Plastic storage cases (including restaurant takeout containers) have a triangle-shaped recycling symbol on the back with a number inside. The shape is meant to indicate recyclability, while the number refers to the type of resin used to make the plastic. The Smart Plastics Guide, which lists the numbers and their corresponding meanings, will also tell you about the different health risks associated with different types of plastic, as well as which ones can be used for food storage.
However, Michael Tunick, a research chemist in Drexel’s Food and Hospitality Management department, told Southern Living that 1, 3, and 6 are actually single-use plastics, while 7 is made of polycarbonate — which leaches bisphenol A (BPA), a known endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) — and should not be reused.
Even with numbers and guides, there is much uncertainty with regard to the other additives that go into the making of plastic containers, shared Samara Geller, senior director of cleaning science at the Environmental Working Group (via Epicurious). “[The plastics industry] is really lacking transparency in terms of providing complete formulas for their plastic products, including their plastic take-out containers,” explained Geller.
Is it possible, then, to safely reuse takeout containers? And if yes, how?