Plastic storage containers are a great solution for bringing your lunch to work or keeping your leftovers fresh in the fridge. (They’re lighter and less fragile than glass!) And even though they’re infinitely more reusable than, say, zip-top bags, they don’t last forever. Whether you’ve abused a container a little too much or it’s just hit the end of its natural life span, here are five signs it’s time to let it go. Just be sure to check the labeling first to see if you can recycle it!
1. It’s more than 10 years old.
Only in the last decade have we started to understand the potential dangers of plastics like bisphenol-A (unaffectionately known as BPA) and phthalates that can leach into our food from storage containers. These days, manufacturers like Tupperware have removed them from their products, but if you’re carrying food around in a container that your mom used in the ’70s, it might not be safe.
2. The lid is broken or lost.
Lids are (obviously) key for your storage container success, so if they’re no longer sealing — or you straight-up can never find the right one — the container itself may no longer be useful to you. About once a year, it’s worth it to go through your containers and match up the lids, and give them a little inspection, too. Take your lid-deficient containers out of the rotation and use them to store craft supplies or organize your junk drawer instead.
3. It’s stinky or stained.
If you’ve tried your hardest to remove a stain or odor from your plastic container and it still won’t come out, it’s time to say goodbye. You may feel like you want to hold on to it “just in case,” but the reality is that you will never feel like putting food in a container that makes you gag when you grab for it.
Related: The Best Way to Get Stains Out of Plastic Containers
4. It has a weird texture.
Maybe a corner melted when you got the container too close to the stove, or the bottom is all scratched up from sawing at your food during meal time? If so, the container is no longer of use to you. Any disruptions on the surface mean the material’s compromised, increasing the chances that it will leach plastics into your food if you use it for storage or reheating. Not worth the risk.
5. You just don’t like it.
I’ve made the mistake of buying storage containers that are the wrong size — either too big for the sorts of foods I usually put in there, or too small to really hold anything. I’ve had containers with strange lids that you had to disassemble to clean properly. I’ve also learned that I prefer clear, square containers to colored round ones. Whatever your preference, if there are a few storage containers lingering in the back of your cabinets because you like (and use!) the rest of your collection more, donate them and move on.