Pop quiz: What percentage of your kitchen (utensils, storage containers, dinnerware, etc.) is plastic? No peeking. Really, think on it.
Betcha it’s way more than you originally thought, isn’t it?
We all have (or had) or grew up with The Plastic Container Cabinet, am I right?! Open that dreaded cabinet door, and it’s guaranteed that at least one item is gonna come flying out of the mishmash of containers and lids, directly at your face.
Since the 1950’s, plastic has embedded itself into our culture and solidified its place in American hearts and homes, especially our kitchens. With the rise of mega-brands like Tupperware, there’s a container for every need, in every size or shape.
Great, right? Ehhh. Convenient, yes. Safe? Healthy? Not so much.
Plastic has sure had a good run of popularity, but the tides are starting to turn, and for good reason.
I, like many others, have waged war against plastic in our kitchen. I, too, was surprised at how much plastic I actually had in my kitchen. Over the last few years, I’ve gotten rid of easily 95% of it, so I’m really happy!
I’m really glad I purged plastic when I did, because, well, I’ve only got half a thyroid now! (Read here for more on that.) I honestly wonder if doing so (plus changing to a healthier diet/beauty products) helped keep my thyroid from crashing and burning while it was burdened with the nodule.
Why do I say that? Well, plastic can come with significant health hazards, depending on the type and the way you handle it, and endocrine disruption is a biggie! In fact, when I asked my endocrinologist for possible causes of my nodule, endocrine disruptors were high on the list.
The scariest part? We’re well aware of some of the dangers, but there’s a lot we don’t yet know. And since companies are constantly churning out new types of plastic to replace the ones we’ve learned are dangerous, it’s tough to keep up.
In short, the problem with plastics is that a host of chemical additives are added to change the characteristics of the plastic (e.g. harder, softer, more flexible). Those additives can leach out over time, and go right into the food or liquid being stored in the container. This is especially true if you expose plastic to heat.
Of course, if these chemicals leach into your food or drink, they go right into your blood stream. From there, they can wreak havoc on the way your body functions.
BPA (bisphenol-A) and phthalates (a family of plastic softeners) are two of the major chemical dangers leaching from plastic, as both are proven endocrine disruptors. This means that exposure to these chemicals over time can result in obesity, breast cancer, thyroid disorder, diabetes, and more.
BPA and phthalates are ones we know are dangerous. Unfortunately, there are plenty of other chemicals in plastic that can leach, and there simply hasn’t been enough testing to determine safety.
I know it sounds daunting, but trust me, you can start ditching plastic today! Don’t make it all-or-nothing, which can get overwhelming. Start with a few items at a time, and you’ll be plastic-free (or darn close to it) before you know it!
Not sure where to start? Think about which items pose the highest risk – essentially, ask yourself where food spends the most time sitting in plastic. Also, think about which items you use most frequently in, say, a week.
Here are some categories I targeted first:
- Plastic storage containers. I booted all the Glad/Ziploc containers, Tupperware knock-offs, and the like, including bulk dry storage containers and pitchers. This especially includes any plastic containers not meant for re-use (like takeout or chip dip containers).
- Plastic drinking glasses. I know, it’s tough because they’re super cheap and usually very cute. But we bit the bullet and ditched ours – even the super fun, giant Fresh-Squeezed Lemonade glass from the carnival got the boot.
- Plastic bowls. We’re the king and queen of bowls due to our cereal obsession, and – for people without kids – we used to have a lot of plastic ones! Alas, they’ve been kicked out too.
- Plastic travel beverage containers. I know, all those cute BPA-free bottles are super tempting and trendy (they keep getting more stylish!) but I just didn’t feel safe drinking out of them daily at work. That’s a lot of exposure. Those (and even Tervis) got kicked out of our kitchen.
- Plastic colanders. This is a biggie, since the obvious most popular use for colanders is draining pasta! That boiling water is a no-no on plastic!
It’s do-able, I promise! Post-purge, our kitchen is almost completely glass or ceramic. Drinkware? Glass. Food storage containers? Glass. Bowls? About 50/50 between glass and ceramic. Plates? Ceramic.
→ Since we’re talking toxins, please discard any ceramic item that gets chipped. Chips exposure the paint underneath the glaze, which can potentially allow lead to leach out.
