How to fuel the active, eco friendly and plastic free

How to fuel the active, eco friendly and plastic free

Today marks the first day of Spring and what better way than to start with a fresh spring cleaning! Time to take a look at throwing out all those nasty food containers and embark on the new season, eco friendly and plastic free!

Plastic free month was in fact July, but surely we can think about the issues caused by single-use plastic for more than one month. In fact, should we consciously move to minimise our use of plastics on an ongoing daily basis, particularly in food packaging? And if so, why?

How to fuel the active, eco friendly and plastic free

What’s wrong with plastic food packaging?

Whether it’s packing snacks for recess, lunch for school, fueling on the way to training or recovery on the way back home, our daily lives involve plenty of food packaging. Most of the convenient options are in fact, made of plastic. Whether its plastic lunch boxes, drink bottles, cling film or plastic bags, the majority of us use plastics in our food packaging on every day.

So what’s the big deal with plastic? Is it really that bad? Is it really necessary to live plastic free?

1. Potential health risk?

The full extent of the impact of plastics on our health is still not completely known. Research has proven that some of the key components in plastics, particularly bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates, can be detrimental to human health. However, there is also opposing arguments saying that significantly higher amounts than those found in packaging would need to be absorbed in order to be a health risk.

Bisphenol-A (BPA)

Harmful to the human hormonal system
  • BPA is a chemical found in hard plastics and also used to preserve and protect food from contamination. It is therefore often found commonly in food and drink packaging.
  • The main contention about BPA is its potential to interfere with the hormonal system. It is in fact, recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC). 1
  • “Sensitivity to endocrine disruption is highest during tissue development.” This means there is even greater potential to impact children than adults, requiring lower doses to take effect. 2
  • Health risks that BPA may pose for humans include reproductive disorders, 3 4 risk of type 2 diabetes 5, potential effects on brain function, memory and learning, 6 and neural development in children. 7
Australian Food Safety authorities still approve BPA
  • Even though there is research to support potential negative impacts of BPA, the Australian food safety authority still approves the use of BPA in food packaging. Their view is that the current levels of BPA in products are at low levels and these are not enough to cause a health or safety issue.
  • It is interesting to note however that WHO recognises that BPA can act at even low doses 8. In addition, it acknowledges that endocrine disruptors can work together to produce combination effects when combined at low doses.2
  • I guess the question comes down to the definition of what is the “low level?”
  • WHO has urgently called for more research and testing to be done to determine the full extent of the impact of EDCs.

Phthalates

Also harmful to the human health
  • Phthalates are a family of organic chemicals produced from oil. They are used in a variety of consumer products from deodorants to plastic packaging. They are used in plastics to impart flexibility.
  • Phthalates are also recognised by the World Health Organisation as an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC). 10
  • Similar to BPA, these chemicals can leach out of the plastic over time.  This can then contaminate any food, drink or other material with which they have contact.
  • Exposure to some phthalates is considered to be potentially harmful to human health, 11 12 including damaging the male reproductive system. 13
Even though Australian Food Safety authorities still approve phthalates, they have made restrictions on certain children’s plastics and recognise more research needs to be done
  • In a similar stance to BPA, the Foods Standards Australian & New Zealand support the view that levels of phthalates in food packaging are too low to cause harm.
    • However, it is interesting to note that the ACCC banned certain children’s plastic products that contain, or have a component that contains, more than 1% by diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) due to the high risk of reproductive toxicity. This is because these products are readily placed in the mouth by young children.
    • Also, in a recent study, they did acknowledge that more work needed to be done on two phthalates [di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthalate (DINP)],  to determine whether there are any health and safety concerns.
Partial ban already made by Europe
  • By contrast, the European Union has already moved to enforce a partial ban. It has placed specific restrictions on both DEHP and DINP, amongst numerous other phthalates being used in food packaging.

2. Bad for the environment

Not only is plastic a potential concern for our health, it can be hazardous to our environment.

Unnecessary landfill

Single use plastics like straws, plastic shopping bags, sandwich and snack bags, are all particularly a worry as they end up nearly immediately in landfill. Ironically, plastics are used commonly for single use but are made to last forever.

Did you know that Australians are the second highest (to the United States) producers of waste per person in the world? Each of us send 690 kgs of waste to landfill each year. 14 74% of all waste we find is plastic. 15

So what’s so bad about landfill? Not only is it unsightly, but toxins from the landfill can leach into our environment over time. This can pollute our land, ground water and waterways. In addition, greenhouse gases emitted from landfill have implications for global warming and climate change.

Marine debris killing our marine life

Plastic debris also lands up in our waterways causing danger to our marine life. This is mainly in the form of entanglement or ingestion when marine life mistake it for food.

 

What are some plastic free alternatives?

Despite the mounting evidence, the jury seems to be still out on the extent of potential risks of plastics on human health. More research is being done to understand potential concerns but there are already restrictions in place around the world in recognition of its potential to harm humans.

