Soft Elastic News 03/2021 | Plastics in the household

Dear Customer,

Whether food storage boxes, chopping boards, reusable coffee-to-go cups, plates with non-slip elements or spatulas, household and kitchen items are increasingly being manufactured from plastic. Various types of plastic are used, e.g. thermoplasts, duroplasts, elastomers or thermoplastic elastomers, depending on the respective designated use. Accordingly, some are suitable for freezing while others are resistant to high temperatures. Some are dishwasher-safe while others are recyclable. Some are not suitable for use in the microwave while others are resistant to scratches and discoloration.

Household items with food contact

Household items intended for contact with food are subject to statutory regulations and must be marked accordingly: with instructions for safe and designated use and stating “For contact with food”, a special reference to the designated use, or the symbol for contact with food (glass fork). 

If, however, the designated use as a food contact item is obvious, this food statement can be dispensed with (e.g. drinking glasses, soup spoons). Furthermore, the name or company and in any case the address or registered location of the manufacturer, processor or a vendor registered in the EU must be indicated. Mere indication of a registered brand no longer suffices. Pursuant to Art. 17 of Directive (EC) No. 1935/2004, an appropriate marking or identification is necessary which guarantees the traceability of the food contact item.

Symbols on kitchen utensils

Most manufacturers use icons and pictograms for marking. Some are well known, others less so. The EU-wide glass fork symbol is well known but often misunderstood. When used as designated, items bearing this symbol do not release any pollutants into food. This does not provide any information on its suitability for use in dishwashers which is often mistaken by so many – nor does it have anything to do with heat resistance.

The triangular recycling symbol comprising three arrows with a number and abbreviation is also very well known. It indicates that the material can be recycled as a general rule. The numbers and letters provide information on the type of material used (05 = polypropylene, 07 = thermoplastic elastomers) and serves toward proper disposal and appropriate recycling.

But what do the water jet, snowflake & co. mean?

Various dishwasher images can indicate suitability for use in dishwashers. But only a symbol with a water jet indicates dishwasher safeness which requires official testing in accordance with DIN standards. The number above the water jets indicates the maximum number of safe wash cycles. Most manufacturers use the symbol of basic dishwasher suitability without a DIN standardized test has been done. A snowflake indicates that storage in a refrigerator or freezer compartment is possible. 

A number denoted by a minus sign on the freezer or freezer compartment indicates resistance to cold while numbers with a plus sign on the hob or oven are indicative of heat resistance.  The depiction of a microwave indicates that the items are suitable for use in the microwave. Various depictions of ovens with or without contents and scored out or not indicates how the item can or cannot be used in the oven. Furthermore, other pictograms or icons apply for the respective use of the kitchen items.

The material is decisive

Apart from these differences, other requirements also need considering and these demands are made on all items coming into contact with food. This can be difficult in the case of some materials. ​​​​Thanks to their versatility, resistance to a wide variety of materials, their extensive range of mechanical properties, and easy processing characteristics, TPEs open up a variety of possible applications. It all comes down to the right composition of the formula. For its formula compositions in the SOFT EST.® TPE portfolio specially developed for consumer items, ACTEGA exclusively uses raw materials which are compliant with food industry standards and which are suitable for applications with food contact for all aqueous, acidic, alcoholic, and dry foods. Items used in the kitchen need to be able to withstand a multitude of strains. Food storage boxes, for example, can be frozen and therefore need to display the exact same characteristics at icy temperatures as those which are of advantage at room temperature. Such cases require a TPE sealing material which displays a low compression set at both room temperature and under freezer conditions. Accordingly, each kitchen device has its own particular demands on the plastic materials used. 

During development, the SOFT EST.® TPE portfolio was tailored to this requirement profile. ACTEGA has, therefore, undertaken formula modifications for the two-component items which can often be found in the kitchen utensil market and which lead to an extremely good adhesion by SOFT EST.® to PP. Accordingly, numerous items can be manufactured with outstanding haptic properties, displaying a special soft grip, an ergonomic grip texture, or a non-slip element, e.g. plates with soft grip elements on the sides and a non-slip element on the base. But suitable TPE materials can also be offered in terms of suitability for use in dishwashers and microwaves as well as color and dimensional stability. As this fast-moving market also means attracting attention by way of special designs and colors, the SOFT EST.® product range offers the possibility of customized colors, with ACTEGA collaborating with partners capable of complying with any color request. 


During development, the SOFT EST.® TPE portfolio was tailored to the most different requirement profiles.
Please feel free to enquire about our examples here.