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A Summary of Foodservice Plastics

By Matt Kurnick

It is what it is. Plastic is plastic. Right? Wrong!

So, so wrong, especially when it comes to the different types of plastics used to make foodservice products from tongs, to food pans, to sugar caddies.

We recently had the pleasure of visiting the Carlisle Foodservice Products corporate headquarters in Oklahoma City. During the visit they educated us on all the different types of plastics and why some are better suited for certain products than others. The chart below is a great breakdown of this point. Click here for the PDF of the chart below.


Click to enlarge

There are a couple of things we wanted to focus on from the chart. The first is that the characteristics of the type of plastic determine what products are made from it. For example, only one of these plastics, High Heat (BPA Free) is safe for use above 275°F. So naturally it’s used to make food pans that are often used to cook, store and reheat food, and it’s fully microwave safe.

It’s also important to note that there are two different types of Polypropylene. The first is PPY HOMO Copolymer. This plastic is relatively frail and not see-through at all. But it is very chemical resistant and flexible. It’s great for café trays and Bains Marie. The other type of Polypropylene is LD, HD, Impact Copolymer. This version is twice as strong as the other and can exhibit significantly more clarity. These characteristics make it better for trashcans, food-pan lids and different racks.

Two different plastics can be used for making tumblers. Both SAN and Polycarbonate PC share similar qualities that make them appropriate to use for plastic drinkware. However, the biggest difference is Polycarbonate is significantly stronger. So although they’re the same end product, the different plastics can determine the durability of the product and ultimately its price point.

A couple other small notes:

–       Polystyrene High Impact is the only plastic that’s NOT dishwasher safe

–       Melamine and Fiberglass are the only plastics that are NOT recyclable.

–       Polycarbonate, Tritan and High Heat are the strongest plastics.

So the next time you’re working with products made from plastic, it’s important to take note of what type of plastic they’re made from. The material will give you a great idea of the products strengths, weaknesses and proper use.