Take a look around in your office, kitchen or bedroom, plastic is all around us. Our food packaging, clothing, computers, mobile phones, stationery and even baby toys are ALL made of plastic! In everyday life, we do not even think about how these plastic products affect our health, the health of our children and the environment.
Some types of plastics are a direct threat to our health. So, in the production of polycarbonate, from which some of our dishes are made, Bisphenol A is used, which, according to Western scientists, causes hormonal disorders, which ultimately leads to obesity, infertility, early puberty, and significantly increases the likelihood of developing cancer.
On some plastic products, you can see a triangle, the walls of which form arrows. A number is placed in the center of such a triangle. This designation is a recycling symbol that divides all plastics into seven groups in order to facilitate the process of further processing.
In everyday life, this icon can be used to determine for what purposes a plastic product can be used, and in which cases it is generally possible to refuse to use this product.
1. Polyethylene terephthalate (PETE / PET)
The most common type of plastic. Various soft drinks (juices, water), sunflower oil, ketchups, mayonnaise, and cosmetics are poured into bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate.
Advantages of plastic: cheapness, durability, safety.
Disadvantages of plastic: low barrier properties (ultraviolet and oxygen easily penetrate into the bottle; carbon dioxide contained in soft drinks also seeps through the walls relatively easily).
Health and environmental hazards: PET bottles are officially considered safe for health. However, there is information that the contents of the bottles, may leach toxic antimony from bottle walls (especially when heated). This information still needs to be verified. So far, PETE is considered one of the safest types of plastics. Nevertheless, doctors do not recommend reusing PETE bottles, because in everyday life it is difficult to wash them cleanly enough to “get rid” of all microorganisms.
Processing: processing is carried out mechanically (grinding) and physico-chemically. A wide range of different products can be made from processed products, including plastic bottles again.
2. High-density polyethylene (HDPE)
Bottles for shampoos, cosmetics and detergents, canisters for motor oils, disposable tableware, containers and containers for foodstuffs, containers for freezing food, toys, various caps and caps for bottles are made from high-density polyethylene and bottles, durable shopping bags, packing bags and boxes. Advantages of
plastic: low cost, safety, strength, ease of processing, resistance to oils, acids, alkalis and other aggressive environments, HDPE containers can be subjected to thermal sterilization, a fairly high operating temperature range from -80 ° C to + 110 ° C
Hazards to health and the environment: Despite the fact that HDPE products, like PETE products, are considered safe for human health, there are a number of myths according to which hexane and benzene can get into the liquid from the container walls. So far, these are only myths that do not have scientific confirmation.
Recycling: HDPE waste is crushed in special plants, then the granules are melted down again into various products.
3. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC / V)
Polyvinyl chloride, aka PVC, vinyl is used for the manufacture of linoleum, window profiles, furniture edges, household appliances packaging, artificial leather, stretch ceiling film, siding, pipes, wire and cable insulation, shower curtains , folders with metal rings, cheese and meat wrappers, bottles of vegetable oil, as well as some toys , including sexual ones.
Advantages of plastic: resistance to acids, alkalis, solvents and oils, gasoline, kerosene, good dielectric, does not burn.
Disadvantages of plastic: a small operating temperature range from -15°С to +65°С, difficulty in processing, toxicity.
Hazard to health and the environment: This is the most toxic and hazardous type of plastic. When polyvinyl chloride is burned, highly toxic organochlorine compounds are formed ; after 10 years of service, products made from PVC begin to release toxic organochlorine compounds into the environment on their own. The most annoying thing is that PVC continues to be used in the manufacture of children’s toys and “sex toys” for adults to give greater flexibility. There is information that polyvinyl chloride enters the human bloodstream and causes hormonal disorders leading to early puberty and infertility .
Processing: injection molding, pressing, extrusion, calendering.
4. Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
Various packaging materials, bags for supermarkets, CDs, DVDs are made from low-density polyethylene
Advantages of plastic: cheapness, lightness.
Disadvantages of plastic: unprofitable processing.
Health and environmental hazards: Officially considered harmless, despite the fact that butane, benzene and vinyl acetate are used in the production of potentially hazardous health.
Processing:Processing is low-profit and comes down to crushing LDPE products with subsequent granulation. The mass production of LDPE leads to “littering” of the environment. All city streets and landfills are littered with LDPE bags, they float in the seas and oceans in tons, causing the death of fish, birds, sea turtles and other animals that choke and become entangled in them. Many cities around the world have completely abandoned the use of plastic bags.
5. Polypropylene (PP)
Polypropylene is used to make buckets, hot dishes, disposable syringes, sugar bags, freezer containers, caps for most bottles, oilers, some food packaging, and is used in construction for noise insulation. Many home appliance manufacturers are using polypropylene to manufacture their product packaging, moving away from the toxic polyvinyl chloride.
Advantages of plastic: heat resistance (melting point 175°C), wear resistant; more heat resistant than polyethylene.
Disadvantages of plastic: sensitive to light and oxygen, ages faster than polyethylene; less frost-resistant than polyethylene.
Hazard to health and the environment: It is believed that polypropylene is safe for health. Recently, a group of Japanese scientists found that small particles of polypropylene floating in ocean waters absorb various toxicants dissolved in sea water, such as DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls.
Processing: injection molding, pressing, extrusion.
6. Polystyrene (PS)
Polystyrene is used to make disposable tableware, food containers, yogurt cups, children’s toys, thermal insulation boards, sandwich panels, ceiling moldings, ceiling decorative tiles, packaging trays for food in supermarkets (meat, various nuts, etc.). .d.), packaging boxes for eggs.
Advantages of plastic: low cost, frost resistance, ease of processing, good dielectric.
Disadvantages of plastic: low mechanical strength and chemical instability.
Hazard to health and the environment: Previously, the production of polystyrene was associated with the release of trichlorofluoromethane (freon), which destroyed the ozone layer of the Earth. Polystyrene is produced by the polymerization of styrene, which is carcinogenic.
Processing: extrusion followed by crushing and granulation.
7. Other types of plastics
Hazards to health and the environment: This group includes other types of plastics, so their use in everyday life may be hazardous to your health. So , polycarbonate from which some food utensils and bottles are made, upon contact with hot liquids, can release Besphenol A , which can cause various hormonal disorders in the human body (early puberty, obesity, cancer, …). However, this group may also include environmentally friendly types of plastics that biodegrade in the environment with the participation of microorganisms. That is, by purchasing containers from this group of plastics, you are playing roulette .
Recycling: not eligible.
You can get more information about the different types of plastics on Wikipedia .
In conclusion, we want to give some advice:
– If possible, you should abandon plastic utensils in favor of wooden, glass, porcelain, metal (instead of a plastic cutting board, you can use a wooden, plastic bottle on a hike can be replaced with a metal flask).
Some manufacturers (Klean Kanteen, Sigg, Timolino) are already producing reusable stainless steel bottles instead of plastic bottles.
– Carefully monitor the labeling of plastic products, especially when buying children’s toys.
— Try to avoid heat treatment of plastics with low heat resistance.