Check the recycling symbol on the bottom of the bucket. The quickest and most reliable way to check for food safety is by consulting the recycling number. This number will be between 1 and 7 and will be stamped inside a triangle of arrows. As a general rule, the numbers that are safe for use with food are 1, 2, 4, and 5.
- The best type of plastic for use in long-term food storage is high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is indicated by the “2” symbol. HDPE is one of the most stable and inert forms of plastic, and all plastic buckets sold specifically for food storage will be made from this material.
- Other types of plastic acceptable for food storage include PETE, LDPE, and polypropylene (PP). These plastics are represented by the numbers 1, 4, and 5 respectively.
- An exception to this rule is bio-plastics, which are categorized under the catch-all symbol “7.” Bio-plastics are plastic-like materials that are synthesized from plant-based sources such as corn. These materials are nonreactive and can be used to store food, but note that not all plastics marked as “7” are bio-plastics.
Examine any food-handling symbols imprinted on the plastic bucket. A standardized system of symbols is used on plastics to indicate their appropriate uses around food. A symbol depicting a cup and fork means that the plastic is safe for storing food, and is therefore a food grade bucket. Other symbols include radiating waves meaning “microwave-safe,” a snowflake meaning “freezer-safe,” and dishes in water meaning “dishwasher-safe.”