Photo: Plastic or glass?

Jars of dried goods (Credit: Elana's pantry.)

Bev asks: What kind of containers should I consider when I'm buying goods at the grocery store: plastic, glass or aluminum?

First and foremost, avoid excess packaging whenever possible or buy the product or brand that uses the least amount of packaging.

Next, check in with your local recycling depot to see what type of containers they accept. Although many items are recyclable, your particular municipal facility may not have the capacity to recycle them. And if they're not compostable or recyclable, they head straight to the landfill.

For plastic containers, stick to those with a #2, #4, and #5 designation, because you can reuse these safely. You'll find the number on the bottom of the container. Again, check with your local depot to see if they recycle #1, 3, 6 and 7, it will vary.

Glass is one of my favorite forms of packaging because they're easily washed, re-used and most recycling centres in Canada accept them. Aluminum has long been recycled. Some blue box programs even accept aluminum foil. It can be broken down and used many times again.

Buying in bulk can be an excellent way to reduce packaging. For example, I keep the twist tie and bag together, tucked beside my flour jar. When I need to refill, I grab the bag and head to the store. This means you can reuse the bag and don't need to waste time in the store searching for that pen that never works, or that secret code because you've already labeled it the first time.

October 14, 2009

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Sep 13, 2012
9:10 AM

I like the idea of reusing glass jars. Is all glass safe? Does some kinds of glass contain lead or other harmful things?

Aug 31, 2012
9:45 AM

You should use a plastic container, when you are done with it you can recycling it with usplastic recycling

Aug 31, 2012
9:44 AM

you should use a plastic bottle, when you are done with you can recycle it with us. Plastic Recycling

Nov 21, 2011
8:26 AM

Dear Queen of Green,

Are durable plastic freezer bags reusable? I am concerned that after washing them out before reuse they may leach chemicals. Also, what about "flimsier" plastic bags such as sandwich baggies? Are they safe to wash and reuse? And finally, I would like to reuse my glass spaghetti sauce jars for other food storage. Do you have any tips for cleaning the lid? I find that I can't get the strong odour of tomato sauce out of them and end up recycling the jars instead of reusing them.

Thank you!

Aug 23, 2011
9:40 PM

I had my crafty friend make me some bulk bags out of old sheer curtains. They have a draw string on them so I can use them for fruits and veggies and I also use them for most of my bulk purchases. (Things like flour go through it though) I do use the twist ties to label the bulk purchases but then I reuse them at home to tie up my garbage bags. I use old cereal bags for my garbage and the twist ties work great to keep the bag from spilling in the bin.

Feb 15, 2011
4:27 PM

Abeego has at least a couple fans here at DSF when it comes to carting food around. I love that I can take a sandwich snugly in my shoulder bag and then fold the wrap completely flat when it’s empty. Very practical! And it smells fantastic.

Feb 14, 2011
5:48 PM

Every 1 ton of plastic recycled can save amount of water that can be used by 1 person for 2 months or almost 1800 pounds of oil or 1 year of 2 people’s energy requirement. Over it, recycling plastic saves money this optimizing resources as well as consumer surpluses.

May 18, 2010
12:53 PM

I would love to introduce all your readers to Abeego. Abeego is a food storage solution that I designed using hemp/cotton fabric infused with a blend of beeswax and plant extracts. It is natural, reusable and plastic free!! Check out to learn more!

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