You Might Be Storing Food All Wrong. Here’s How To Do It Healthily

Cleaning and greening your home can feel overwhelming, but Green Enough: Eat Better, Live Cleaner, Be Happier—All Without Driving Your Family Crazy by eco-wellness expert Leah Segedie breaks it down into an easy-to-follow formula. In this excerpt, Segedie—the founder of home detox company Mamavation—spells out how to clean up your food storage system at home, the plastics you should avoid at all costs in the kitchen, and what you should replace them with.

1. Look out for scratches and nicks.

Step one is to inspect each piece for signs of wear, by which I mean etching, scratches, or nicks, or any cloudiness or discoloration. Subject the items you use most often to close scrutiny, especially any you’ve been putting through the dishwasher. Why? Because these are all signs that the plastic is degrading, and when plastic degrades, the chemicals are more likely to migrate out of the plastic and into your food/beverages. So any and all pieces that show signs of wear and tear are destined for the dustbin (or recycling can). Any plastic that’s gone in the microwave does not even get a glance: Trash it, girl.

2. Check on the code.

Whatever you have left in the way of plastics should look pretty much brand-spankin’-new. Here’s what you’re going to do now: Flip each item over and look for the recycling code on the bottom. These numbers are optional; manufacturers are not required to use them, so you will probably find some that have no number at all (in my experience, go cups and black plastic items are almost always unmarked)—those flunk the flip test for sure. Chuck ’em. Here’s a quick-reference rundown on those teeny-tiny numbers on plastics.

#1: PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)

Bottled water comes in this plastic, which is designed for single use, so it’s not especially strong. As with all plastics, heat is a problem. When you leave a plastic bottle sitting in the sun or your hot car, you’re effectively helping all those chemicals leach into your water. Plus, bacteria can accumulate with repeated refills, so don’t reuse—recycle.

#2: HDPE (high-density polyethylene)

Typically opaque with a lower risk of leaching, so many consider it safe. Best to avoid reusing; most curbside recycling programs will pick it up.

#3: V or PVC (vinyl)

Used to make detergent bottles and some food wraps. Never cook with or burn this plastic. May contain phthalates, which are linked to numerous health issues, and DEHA, which can be carcinogenic with long-term exposure. Most curbside recycling programs do not accept PVC.