Packaging Tips

Discovering the Best Type of Plastic for Food Storage


With the cost of food at a 40-year high, more consumers are focusing on saving leftovers to cut down on food costs and reduce food waste. Properly storing leftovers allows food to be safely transported and preserved, helping stretch food budgets. 

Despite high food costs, more than half of U.S. consumers are eating out more often in 2022 compared to previous years, which is good news for restaurateurs. However, more people than ever are also requesting takeout containers to take leftovers to go or getting their entire order to go to save time as they rush from work to home or choose to eat lunch at their desks. This means restaurants must focus on providing smart, food-safe plastics to keep customers safe and to ensure food is easily and safely stored and reheated.  

FDA Approved: The Safest Plastics for Storage and Reheating 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has evaluated a host of plastic products based on the types of foods that will be stored and if the food will be exposed to heat during production or while being reheated. After a detailed analysis, they have approved several that they feel are the safest for storage and reheating. Here are their top picks: 

High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) 

One of the most common plastics found in households today, HDPE is used in the creation of everything from plastic bottles to cutting boards. It is durable, but also flexible, allowing it to be easily molded into sturdy, long-lasting containers for food. In addition, it is resistant to the corrosive action of acidic foods, molds, and mildews, and can even be sterilized for additional safety. HDPE plastics are highly recyclable, as they can be recycled as many as 10 times to create new products. 

Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) 

Another common plastic in households, LDPE is so flexible that is it not easily cracked or broken, making it perfect for durable food storage, especially since it is resistant to both chemicals and microorganisms. In fact, it is commonly used in plastic films such as cling wraps. However, it’s not the best plastic for heating since it can soften under higher temperatures. While LDPE can be recycled, it is often a complex process since many items made with this material, such as grocery bags or plastic six-pack rings, can jam recycling equipment. 

Polycarbonate (PC) 

In recent years there has been controversy over the use of polycarbonate (PC) plastics in food storage, since these contain a small amount of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical associated with several negative health effects. However, research by the FDA shows that consumers only ingest a tiny amount of BPA when coming in contact with these plastics, and this small amount does not accumulate in the body, making it safe at low levels. PC plastics are recyclable, allowing both restaurateurs and consumers to make more sustainable choices. 

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) 

The FDA considers PET plastic one of the best for food storage, as it can be used in both its original and recycled forms. Its durability and ability to repel bacteria and microorganisms make it a good choice for soda bottles, jarred foods, and food packaging. Plus, its transparency and resistance to shattering contribute to its perceived durability, even though it does oxidize over time. Best of all, PET plastics are 100% recyclable, making it a sustainable choice for food storage. 

Polypropylene (PP) 

This premier plastic has many attributes that make it perfect for both storage and reheating of food. First, it is microwave-safe and nonvolatile, meaning it will not react with your food, whether acidic or basic. Furthermore, PP resists the absorption of water, so liquid foods such as soup can easily be stored in PP containers. Finally, PP is durable and can also be either conductive or insulating, depending on the properties you prefer and the foods you wish to store — and it is also recyclable and reusable.  

Looking for the Right Plastic Storage Containers for Your Restaurant? 

If your restaurant needs durable, high-quality to-go containers or bags, Sunshine has you covered. Our range of sturdy plastic containers can be used to store — and even reheat — foods safely. If you want to learn more about our innovative products, simply reach out to Sunshine today and one of our experts will be happy to help!