Types of Plastic Food Packaging and Safety: Close-Up Look
Did you know? Plastic is a surprisingly versatile material with elemental origins.
Elements from the periodic table, such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur, are the building blocks for a variety of plastics used to make many of the products we use every day. Some plastics are transparent and durable for use in eyeglasses or safety goggles. Other plastics are strong and lightweight, allowing us to ship more products with less packaging. Plastics can even be bacteria-resistant for use in food packaging and life-saving medical equipment.
You don’t have to be a scientist to understand the many ways plastics are useful.
Plastics are used in many types of food packaging and disposable containers for a variety of reasons – they help protect foods from damage, provides food safety and extends the freshness of foods.
What are the different types of plastics used in food packaging?
You may have seen the number 1 through 7 on the bottom or side of a plastic packaging container. This number is the plastic “resin identification code,” also known as the “recycling number.” This number can also provide guidance for consumers who want to recycle plastic containers.
Many major types of plastic resins used in packaging (#1 through #7) are recyclable. Most frequently, community recycling programs collect plastic bottles made from PET (#1) and HDPE (#2), but many communities are expanding their programs to collect additional types of plastics. Although most communities instruct residents to recycle by the shape of an item (e.g., bottles, containers, caps, lids), some communities also refer to the resin identification code.
How do we know the plastic used in food packaging is safe and not toxic?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the safety of all plastics currently used in food packaging and food contact materials. A list of these approved substances can be found in FDA’s database.