Is It Safe to Reuse Plastic Take-out Containers?
BY ALAINA CHOU
September 1, 2023
If your house is anything like mine, you’ve got a kitchen cabinet filled to the brim—no, overflowing—with plastic food containers. Maybe some are ones you’ve bought expressly for the purpose of storing leftovers or decanting dry goods, but chances are you’ve got some (or in my case, many) that originally served as vessels for that curry you ordered for takeout, or the olives you bought from your weekend farmers market. More often than not, these take the form of so-called “deli containers”—you know, those clear cylindrical plastic tubs that come in eight ounce, pint, and quart-sized varieties. The genius of these containers—and the reason we love them—is that they’re stackable, and the universal lids fit every size. But their ubiquity and convenience, and the fact that they tend to get suspiciously pliable when filled with piping hot stock, had me wondering if they’re really safe to reuse over and over again.
To get the lowdown on all things deli container, I turned to the experts: I spoke with Genoa Warner, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of Chemistry and Environmental Science at the New Jersey Institute of Technology; Jimena Díaz Leiva, PhD, the science director at California-based nonprofit the Center for Environmental Health, and Samara Geller, the senior director of cleaning science at the Environmental Working Group. Read on for their recommendations as to what’s safe—and what may not be—when it comes to using plastic deli and take-out containers in your kitchen.