Plastic wrap, Glad-Wrap, cling-film, whatever you call it, one thing's for sure - it's terrible for the environment. Like a clingy partner (see what I did there) or an overstaying aunt, you just can't get rid of it. Firstly, plastic wrap can't be recycled.
Secondly, it doesn't break down when left in a landfill or it very sluggishly turns into chemical nasties. In the ocean, plastic wrap is mistaken for food by jellyfish and other marine life as well as attracting bacteria and waste.
Well, how about burning it? Not so fast. If burned, plastic wrap fills the sky with substances like Doxin, which not only ruin the planet but have toxic effects on human health.
We’ve become accustomed to wrapping our leftovers in cling film or storing our sandwiches in a zip lock bag. And why not? In the past, these have been the most convenient and easiest ways to store and carry our food.
Fortunately, there are now tons of alternatives to single-use wraps, and I’m here to share some alternatives that I’ve found to be simple and useful (cause who doesn’t love convenience!)
The versatile beeswax wrap may sound like a newfangled product entering our zero waste kitchens, but in fact, people in the early 20th century were already using waxed cloths to preserve food.
In the late 1940s, plastic wrap made its unholy appearance. Little was known about plastic during this time and it's only been in recent years that we’ve discovered how much of an impact it has on our environment.
Re-enter the coated cloth or renamed for obvious reasons, the beeswax wrap. An eco-friendly alternative to the dreaded plastic version and a cheaper, much more fun thing made of pretty patterns rather than boring transparent waste.
You can use beeswax wraps to store almost everything in your kitchen from fresh bread, leftover avocado or your expertly assembled sandwich (which you can also transport in your lunch bag).
Now the downsides. Unfortunately, beeswax wraps won’t keep all food fresh, they're not completely airtight and they're only recommended to store foods you plan on eating within a couple of days. You can, however, also add a tea towel on top of the wrap for added protection.
For anything which is highly perishable and requires longer storage (e.g meat, soft cheese etc), it's recommended to keep these foods in air-tight glass or reusable containers.
You can easily make your own beeswax to coat fabric, which is particularly handy if you have spare material living in your home.
Here's a great recipe I’ve found.
If you're pushed for time, you can buy beeswax wraps either online or in most eco-friendly stores. Etsy is full of really cool designs and prices work out relatively inexpensive as the wraps can last from six months to a year before they need a little re-waxing. You can purchase wax bars online too.
To prolong the life of your beeswax wraps, rinse after each use under cold soapy water and let completely dry in your dish rack. Avoid using hot water on the wrap as it will melt. I’ve been using the same wraps for two years!
If you looked inside my pantry, you'd probably guess that I love peanut butter. And yes, the fact that my fave peanut butter comes in a nice, reusable glass jar helps to feed my nutty addiction.
Jars are perfect to store bulk ingredients in and even better, they help retain food freshness for ages.
I recommend soaking your used jars in hot water, plus a little bicarb soda and vinegar to help peel off old labels easily. If you have a dishwasher, shove them in after for an extra thorough clean.
I also label my jars with a bit of paper tape, just in case I get my pantry items mixed up.
Any reusable containers are great for storing leftovers. Nowadays, there are so many eco-friendly options made from silicon, stainless steel or glass. Any silicon made lids are also great for teething tots.
Next time you get take-away, the plastic containers can also be reused. Give them a proper scrub and store leftovers in the freezer. It’s not ideal but until venues find better alternatives to plastic containers, we'll minimise the waste at home. Make sure you recycle these containers properly when you no longer use them too!
Like I said before, there are tons of alternatives you can use to store/transport your food. Here are some bonus options:
- Silicon food wraps
- Reusable zip-lock bags
- Reusable cloth sandwich bags
- Vegan alternative cloth wraps
Or just keep it simple: A tea towel and/or plate on top to cover your leftovers.
As you can see, there isn't much reason to rely on plastic wrap any longer. The sea life will thank you, and the environment will too.