For me, this is reason enough to be mindful of using plastics particularly in regard to food packaging.

But what else should we use instead?

There are so many harmful-plastic free alternatives available to keep our families safe and eco friendly. Here are some ideas that we love and use ourselves.

How to fuel the active eco friendly and plastic free

1. Stainless steel lunch boxes
Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 12.07.33 PM

A stainless steel lunch box is perfect for storing food hygienically, is completely plastic free and eco friendly.

The reuseable Lunchbots container pictured is the LunchBots Bento box – trio*.

We love this lunch box as it is the perfect size to fit a decent main size lunch, a snack and some fruit for a complete meal for hungry, sporty kids.

LunchBots lunch boxes, lids and containers are manufactured from high quality, food grade, 18/8 stainless steel.  They come in various sizes and internal compartmental combinations. You can find a wide range of Lunchbots products here*.

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 12.08.50 PM2. Glass containers and mason jars

Mason jars are not just a trend because they look good but because they are another great alternative to plastic. We love to use them for lunches of rice, noodles or salads and smoothies.

The Ball mason jars come in various sizes and even colours. They are reusable and made from non-toxic, impermeable glass.

The Ball mason jar pictured* is the 650ml wide mouth jar. You can find a range of Ball Mason Jars here*.

3. Reuseable stainless or bamboo utensils

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 12.10.10 PMReuseable stainless steel cutlery and utensils are once again the better alternative to plastic throw aways. This includes straws where we waste so much with the one use plastic straw. Invest in a stainless steel reuseable straw which is also much more health friendly, plastic free and eco friendly.

The stainless steel straw pictured here is made from high quality food grade stainless steel. You can find more details about it here*, and other plastic free straws here*.

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 2.19.49 PMAnother alternative you many not have considered is a reusable bamboo spork.

The U Konserve bamboo spork pictured is made of sustainably harvested bamboo. It is therefore naturally BPA, PVC, lead and phthalate free. The mesh bag is made of polyester.

You can read more about this U Konserve bamboo spork here* and a range of bamboo sporks here*.

4. Use reuseable material sandwich wraps

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 12.21.23 PM

You can also replace those plastic lunch bags with a reuseable cotton sandwich wraps.

Lunchskins are made out of US and Europe certified food-safe cotton fabric from Germany with a polyurethane liner tested by an independent lab to meet the requirements of food safety. They are lead free, BPA free and phthalate free.

They are so easy to wash just by placing inside out in the dishwasher.

The Lunchskin pictured is the sandwich bag in Zebra Blue*. To view a range of Lunchskins in different sizes and colours, click here*.

Let’s be practical, it’s hard to totally avoid all plastics.

With potential for any risk to human health, plastic free products are preferable. However, I do acknowledge that a life totally plastic free is difficult and can be impractical at times.

So which plastics are safest?

Based on current research, some plastics appear to be safer than others.

  • #1 PET, #2 HDPE, #4 LDPE and #5 PP are non BPA materials.
  • The plastics to avoid are labelled #3, #6, and some types of #7.

Below is a table from Choice Magazine of different plastics categorised by identification number.

Identification No. Type of plastic Uses Risks

1

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
  • Bottles used for water and soft drinks
  • Jars for products such as peanut butter
  • Lightweight and ‘green’ wine bottles
No known health hazards.

2

High density polyethylene (HDPE)
  • Bottles used for milk and cream
  • Yoghurt cups
  • Bags that line breakfast cereal packets
No known health hazards.

3

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
  • Shrink and cling wrap
  • Clear plastic containers for fresh fruit or takeaway sandwiches
  • Some soft drink bottles
  • The gaskets that form a seal on screw-cap glass jars
Contains plasticisers such as DEHA or phthalates that can leach into food.

4

Low density polyethylene (LDPE)
  • Take-away containers
  • Waterproof coating on milk cartons
  • Bags used for bread and frozen foods
  • Cling wrap
No known health hazards.

5

Polypropylene (PP)
  • Bottle caps
  • Yoghurt and margarine containers
  • Food storage boxes
No known health hazards.

6

Polystyrene (PS)
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Drinking cups and yoghurt cups
  • Cups of hot coffee (polystyrene foam)
  • Lightweight trays used by supermarket to package and sometimes vegetables (polystyrene foam)
Researchers have investigated possible health risks from traces of styrene monomer. This risk seems to be low.

7

The number 7 is used as a catch-all for any other plastics, one of which is polycarbonate.
  • Bottles for sauces and condiments
  • Babies’ feeding bottles and infants’ drinking cups
  • Reusable water bottles for cyclists and athletes
Polycarbonate can release BPA into food, especially when bottles are washed for reuse.

Source: Choice Magazine

Other reusable eco friendly options

Whilst not completely plastic free, here are some other reusable products with safer plastics that you may consider.

