When you open your favorite snacks or treats, you likely don’t think about the type of plastic they are packaged in. Plastic packaging is so ubiquitous in today’s world that we hardly notice it. However, the kind of plastic used to hold and preserve our food matters – and the wrong choice of packaging materials can mean the difference in safety and sickness.
What Types of Plastic are Used for Food Packaging?
There are several types of plastic commonly used in food packaging materials. These include:
- PET/PETE – Polyethylene terephthalate is lightweight and made to be sturdy and impact resistant. It is often used to protect liquids or fragile foods from handling. The most common applications are soft drink bottles, peanut butter jars, and bottles made to hold dressings and condiments.
- HDPE – High-density polyethylene is lightweight and opaque in appearance. It is generally thin but surprisingly strong. Some common uses for this plastic include milk jugs, juice bottles, and squeezable syrup containers.
- LDPE – Low-density polyethylene is a very thin, see-through type of plastic. It is softer and more pliable in texture, making it great for produce and bread bags, can lids, and grocery bags.
- PP – Polypropylene is a sturdy yet pliable type of plastic that is heat-resistant up to a high temperature and suitable for cold food storage as well. It is used in yogurt, sour cream, whipped butter, and cottage cheese containers, just to name a few.
Ensuring Food Safety with Plastic
Why is plastic still so commonly used in food packaging – even after decades in use? Science is still searching for a solution as optimal for food storage as plastics. They are waterproof, leak-proof, easy to wash and recycle, and some types can even stand up to heating, freezing, and repeated use.
If you’re packaging a food product, plastic is almost always your best bet. Lightweight, safe, secure, and affordable – check with your plastics distributor to find out which type is best for your needs.