Stay Frugal and Healthy While You Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

‘Reduce, reuse, recycle’ has become a mantra — not only for the environmentally conscious but for the frugal-minded. Once you’re of the mindset that we can reuse that which already exists, rather than create more, it’s easy to see things every day that seem to be logical candidates for re-purposing. While that way of thinking is precisely the message that environmentalists and frugal living proponents want people to have, there are some serious considerations to take into account when reusing certain items for food storage and preparation.

Here are some general issues about reusing items for food storage and preparation of which you should be aware:


Reusing certain plastics for the purpose of food storage and preparation is a topic of considerable debate. I’ll provide information about the issue while leaving the conclusions to you. Here’s the concern:

In general, plastic is both recycleable and reusable — but not all plastics are created equal. The recycle symbol on plastic items with a number contained within the triangle made of arrows indicates the type of plastic of which the container is made. It is thought by some that reuse of certain types of plastic containers for food storage and preparation can cause health risks.

Plastic #1, or polyethylene terephthalate, (PET) is used primarily for water, soda and juice bottles. It’s considered safe for one-time storage and consumption of these beverages but some contend that it should not be reused because it may leach carcinogenic substances as it degrades with reuse.

As I mentioned, there are conflicting opinions on this topic. The FDA flat-out denies that there’s a risk with any plastic approved for use with food. They say, “The FDA has determined that PET meets standards for food-contact materials established by federal regulations and therefore permits the use of PET in food and beverage packaging for both single use and repeated use. The FDA has evaluated test data that simulate long-term storage and that support repeated use.”

This is not to say that drinking out of all plastic containers is potentially unsafe. Safer types of plastic include #2, high-density polyethylene (HDPE), #4, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and #5, polypropylene (PP).

Whenever you choose to drink out of a reused bottle, bear in mind that they’re difficult to thoroughly clean and dry, creating an environment ripe for bacterial growth. Use extra care in washing them between uses.

One-Time-Use Items

There are food-related products undeniably intended for one-time use only. While they could conceivably be re-purposed, they should never be reused for food storage or preparation. These items include:

  • Plastic wrap
  • Foam meat trays
  • Convenience food dishes
  • Egg cartons

The USDA has determined that “Bacteria from foods that these packages once contained may remain on the packaging and thus be able to contaminate foods or even hands if reused.”

The following items cannot be adequately cleaned (and therefore shouldn’t be reused for food) due to their design (like rims under which bacteria can grow) or because they were not designed for specific types/temperatures of foods and may not stand up to high acid and/or hot foods:

  • Plastic utensils
  • Plastic cups
  • Containers from cottage cheese, sour cream, chip dip, margarine, milk…
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Wooden skewers
  • Kar lids with a non-cleanable liner, such as one made of waxed cardboard

Being environmentally and fiscally responsible is important, so long as your efforts to do the right thing don’t backfire, causing a risk to your health. Remember that because an item was once used for storage or preparation of food, it may be more appropriately re-purposed for something completely different.

How do you reduce, reuse and recycle in a healthy way?

Bonus Tip:

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