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 12.15.10 PM1. Stainless Steel containers with plastic lids

The Kids Konserve Nesting Trio is a set of food-grade stainless steel containers with non-toxic LDPE #4 plastic lids. They are BPA-free, phthalate-free and lead-free.

These containers are so handy for kids snacks, either for recess or afternoon snacks pre and post training.

You can purchase them here*.

2. Thermos

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 12.27.43 PM

We get so much use out of our Thermos Wide Mouth Food Jar. With a collapsible stainless steel spoon cleverly hidden in an added compartment in the lid, it is so convenient when on the go. It has a double wall vacuum insulation which keeps food cold for up to 9 hours and hot for up to 7 hours.

This thermos is particularly handy to feed kids dinner in the car after late training. At 470ml, it is a great size for meals. You can find out more about it here*.

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 12.23.17 PMFor smaller sized meals for younger kids, this Thermos FUNtainer is a great alternative. At 290ml capacity, it is also a BPA free, stainless steel insulated food jar. It keeps food hot for 5 hours and cold for 7 hours. This one is handy for smaller meals like younger kids’ lunches.

You can find more about it here*.

All plastics used for Thermos Food jars are BPA free. Products are also free of phthalates and lead or meet the limits required by law.

 

Simple strategies to minimise risks from plastic food packaging

Even though there is still much contention as to the extent of plastics on our wellbeing, we can follow 5 simple rules to help minimise possible health risks:

  1. Preferably select plastic free food containers where possible, such as safer stainless steel and glass alternatives. This includes drink bottles, cups, plates, containers, lunch boxes and bags.
  2. Do not heat food in plastic containers. Heat can cause the breakdown of the plastic which can then lead to leaching of contaminants into the food.  16
  3. This includes placing plastics in the dishwasher. Avoid high heat which may impact the integrity of the plastic.
  4. Avoid washing plastics in harsh detergents.
  5. Discard any plastic wear that shows signs of deterioration.

 

Happy Spring Cleaning!

We devote so much time and energy into staying active to keep healthy, but not so much time thinking about how other daily habits may be harming our health. Moving toward an eco friendly and plastic free environment is a great ongoing goal to healthier and more thoughtful living.

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HAPPY SPRING CLEANING!

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How to fuel the active, eco friendly and plastic free

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References

Show 16 footnotes

  1. “State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012 An assessment of the state of the science of endocrine disruptors,” prepared by a group of experts for the United Nations Environment Programme and World Health Organization p196
  2. “State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012 An assessment of the state of the science of endocrine disruptors,” prepared by a group of experts for the United Nations Environment Programme and World Health Organization p20
  3. Ronit Machtinger et al, “Bisphenol-A and human oocyte maturation in vitro”,Hum. Reprod. Advance Access published July 30, 2013
  4. Victor Y. Fujimoto, M.D at al, “Serum unconjugated bisphenol A concentrations in women may adversely influence oocyte quality during in vitro fertilization”, Fertility and Sterility Volume 95, Issue 5, April 2011, Pages 1816–1819
  5. Iain A. Lang et al, September 17, 2008, Association of Urinary Bisphenol A Concentration With Medical Disorders and Laboratory Abnormalities in Adults JAMA. 2008;300(11):1303-1310. doi:10.1001/jama.300.11.1303.
  6.  Csaba Leranth et al, September 3, 2008 “Bisphenol A prevents the synaptogenic response to estradiol in hippocampus and prefrontal cortex of ovariectomized nonhuman primates.” PNAS published September 3, 2008. DOI:10.1073/pnas.0806139105
  7. State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012 An assessment of the state of the science of endocrine disruptors,” prepared by a group of experts for the United Nations Environment Programme and World Health Organization p114
  8. “State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012 An assessment of the state of the science of endocrine disruptors,” prepared by a group of experts for the United Nations Environment Programme and World Health Organization p13 http://unep.org/pdf/9789241505031_eng.pdf
  9. “State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012 An assessment of the state of the science of endocrine disruptors,” prepared by a group of experts for the United Nations Environment Programme and World Health Organization p20
  10. “State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012 An assessment of the state of the science of endocrine disruptors,” prepared by a group of experts for the United Nations Environment Programme and World Health Organization p194
  11. Wittassek M et al, 2011 Jan “Assessing exposure to phthalates – the human biomonitoring approach.” PMID: 20564479
  12.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), December 2012 “Limiting the Use of Certain Phthalates as Excipients in CDER-Regulated Products”
  13. EWG’s Skin Deep – “Top tips for Safer Products” http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/top-tips-for-safer-products/
  14. Clean up Australia http://www.cleanup.org.au/au/Whatelsewesupport/plastic-bag-facts.html?kw=plastics
  15.  http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/the-issues.html
  16. National Research Council of the National Academies, Committee on the health risks of phthalates, Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology,  Division on Earth and Life Science p21 Phthalates and Cumulative Risk Assessment The Task Ahead (2008)

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