Reuse or Dispose: One-time Use Plastics

Do you wash disposable containers or bottles and reuse them? Do you drink hot coffee or tea from a disposable plastic cup? Have you placed a takeaway container into the microwave and seen it melt?

If the answer to any of these is ‘yes', think again: you could be harming yourself.

source: Plastic peril: Don't reuse, just dispose:

Authorities step up controls over food packaging materials, but concerns remain over misuse of plastics at home
* By Sharmila Dhal, Senior Reporter

While Dubai Municipality is preparing to launch a major initiative to create awareness in this regard, XPRESS has learnt that the authorities have also stepped up controls over food contact materials that are imported, manufactured or exported from the emirate to ensure greater health and safety of consumers.

"Most disposables are not designed for multiple use in terms of what they store or carry," said Bobby Krishna, Food Safety Officer at Dubai Municipality. "Not all are designed to withstand heat or chemical wash."

The dangers of misuse could range from burning and break-down to chemical migration, which in extreme cases can also release cancer-causing materials (see box).

While Krishna said such extreme cases are still being debated, the extent of harm depends on the type of chemicals contained in the misused food packaging material, the contact time of the food, the temperature it is subjected to and the amount of food that is consumed from it.

Providing tips to differentiate between common plastics, Nidal Haddad, CEO of Al Bayader International, a local plastic manufacturer, said people should be aware that plastics comprise different materials like polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS) etc, not all of which are suitable for all purposes.

He said most take-out containers, water bottles and plastic tubs or jars that carry yogurt, cream, cheese etc are not microwave-safe. Even microwavable take-out dinner trays are generally designed for one-time use.

The thumb rule is never to use a plastic container in a microwave unless it is specified as microwave-safe, he said, noting that one of the most common mistakes people make is to use PET take-out containers and other one-time use containers to cook or reheat food in the microwave.

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Amazing Reuses of Plastic Bottles

Billions upon billions of plastic bottles are produced, consumed, and trashed each and every day in North America alone and only a small percentage are recycled while a huge amount sit in landfills.

The following are some amazing examples of used water bottles being reused:

1. Richie Sowa’s Spiral Island floats off the coast of Mexico atop 250,000 plastic bottles. The plastic island is completely self-sustaining and is classified as a ship with the freedom to float wherever Sowa would like to go.

2. A little plastic bottle boat crafted by the owner and employees of the Rain Tree Lodge - an eco backpacker’s hotel on the island of Viti Levu in Fiji. The boat is built out of plastic bottles and a layer of foam, held together with glue. The boat can remain afloat supporting three large Fijian men as they paddle around in it.

The Rain Tree Lodge’s owner hopes that his experiments and designs can be used by Fijians to make use of the many plastic bottles being discarded in the country.

3. Students from Clark Montessori High School gave a helping hand in the construction of this cool project that includes over 1000 2-liter plastic soft drink bottles as its walls.

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Awesome Reusable Polypropylene Containers

Polypropylene is an ideal material for reusable packaging of all kinds because of its durability and flexibility. This is one of the plastics that can be put in the freezer, then the microwave or dishwasher without fear of it loosing its shape or leaching toxins (the food-grade polypropylene used in CuBE containers is virgin, meaning no toxic additives are needed).

These are some great polypropylene food containers on the market:

1. The Keepcup is an alternative to the sustainability issue of non-biodegradeable take-away coffee cups as Keepcup has an estimated lifespan of four years! It's made from reusable and recyclable polypropylene and is "unbreakable”, light weight, stackable and thermo insulating.

2. The CamelBak Better Bottle represents a new standard of performance and convenience in re-usable water bottles. Available in multiple colors, this innovative bottle is also BPA- and Phthalate-free. It's easy to carry and attaches to most water filters and fits in most cup holders. Also, it's dishwasher safe.

3. Inspired by Japanese Bento boxes,The Laptop Lunch Box is a new and creative way to make a daily packed lunch. Made entirely from non-toxic food-grade polypropylene and polyethylene, the Laptop Lunch Box System includes five reusable containers and a knife and fork. The reusable boxes remove the the need for plastic sandwich bags reducing how much you need to throw away, while also making it easier to pack fresh fruit, vegetables and home cooked meals.

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