Eat Less Plastic

Recent findings about plastics:
  • Lest you feel content to simply avoid BPA and phthalates (both hormone disruptors and long-suspected of toxicity to humans, particularly fetuses and children), another recent study found: 

What’s a conscientious consumer to do? 

As I discovered in my recent Plastic-Free February Challenge, eliminating plastic from my life is nearly impossible (although it should be noted that some have very nearly achieved this). First, let’s focus on avoiding BPA, and then discuss general tips for safer use of all types of plastics. There are sources too numerous to count of BPA, but research suggests that food packaging is the primary source.

Eco-novice's Top Tips for Avoiding BPA:

Do not use liquid ready-to-use infant formula. Do not heat formula or breast milk in plastic bottles. Use glass bottles if possible. They make nifty silicone sleeves to help prevent breakage. Hand wash plastic baby bottles. I put this first because fetuses and babies are the most susceptible to hormone disruption. Here is a useful guide to safer use of infant formula.

Avoid canned foods and eat more fresh foods. If you can’t eat fresh, choose frozen foods over canned foods. Almost every canned food has BPA in the resin lining of the can. Fatty, salty and acidic foods are the most likely to experience plastic leaching. One study found the most significant amounts of BPA in canned chicken soup, pasta and infant formula. Other research identifies coconut milk, meat, and soup as the top culprits. Did you notice that soup was on both those lists? Read here about my plastic-free broth solution.

Avoid canned beverages too.  BPA has been found in the lining of canned soda and beer too.  Buy beverages in glass when possible (or just drink filtered tap water!).  BPA is also found in wine, which is sometimes stored in casks with epoxy linings containing BPA.   In addition, avoid reusable water bottles (such as aluminum bottles) with an epoxy lining.  Stainless steel water bottles do not need to be lined.

Do not use polycarbonate (#7) plastics, especially for storing food and beverages.  Not all #7 plastics are polycarbonate (#7 is a catch-all "other" category for plastics).  Polycarbonate is often a hard, clear plastic (like your coffee pitcher), and is a known source of BPA.  Store food and beverage in glass and stainless steel whenever possible.

Avoid touching receipts. If you aren’t going to return the items or if you can return the items by credit card, don’t take the receipt. Wash hands after handling receipts or cash, and especially before handling food. Do not recycle receipts!  If you handle receipts and cash often (as cashiers do), wear gloves! Yet another reason to shop at the Farmer’s Market or through a CSA: no receipts!

Tips for Safer Use of All Plastics (BPA or no BPA): 

  • Stick to plastic numbers 2, 4, 5. Try not to use plastics made of unknown materials.  
  • Do not store fatty, salty or acidic foods in plastic containers, as these are associated with greater leaching. 
  • Do not microwave plastic foods. 
  • Hand wash plastic.  If you wash it in the dishwasher, use the top rack and skip the heated drying. 
  • Do not use plastic that is visibly worn (cracked, scratched, warped). 
  • Do not use plastics for storing food in ways they were not intended to be used. Don’t reuse single-use plastic packaging (like bottled water containers) for beverage storage or use “disposable” plastic storage containers to store food for years on end. 
  • Find natural alternatives to plastic (glass, stainless steel, wood, wool, cotton). Focus on any product that will come in contact with food (dining ware, cookware, food storage containers, sippy cups, etc.) as well as baby’s toys, which will end up in baby's mouth. 

We've switched from plastic bowls to stainless steel bowls for our kids.

Although I adopted these tips as my own personal Plastic Rules some time ago, I still don’t do all of them. But here are some minor changes I have made to limit how much plastic my family ingests:

I share those items with you just to give you some ideas of small ways you can shift away from plastic in your eating habits. I still eat some canned foods.   I still buy plenty of foods in plastic packaging.  We sometimes use polypropylene (#5) cups which are washed in the dishwasher.

Yet slowly but surely, we are moving away from eating plastic.

Additional Resources

Other Resources

What steps have you taken to decrease the amount of plastic in your family’s diet?

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photo credit: Ella's new fake food via photopin (license)


  1. Thanks for this post! I never thought to buy stainless steel sippy cups. Is there a specific brand you recommend? There are too many options!

  2. Hi, Nisha! There are a lot of options for stainless steel sippys. I've tried 3 and liked 2. I'm working on a post about that RIGHT NOW! Hopefully it will be up tomorrow.

  3. This whole BPA being in canned foods thing is kind of depressing...
    Plastic free is definitely near-impossible, but thanks for all the ideas for how to move in that direction. Those stainless steel bowls sound fantastic--I love the price!

  4. Yep, depressing. But I've gotten over it. I still use canned diced tomatoes and tomato sauce in a can, even though it's acidic and likely leaching. Someday I'll grow and can my own tomatoes, but not anytime soon.

  5. I do a lot of these but how overwhelming! It is so infuriating that consumers are responsible for watching out for these dangerous things rather than manufacturers.

  6. Indeed.

    It's pretty disturbing that even China regulates BPA, but the US doesn't. But this is sort of the dilemma of modern life. You can avoid toxins the best you can, but you will never escape them entirely. It's hard to believe that all these chemicals were unleashed upon us without anyone stopping to think, hey, do you think this might have some unintended consequences?

  7. Great post! Just wondering what size are the stainless steel bowls that you order? I'm having a hard time envisioning what size they are on the website.

  8. Emily, the smallest size available: 3/4 qt. They have like 4 different brands on that website. I bought a few of each and liked them all fine. These are the heaviest/sturdiest:

    The really shallow ones are nice for young ones. It's about the same capacity as a cereal bowl.

  9. Thank you! I ordered six of the royal industries brand. Getting rid of my dishwasher pummeled melamine snack bowls.

  10. Emily, Just want to give you the heads up, that while they are dishwasher safe, they do have a propensity to come out not as clean as other dishes. This is b/c the metal heats up really hot with the hot water and sometimes the food bakes on. I've learned that if I put the bowl in the dishwasher with dried yogurt in it, a little bit might still be left after the cycle. So I make a little extra effort to rinse them off unless they were JUST used and the food is still wet, or we just use MOSTLY clean dishes. I don't mean to scare anyone off. I'm a person who almost never pre-rinses. They mostly come out clean. Just don't freak out if occasionally one doesn't. It's just a natural by-product of the metal's ability to conduct heat very, very well.

  11. Thanks for posting this and for mentioning My Plastic-free Life. I'll tweet this out and post to Facebook tomorrow. It'll be here:



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