At Sinplástico we recommend using stainless steel as an alternative to plastic, particularly when it comes to cooking in the kitchen and also for utensils we use for eating and drinking.
However, we are often asked about why this metal in particular is a good option to ensure we are taking care of our health and the environment at the same time.

WHAT IS STAINLESS STEEL?

With the exception of gold and titanium, all metals oxidise. Steel contains iron, and when it is exposed to the oxygen in the air this iron forms iron oxides, otherwise known as rust. At the beginning of the 10th century it was discovered that adding chrome to steel meant that rust didn’t form under normal conditions. This happens because as chrome binds with the oxygen in the air it forms a thin transparent film of chrome oxide on the surface of the steel. This film is called a passive layer and if it is damaged, either mechanically or chemically, this film can repair itself if oxygen is present.
Stainless steel is therefore an iron alloy - a solid material that is not coated or surface treated - this alloy should contain a minimum of 10.5% chrome content and a maximum of 1.2% carbon content, according to the definition given by the European regulation EN 10088-1. It’s resistance to rust or oxidation can be improved with the addition of other common alloy forming metals such as nickel, molybdenum, nitrogen and titanium.
Stainless steel should be able to be cleaned in order to maintain its attractive appearance and also protect its anti-rust properties. Depending on which type of stainless steel you use, there are different conditions that can lead to its passive layer being damaged and ending up unable to repair itself.
If the correct type of stainless steel for the job has been chosen, and the correct procedure has been followed, the stainless steel components should not show rust or corrosion under normal conditions during domestic use (with food, spices, heat and cleaning products).
There are many types of stainless steel and not all are created equal. For domestic use generally 4 types of stainless steel are used, they are the AISI 200 series, AISI 304, AISI 316 and AISI 430. The coding system uses the acronym AISI (American Iron and Steel Institute).
AISI 430: The 400 stainless steel type is rich in iron, therefore it is magnetic which is essential for making chrome alloys. It is a steel suitable for general use due to its ductility, malleability, and anti-rust properties. It is ideal for furniture and interior decoration, metal panels and kitchen equipment amongst other domestic applications.
AISI 304: The 300 stainless steel series are non-magnetic stainless steels, except when they also contain nickel, which makes them extremely resistant to oxidation and therefore rust. The most popular type is AISI 304, that contains 18% chrome and between 8 and 10% nickel, with a carbon level limited to a maximum of 0.08%. This steel has a wide window of applications in the chemical, pharmaceutical and food preparation industries. It is also used for making cutlery, dishwashers, and even the kitchen sink. It has countless applications including the making of medical instruments and is therefore also known as medical-grade stainless steel.
AISI 316: Similar to AISI 304, but with the inclusion of molybdenum in its chemical structure, it’s resistance to corrosion is higher than AISI 304 allowing it to be used in harsher environments, such as in the presence of acid and salt. It is used for food processing equipment, pharmaceutical, photographic and textile equipment and within laboratories etc. Sometimes, we can also find it with a small percentage of titanium, this version is called 316Ti.
The 200 series of stainless steel is the most economic alternative when compared with traditional Cr-Ni stainless steels like AISI 304. This series has very low levels of nickel, substituted by manganese or nitrogen, this affects its ability to resist corrosion, as none of these other elements are as resistant to oxidation as nickel is. Neither the AISI 304 nor AISI 201 have magnetic properties and they look very similar, for this reason many manufacturers use AISI 201 to reduce their costs whilst maintaining the product’s same appearance. Under normal environmental conditions AISI 304 will last a lifetime, however the appearance of the AISI 201 can be noticeably affected after just a few years.

WHY SOME PEOPLE SAY THAT STAINLESS STEEL IS NOT SAFE

Stainless steel has its critics because in the making of the alloy heavy metals are used. However, in our opinion stainless steel is one of the best alternatives to plastic that we currently have available.

We know that some of its components, particularly nickel and chrome, can be harmful to our health, but this is an issue primarily during the manufacturing process. Once the alloys have been formed, the metal is transformed into one single material and therefore the potential transfer of heavy metals to food is minimum, especially with the use of AISI 304, 316, and other high quality steels. At Sinplástico we predominantly use AISI 304 stainless steel, also known as medical-grade steel thanks to its stability and durability. At this point in time, there is no material that is 100% hygienic, safe for our health and free of toxins. All products that we use in our daily life have been extracted from nature and processed one way or another. It is clear that stainless steel is not a perfect solution, but when compared to plastic it is a much better option when considering human health and the environment.

Now we will explain why.

WHY WE RECOMMEND CHOOSING STAINLESS STEEL

  • It is hard-wearing: stainless steel us used in the food industry for its resistance to corrosion, both when it comes from the food itself and/or from heating.
  • It can withstand hot and cold temperatures, so it can be use for cooking food as well as for freezing.
  • It’s a healthy option: it neither alters the food it comes into contact with nor transfers any of its chemical components.
  • It doesn’t effect the taste of food.
  • It is recyclable: unlike plastic that can nearly not be recycled, stainless steel is a tough material that can be recycled at your local recycling centre.
  • It is safe: It is a durable material that is not dangerous, it can be used for example by youngsters because it doesn’t break, scratch, crack or chip.
  • It protects its contents from ultraviolet (UV) rays whilst being transported or stored.