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Understanding the symbols on your plastic containers can often be a confusing issue for people. I talked about the recycling codes that you find on containers previously – that is the triangular recycling symbol with a number (1-7) on it – that tells you what kind of plastic it is. Most of these are recyclable these days. So all you have to do is clean them out and pop them into your recycling bin.

But what about the other symbols? The food safe symbol was designed to reassure consumers that the material used in a product is safe to contain food and is a wine glass and a fork symbol.

Broadly the food safe symbol provides assurance that the material bearing it is free from toxins it may have come into contact with during the manufacturing process and that the material itself will not become a source of unhealthy contaminants such as BPA and phthalates. The program sets limits for the amount of chemical migration per unit of surface area according to the type of material, the temperature it may reasonably be exposed to and the pH of the food stored in it. So products with the food safe logo are either BPA free or have quantities below the set limits.

Plastics are not just plastics – each type has different properties. Some are more porous than others, some are more flexible. We want some to be durable and others to be biodegradeable. Like most things we use – they are safest when they are ‘fit for purpose’ – or it is safe to reuse plastic containers that are designed to be reused. Logical I know but – containers you buy specifically to store food in and reuse them – some party plan ware for example falls into that safe to reuse category. But takeaway containers and the standard polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles that soft drink and bottled water are sold in are not.

I don’t want people to panic because they have reused those containers but just remember they were not designed to do so.

Again – those that are not recommended for microwave or dishwasher use should not be used in that way either. Essentially plastics are more likely to leach chemicals or harbour bacteria if not used correctly or if they are used and reused longer than intended.

So the bottom line is – use the plastic container as per instructions – they were put on there for a reason and please recycle all rigid plastics – after washing them out of course.