Reusing Or Recycling Packaging

In an effort to save money or because new packaging may be hard to come by, it is common for many people to want to re-use previously used containers. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is sometimes more complicated than just using new containers would be. Here are some general rules that can be used if you have an interest in doing this.

#1. Do not use containers that have previously contained products other than food. There are two risks this can expose you to. The first is that the particular package type may not have been tested for food use and may allow the transfer of chemicals from the packaging into your food. The second is that all plastics are porous to some degree. Small amounts of the previous contents may have been absorbed by the packaging material only to be released into your food, particularly if it is wet, oily or alcoholic.

#2. Previously used containers should only be used with foods of a similar nature and exposed to similar processes. This means that if a container previously held a material high in fat, such as cooking oil, then it should not be used to store a strong acid such as vinegar. Nor should a container be exposed to extreme conditions, such as heat, if the original use of the package did not subject it to that treatment. An exception to this is glass which is covered below. Generally speaking, dry, non-oily, non-acidic or alkaline, non-alcoholic foods may be safely contained in any food safe container. An example of this is keeping grains and legumes in HDPE buckets formerly containing pickles.

#3. Glass may be used to store any food provided it is in sound condition and has only been used to store food previously. The lid or cap, however, that seals the jar is subject to the cautions given above. Glass jars not specifically made for home canning, either boiling water bath or pressure canning, have a significant risk of breakage if used for that purpose.

#4. Porous packaging materials such as paper, cardboard and Styrofoam should not be reused. Their open texture can trap food particles and are very difficult to adequately clean. Packaging formerly holding raw meats, seafoods, or egg products are particularly at risk.

#5. Containers previously holding odorous foods may trap those odors and transfer them to foods later stored. Trust me, pickle flavored milk leaves a lot to be desired. Foods such as dry milk powders, fats and oils, flours and meals will absorb any odors seeping from your container material. Be sure to get the smell out before you fill them.

Misc.Survivalism FAQs maintained by Alan T. Hagan,
Copyright ©1996, 1997, 1998, 1999. Alan T. Hagan. All rights reserved.

Excluding contributions attributed to specific individuals all material in this work is copyrighted to Alan T. Hagan and all rights are reserved. This work may be copied and distributed freely as long as the entire text, my and the contributor's names and this copyright notice remain intact, unless my prior express permission has been obtained. This FAQ may not be distributed for financial gain, included in commercial collections or compilations or included as a part of the content of any web site without prior, express permission from the author.