Reusing plastic food containers may be sustainable but not necessarily hygienic, as they may be contaminated by microorganisms.
Bacteria, mould and yeast are likely to grow on the surface of single-use plastic items.
Microbial contamination often occurs in food packaging, as food residue sticking to the likes of plastic carrier bags or unfinished drinks in plastic bottles are a veritable hot spot for microbes. Most plastic materials are not intended for easy cleaning, with many containing phthalate plasticizers-these are a special brand of additive that render plastics more flexible. Said additives threaten to leach into food when it is microwaved, washed in the dishwasher or just left out in the sun for too long. They also contaminate soil, sea water, living organisms and even human breast milk.
Beyond the development of sustainable plasticizers, advanced cleaning solutions as offered by Microban International represent another way of treating contaminated plastic waste. The world leader in anti-microbial solutions has developed special formulations to eliminate 90% of pathogens on plastic packaging surfaces. Essentially, the growth and propagation of microbial communities is disturbed, causing them to die off. Plastic packaging containing these integrated anti-microbials stay both cleaner and fresher between cleaning bouts. Since it renders plastic more durable as well, the process quasi ensures the reuse of plastic packaging.
Polymer types treated by Microban International include ABS, PP, LDPE, PVC as well as PC.
380 million tons of plastic are produced each year, of which 50% are reported to be single-use plastics. Plastic has also seen a boom in the packaging market due to its convenience as well as its low price point. Recycling rates for plastic containers are relatively low on a global scale, with most plastics going to landfill (40%) or incineration (25%). Public outcry-especially over the extent of marine plastic pollution-has led to an increased investment in plastic packaging innovations and technologies.