Photo: Is it safe to microwave plastics?

Never microwave plastic containers or plastic wrap. (Credit: tWo pInK pOSsuMs via Flickr)

The answer is simple: Do not microwave plastic containers or plastic wrap, ever.

Heating up plastics can cause phthalates (a toxic petroleum derivative) to leach into your food. Instead, reheat last night's dinner in glass or ceramic dishes. Safely cover food with a plate or lid to avoid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic wrap and to prevent a mess in the microwave.

There is no shortage of fad diets out there, but consider going on a plastic diet. Start today with these simple steps:

Step 1: Avoid plastic packaging on your next trip to the grocery store. Buying in bulk is a better option, and it saves you money.

Step 2: Store leftovers in reusable glass or stainless steel containers.

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Step 3: If you reuse plastic containers in the fridge or freezer, only reuse those numbered 2 (HDPE), 4 (LDPE), or 5 (PDF file). These numbers and letters are found on the bottom of most containers and lids. Then commit this quick jingle to memory: "2, 4, 5 keep yourself alive." These three types of plastic leach the least amount of toxins.

Finally, take stock of plastic containers spilling out of your kitchen cupboards. Check for cracks and scratches. Damage like this will ruin leftovers because toxic chemicals can leach out. But before tossing them in the blue bin, repurpose them throughout the home. Worn plastic containers — with or without lids — make great storage. Organize a cluttered closet or nuts and bolts in the garage.

A plastic diet will help you reduce your exposure to toxins in the home and lighten your environmental footprint at the same time. To learn more about all seven types of plastics, check out our Plastics by Number guide, and keep in mind that the items you can recycle vary from city to city, depending on your municipal blue bin program or local drop-off depot.

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