Plastic has been on my shit-list for a while anyways. I recognize that so many things in our lives are plastic or packaged in plastic that will never break down. And so, in the back of my head, there has been a little voice that urges me to have less plastic around. This goes for food storage too. I had even heard about bisphenol A leaking into the things it comes in contact with, so I'd mostly stopped using my Nalgene bottle. But I hadn't known it's used in the lining of tin cans and hadn't thought about just how pervasive it might be.
So I poked around a bit. Again, not exactly high level research (yes, a lot of it is Wikipedia, so I know there's a chance of faulty information), but enough to get somewhere between total freak out and action plan. Here's some of what I found:
- Bisphenol A is primarily in plastics labelled #7.
- #7 stands for "other," so the number is not entirely helpful.
- Melamine is also a #7. Yes, the stuff that has caused the pet food recall.
- More accurately, this is melamine resin, which is made of melamine and formaldehyde. (Just gets better and better, huh?)
- No idea if there's any bisphenol A in these products (e.g., my son's many character plates). But then again, I'm not sure it's absence would make things any better.
- As far as I can tell from brief searches on the various types of plastic, #2 and #5 are the least harmful, from a human health perspective.
As a result of this panic, our action this month falls somewhere between personal health action and environmental action. We have quit using the plastic containers for storing our food; our bit of consumerism towards this end was to purchase a few glass food containers from Ikea.* The seals are silicone and, from what I can tell, silicone is chemically inert and does not impart anything to the food it touches. This makes sense, given that it is made from the same base as glass--and glass is used to contain solutions in scientific experiments precisely because it does not react with the chemicals inside. The containers have been really great, and we will buy a few more.
We have also gathered up all of our polycarbonate bottles and will not be using them anymore. Scooter never did like a bottle, so he didn't use them much, but we won't be keeping them for the next child (who, fingers crossed, will readily take a bottle to make up for the hellish feeding schedule we had when I went back to work when Scooter was 5 months old). For that one, we will be getting a hold of several glass bottles.
In terms of canned foods, we are now making an effort to get more things frozen or fresh--trips to farmers' markets are planned! We are also taking some other steps that will be my action for May (just getting a head start). And one thing that will be on our minds when we move and settle into a house for the long term will be garden space and a freezer (energy efficient and no bigger than we truly need, of course).
Not that all of this is figured out yet. Given what I've read about even small amounts of bisphenol A, I worry about whether or not handling items with it is a concern--or if it's just a problem to ingest the chemical. Also, I stare at this bunch of stuff we have and no longer plan on using and don't know what to do with it. I could put it on Craig's List or Freecycle, but is it fair just to pass the problem onto someone else. Similarly, most of these plastics are on the non-recyclable list, so they'd just need to go into the garbage. Where they will not biodegrade beyond releasing some of these chemicals into the surrounding area and groundwater, thus exposing more people.
See, this is why plastic is on notice!
*I have been resistant to glass in the past because I am somewhat clumsy, sharing some of the balance and movement traits with my son, the same ones that are sending him to occupational therapy. But, I've convinced myself just to be a little more careful--and to accept that things will break on occasion.