Let's start with the obvious: pouches are made of plastic and are not recyclable. We often make recommendations at Because Health to stay away from plastic because there are several types of chemicals in plastic that can lead to health problems. But, the baby food pouches are lined with polypropylene, a relatively safe plastic that is BPA free. So, if that was your worry, you can rest easy on that one. Polypropylene plastic is designated by recycle code #5 and is generally considered safe.
But, a worry that was raised recently about the pouches was the food inside them containing arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals. Critics say that these are naturally occurring in soils and many of the fruits and vegetables (like apple seeds) common to baby food. However, we know that lead is dangerous at just about any level and many think even if it is naturally occurring the standard should be no lead whatsoever in products, especially those for babies and children.
So, if this is something you are concerned about, we recommend looking into making your own baby food. That way you can control exactly what is going into it and know where the ingredients are coming from. You can also keep it in whatever container you like (refillable pouches exist, and so do small glass jars). It also gives you more control over the texture and taste of the food. Babies have to learn how to eat real food with different textures at some point. And, oftentimes, pre-packaged baby food is very sweet, even if the label says it's spinach and kale. But if you are making your own food, you can adjust the sweetness level.
Another big debate is over the environmental factors associated with pouches. According to Plum Organics, pouches generate less greenhouse gases and use less energy to transport than glass jars. On the other hand, because they are made up of so many different layers of materials, they cannot be recycled* and have to go to the landfill (where sometimes they end up polluting waterways).
So, there's no clear verdict here. Health-wise, the packaging of the pouches is probably safe. The heavy metal concern is there no matter how you buy your baby food, pouches or jars. And then, in terms of environmental impacts, is shipping the glass with higher emissions better or worse than the pouches not being recyclable? You will have to weigh the benefits and drawbacks and see what works for you and your family.
*There are a few programs through TerraCycle where you can mail them the pouches to be recycled, but they cost money and only apply to a few brands of pouches (Earth's Best, Ella's Kitchen, and GoGo SqueeZ). While Plum Organic pouches aren't recyclable, they have partnered with Preserve to recycle the caps.