Safer storage: Avoiding microplastic concerns while managing holiday leftovers

As the holidays approach, our kitchens are warming with festive feasts for friends and loved ones. The joy of preparing and indulging in holiday delicacies is often followed by the challenge of managing all those leftovers.

In the spirit of healthy living, it’s essential to steer clear of the pitfalls of plastic restaurant takeout containers and consider healthier alternatives for holiday dinner leftovers and beyond.

Plastic takeout and delivery food containers

Since the pandemic, more people have been making use of takeout and food delivery services. Many households have accumulated the standard plastic containers preferred by restaurants and food trucks for their convenience, price and stacking capabilities.

While reuse of these containers seems like a good choice, especially for storing leftovers, it raises concerns about potential health hazards. These containers are made with chemical additives, and a lack of transparency in their composition raises doubts about their long-term safety.

Microplastics from food containers

One serious pitfall is microplastics, tiny particles of plastic, that can leach from food containers, especially when they’re reheated or washed.

Studies show people are exposed to microplastics  from cutting boards and from twisting the caps of plastic bottles.

People also are likely exposed to microplastics while storing food in plastic containers. One study found microplastics in all reusable plastic takeout containers from restaurants. Storage of hot food in takeout containers accelerates the rate of leaching of microplastics and other potentially hazardous substances.

Effect on our health

Another paper reviewed multiple studies that found microplastics in human organ, like the heart, placenta, testes, as well as various body fluids. The researchers emphasized the urgent need to understand the interaction of microplastics with cellular processes, especially their ability to adsorb and release toxic chemicals. 

High doses of microplastics can harm the kidneys. Microplastic particles from food containers have been found to be associated with altered gut and oral microbiota, as well as other health issues. People who consume takeout food over a long period of time face a greater risk of these health hazards. 

The disposal of widely used plastic containers also pollutes the environment. Safer food storage containers for holiday leftovers include glass, stainless steel and ceramic.

Glass containers

For storing leftovers, glass outshines plastic in durability, longevity and environmental impact. If well-maintained, glass can outlast plastic alternatives in the kitchen, offering a safe and recyclable solution for leftovers. Because of its non-porous surface, glass doesn’t absorb odors the way plastic does, making it ideal for storing a variety of foods without compromising flavors. 

These containers are dishwasher-safe, resistant to melting or warping, and can endure higher temperatures. They’re also good for storing food in the fridge or freezer. Glass containers are leakproof and easy to clean, a reliable way to store and preserve your favorite holiday dishes.

For safety reasons, glass should be replaced if it becomes chipped or cracked.

Stainless steel

Stainless steel has become a popular option for storing leftovers, a non-breakable, lightweight alternative to plastic. Lids are easy to secure and open with user-friendly latches. There is no plastic, eliminating concerns about chemical leaching.

These containers are odor-resistant and highly durable, as well as dishwasher-safe. And, with proper care, they can be used for years.

Although stainless steel containers come with a higher price tag, their longevity and durability can justify the investment. Another downside of stainless steel is you can’t see what is inside the container. They’re also not microwave-friendly.


Ceramic stands out for its heat resistance and surpasses plastic in durability. These containers can withstand high temperatures while resisting scratches and chipping. Beyond their durability, ceramic food containers boast a wide variety of designs and colors, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of any kitchen.

Their versatility shines through, since they are safe for use in the oven, microwave and freezer, making them good for reheating and storing leftovers.

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