Once you’ve purged, stick to your guns! It can be very tempting to buy more plastic. Make a mental commitment to not bring in any more, going forward.
Yeah, I’ve still got a few plastic things I’d like to replace eventually, little by little, but I’m not stressing. The remaining things (like my nesting mixing bowl set) aren’t really “everyday” items, so it’s no biggie. And – no doubt – the Menchies spoons are here to stay!
Sadly, our Ninja and NutriBullet are also plastic, which is tougher. Though both companies state their plastic is BPA-free, I would prefer glass. This is especially true of the Ninja, because blending hot food is sometimes a necessity. (While it’s more challenging to find a food processor with a glass bowl, a quick Google search shows they do exist – and aren’t as costly as expected!)
Anyways! Some tips to aid your transition and keep your wallet happy:
- Near an IKEA? I highly recommend their glass bowls and cups! We bought a couple items in each color/pattern, and it was way more affordable than expected.
- Old Time Pottery stores are another great place to find glassware, plates, and bowls way on the cheap! I also found stainless steel replacements for our plastic colanders here, for a great price!
- For storing leftovers, Pyrex rocks my socks. We have this set and this set, and they meet all of our storage needs! (Yes, the lids are plastic. Pyrex uses BPA-free plastic, though we still don’t let food touch it. We always hand-wash them, so that they aren’t exposed to the dishwasher’s heat. No microwaving either!)
- For storing bulk dry ingredients, glass mason jars are PERFECT! I bought a set of 12 Ball jars on sale (and with a coupon!) at Jo-Ann Fabrics. Almost all are currently in use somewhere in our kitchen!
- Love glass travel bottles, but hate the price tag? Re-use a Voss Water glass bottle. I have one jumbo size (800 mL) and one adorable 375 mL bottle (from their sparkling water) that were both < $2.00 each. Check Target, World Market, Whole Foods, and TJ Maxx/Home Goods to buy.
If you have kiddos, you’re probably thinking that ditching plastic is impossible. It’s not! Because of the rise in demand, there are oodles of companies making awesome, safe kids’ products. I realize price is a bummer, but remember: a better product is not only safer, but way longer-lasting than cheap plastic. Stainless steel, bamboo, silicone, and tempered glass are great options.
Check out these kid-friendly brands, several of which can be found at Target:
- Munchkin Miracle Stainless Steel Sippy Cup
- Jack n’ Jill Bamboo & Rice Husk Cups
- Kleen Kanteen
- BIOBU by Ekobo Bambino
Last, but certainly not least, if you’re not ready to go plastic-free just yet (whether for everyone or just the kiddos), remember these safety tips:
- Avoid exposing any plastic item to heat (microwave/dishwasher), whether it’s marketed as heat-safe or not. Heat encourages the breakdown and leaching of chemicals. As a rule, we treat our remaining plastic items as “hand wash only.”
- Avoid plastics marked #7 or PC (“polycarbonate”). Polycarbonate almost always contains BPA, so stay away from it as much as possible.
- Avoid #3 plastics, which are PVC (“polyvinyl chloride”) and also leach toxic chemicals like phthalates and lead.
- Get rid of an item when it starts to show wear, especially scratches. Damaged surfaces may increase your exposure to chemical leaching.
- Never put hot liquids in any plastic. Again, this greatly increases the leaching of chemicals. (On that note, please, opt for glass baby bottles like these!)
- Don’t re-use any plastic containers not marketed as such (like takeout containers and other containers that food is often sold in).
- Choose plastics with numbers 1, 2, 4, or 5, since these don’t contain BPA. Follow all rules above, regardless of them being slightly better choices.
- Buy BPA-free and PVC-free plastics, if you must. If you can find phthalate-free as well, that’s even better.
Remember, though, that being BPA-free is not a guarantee of a plastic’s safety. Check out this article, which illuminates the issue of BPA-free products being full of other endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are just as dangerous – if not more so – than BPA itself.
Truly, the only guaranteed way to avoid the health risks of plastic is to avoid plastic itself. Not only that, but going plastic-free means having higher-quality items that will last a lifetime – better for the environment and your wallet!
Wishing your healthier, happier days!
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Hit me up below!