used in every phase of food production but for years now there have been questions over their safety. In some countries the phthalate chemicals used in packaging have been banned.  Many believe that Bisphenol and phthalates, chemicals contained in many plastics,  are believed to be “endocrine disrupters.” In other words they affect human hormones.  When foods are wrapped in plastics or microwaved in plastic containers, these chemicals can leach into the food. Fatty foods like cheese are particularly susceptible. Until a few years ago all peanut butter was sold in glass jars but since most manufacturers have changed to plastic jars I now buy an organic brand which still use glass.

In America, The Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service has warned consumers that various kinds of harmful chemicals can end up in food if microwaved. Have you noticed how the plastic on some containers breaks down when microwaved? They begin to look as though they’ve been rubbed with sandpaper and tiny fragments break off. Some of these will inevitably end up in your food.

Back in the days when I took lunch to work (I no longer work full days) I refused to eat food that had spent hours sweating in a plastic container. Sandwiches were wrapped in waxed papers since I am not keen on cling film either, and salads and the like were transported in glass or ceramics. I’d read around the subject and made my decision. However, in the interests of a balanced post I freely admit that Cancer Research UK is adamant that plastics do not present a health risk where food is concerned.

Nowadays I use glass storage containers, I freeze and cook food in glass and, when drinking bottled water, I will only buy that which is sold in glass bottles, such as Voss. I do occasionally utilise plastic containers for short term use, but I separate the food from contact with the plastic.

Of course, our over consumption of plastics is much in the news of late for another reason. Who can fail to have been moved by pictures of sea creatures choking on what they mistakenly assume to be plankton, or becoming entangled in plastic waste. It is estimated that in excess of 12 million tonnes of plastic finds its way into the oceans every year and in the same period Coca Cola produces 100 billion plastic bottles. Why?  There are calls for a deposit scheme for plastic bottles, but why?

Why not just use glass?







  1. It is very frustrating trying to reduce the amount of plastic. I was at the deli counter of a supermarket and they wrapped my ham in a sheet of white paper and then put it in a brown ‘paper’ bag. However, it transpires that these are both made of mixed materials and therefore can’t be recycled…


    • That’s really annoying! I’m sure that the supermarkets can really do a lot to change things provided they have the will.

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  2. I try my best, but it’s virtually impossible to avoid plastic completely. I’m constantly amazed at the amount of plastic used to wrap fruit and vegetables at the supermarket. I try to get most of mine from the market but it’s not always possible. X


    • I use waxed paper and foil too. However, if I’m sending food home on a plate with my brother, which I do from time to time, I do wrap cling film over the foil to hold it all together.


  3. I’ve heard that in various parts of the country, milk rounds are beginning again, with the milk being in bottles. The bottles can be washed and re-used.
    I also like to use glass or Pyrex but I have some plastic boxes, but really, glass is best and I think, over the weeks, I will change to glass. We have stopped buying bottled water entirely, although I was partial to Badoit but that in a plastic bottle and I refuse to buy water in plastic now.
    Unfortunately, one problem with glass is that it’s heavier – much heavier – than plastic, and when goods are shipped and flown around the world, little wonder that manufacturers choose plastic in which to put them.


    • Glass is, of course heavier. Perhaps it will force stores to stock more locally produced items. It would be nice to see milk rounds restored. It is so much easier to see that glass is clean. I like our local tap water and drink a lot of it but I buy water in glass bottles so that I can refill them. If, as a country, we are really determined to reduce plastic wrappings for food, we will have to accept that costs will rise, but there is a huge amount of totally unnecessary packaging used so perhaps we can reduce that.


  4. It is hard to get away from plastics in our daily lives, isn’t it?

    But, in answer to your question, glass, we have been told, is more expensive to produce and costs more to transport as they are heavier and more likely to break. That cost gets passed on to the consumers who have to pay more for the packaging, and not everyone is willing to do that, even though, in a lot of places, we pay a returnable deposit on glass bottles and glass is recyclable.

    Also, I think plastic containers are seen as “safer” than glass in the sense that they are less likely to break and cut a person if accidentally dropped.

    Having said all that, I try to use glass containers for food storage, wrap my sandwiches in wax paper or parchment, transfer food to a plate before reheating it, etc.


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