A quick guide to food grade plastic

November 26, 2019

polyethylene granules raw plastic material

The rule is quite simple: if a plastic product comes into contact with food, or anything else intended for consumption, then it needs to be made of food grade plastic. Now, food grade plastic isn’t a single type, but is a catch-all term used to refer to a variety of plastics. Here at Excelsior, we’ve got over a century of history to our name, and we’ve spent many of those decades perfecting our plastic manufacturing techniques – today, many products we create using our roto moulding process are indeed made of food grade plastic. Here, we’ve put together a quick guide to answer the questions we’re most commonly asked about food grade plastic, so you can get more of a feel about whether it’s right for the product you have in mind.

What makes a food grade plastic?

Food grade plastics are specifically manufactured to meet certain standards of purity, which means they’re made without the use of dyes or any recycled materials that could pose a risk to human health. This is because the most acidic foods and alcohol can sometimes leach plastic additives from the container or packaging into the food, which opens up the possibility of these additives then being consumed by humans. The purity of food-grade plastic prevents this process from occurring, so that food grade products can safely be used to store almost any food or drink. (It’s worth noting that they may still use recycled plastic in their manufacture, but not any that poses a risk to humans.)

Roto Moulding

Is food grade plastic safe?

Yes! Food grade plastic is specifically manufactured so that it’s able to come into contact with substances meant for human and animal consumption, without risk of contamination. Not every type of plastic has this level of purity, which means using non food-grade plastics to store consumables can present serious health risks.

Some notable examples of food-grade plastics include:

  • Natural grade Nylon 6 & 6.6 (without additives)
  • Acetal
  • UHMWPE
  • Polypropylene
  • Polyester (PET)
  • PVDF
  • PEEKPTFE
  • Polyethylene in grade 300 – 500 (This includes high density polyethylene and medium density polyethylene)

On the other hand, there are certain materials whose chemical makeup means they cannot be used as food-grade plastics. These include:

  • Nylons with additives (such as oilon or Mos2)
  • PVC
  • Polystyrene
  • Regen (recycled) UHMWPE
  • Other (including Polycarbonate and acrylic)

Here at Excelsior, we use HDPE, otherwise known as High Density Polyethylene. Its high purity and excellent chemical resistant properties make it a prime candidate for any application that demands the use of food-grade plastic.

Can food grade plastic be recycled?

It depends on the specific material in question, but on the whole yes, food grade plastic can be recycled. HDPE is one of the most widely recycled plastics, which is partially why we make such great use of it here at Excelsior. Food grade plastic can be recycled through traditional recycling (known as ‘mechanical recycling’ in the industry), or alternatively through chemical recycling, in which several different types of plastic are recycled at once to create something entirely new. However, because several different plastics are involved, the final result might not necessarily still be food safe.

What are the uses of food grade plastic?

As you might imagine, food grade plastic has no shortage of uses across a wide variety of sectors. The catering and hospitality industry obviously has a lot of uses for it, mainly for making containers in which food and drink can be stored without any additional layers of protection (such as plastic bags). Bottle skips and ingredients trucks comprise two common applications for plastic in the hospitality industry.

Similarly, food grade plastics are widely used across the agricultural industries, largely for storing grains and similar foodstuffs for animals. In some cases, it may even be used for storing the animals themselves, such as in the case of the Scottish Salmon Company. Speaking of animals, we also maintain a dedicated equestrian range of plastic products here at Excelsior, in amongst our standard range.

Where can I buy food grade plastic containers?

Right here at Excelsior, of course! We stock a wide range of food grade plastic products and materials handling containers in amongst our range of plastic products right here on our site. You can browse them at your leisure using the link above, or alternatively you can employ our expertise and rotomoulding services to create your very own plastic product, tailored to your purposes! To discuss your options, feel free to give us a call on 0161 765 2010, or send over your enquiry (with a few accompanying details) on our Contact page.