One of the easiest and most advised ways to start living sustainably is to know how to reuse plastic containers properly. This is because as much as we want to eliminate plastic in our day-to-day activities, it’s still an inevitable part of our routines and communities. While there are now many channels for recycling and proper disposal, repurposing plastic containers also has advantages. Not sure where to start? Read on.
1. Learn which kind of plastics can be reused
Plastic containers are usually labelled with numbers one (1) to seven (7), which indicate the plastic type. These numbers also determine if the plastic is safe to reuse at home.
Plastics labeled ‘one’ or ‘1’ are polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and are made from 100% recyclable materials. Because of this, it’s recommended for these to go to the recycling bin right away.
Plastics labeled ‘three/3’ and ‘six/6’ (styrofoam) are non-recyclables and are also not advised to be reused. Ideally, these types of plastics should be avoided altogether.
Those labeled ‘seven/7’ should also be avoided as they potentially contain bisphenol A (BPA), which poses health risks.
Plastics labeled ‘two/2’, four/4’ and ‘five/5’ are the best ones to reuse. These are usually bottle or jar containers used for food and other non-liquid substances.
If the plastics are not labelled, it’s best to clean them first before putting them in the recycling bin. This is because plastic with compromised material (a.k.a. dirt or moisture seeped into it) is harder to recycle.
2. Make sure all the containers are empty and rinse out any residue
Once you’re done segregating your plastic containers to those that can be reused, it’s time to separate each of the parts (lids, caps, actual container, etc.) for initial cleaning. Rinse out any residue under tap water. Test if the container’s free from old product; it’s good if the water that comes out of it is clear.
Make sure you also peel off any labels or stickers on the containers before proceeding.
3. Put them all in a big basin or bowl and soak in a dish soap + tap water mixture
The containers don’t necessarily have to lay flat on the basin or bowl; you can stack them together, just as long as the parts are still separated. Fill the bowl with tap water and a good amount of dish soap and make sure that each of the containers has soapy water on the inside. Let them sit for 30 minutes.
4. Give the containers a thorough cleanse using a clean brush or sponge
After letting the containers sit for 30 minutes, clean each part thoroughly using a brush or a sponge. Make sure that the brush or the sponge is new so that it doesn’t contaminate the containers. Scrub off residue from stickers or labels as well.
When the containers are squeaky clean, set them to dry or wipe them with a clean towel before storing.
5. Remember: What you put in your containers affects longevity and reuse quality
While old food plastic containers can be used for storing skincare or other household products, avoid doing it the other way around for safety reasons. Also, avoid microwaving reused plastic containers (even if they are indeed microwaveable) as the radiation from the microwave can bind substances to the plastic (especially if done repeatedly), making them prone to invisible contamination.
Prevent the material from getting tainted with hard-to-clean substances like grease and oil, as this also affects the plastic quality. As much as possible, store only dry products in thin reused plastic containers.
When it comes to bottles, make sure you avoid storing highly acidic substances so that plastic won’t wear out easily. Should discolouration, mould or scratches appear on the plastic container, take it as a sign to finally dispose it for professional recycling.
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