Want to know if your buckets are food grade? Checking is easy, just find the recycling symbol and cross reference with this article.
The best food grade buckets are HDPE, symbol #2. HDPE represents high-density polyethylene. The molecules of HDPE are more tightly packed and stable than other food grade plastics, meaning less plastic can leach into your precious food stores. HDPE also builds a better bucket since it’s a very sturdy type of plastic.
One of our readers points out that not all HDPE pails are automatically food safe. He links to an article which I’ll paraphrase.
There is a common misconception that all containers made of white plastic or HDPE plastic bearing recycle symbol 2 are food grade containers. This is not true.
If a container is not clearly labeled as “food safe” or being made of food grade plastic, then you should assume that it is not food grade.
Check for clues that an HDPE container is food grade. Has it been used to store food in the past? Is it labeled as food grade? It’s even possible that a bucket is made with food grade plastic but has been colored with toxic dyes.
Other food grade plastics bear recycle symbols 1, 4 and 5. They are also known by their abbreviations PETE, LDPE and PP.
For your benefit, I’ve cataloged every bucket I could get my hands on. Based on just the recycle symbol, they all seem to be food grade, but I’d check with the manufacturer of the storage totes before using them for direct contact with food.
Here’s us using these LDPE bins for mixing waffle batter.
I use these every day for my 5 gallon bucket computer desk.
So to recap, for a bucket to be food grade, look for the following recycling symbols:
- HDPE #2
- LDPE #4
- PP #5
- PETE #1
A note about PETE: This plastic type is usually reserved for single use drink containers. If you use PETE drink containers multiple times you do risk plastic leaching! I haven’t seen PETE used for buckets before, but if you’ve found an example, send it in!
A note about PP: The Environmental Working Group classifies polypropylene as a low to moderate health hazard. This may apply mostly to cosmetics that include polypropylene as an ingredient. But you may think twice before using PP when you have other choices.
You can read more about these plastic types, including details about their temperature tolerances, on the food grade plastics article.