Alternatives to Plastic Food Wraps
Updated: Nov 8, 2021
In just a couple of decades, plastic has become such an inherent part of our lives that it can be hard to believe that we could actually do just fine without it. Much of the plastic waste we produce comes from the kitchen. Plastic wrap, plastic bags, plastic lids, plastic bowls and utensils — we use plastic for storing all kinds of food. And by doing so, we’re really hurting the environment and our health. Luckily, there are many ways you can replace plastic in your kitchen with materials that are much more durable and safe. Here are 3 materials that should become your new best friends in the kitchen along with some tips on how and why you should use them.
Beeswax wraps are one of the most innovative and popular alternatives to plastic wraps. The wraps come in all shapes and sizes, so they are perfect for storing fruit or vegetables, wrapping a sandwich, or covering a bowl. They are usually made from cotton and are covered with a layer of beeswax, jojoba or coconut oil, and some kind of a tree resin (often apple). The beeswax is the secret ingredient that makes the ends of the wrap stick to each other while keeping the fabric flexible — the wax will react to the warmth of your hands. It also has a pleasant floral smell, but it will not transfer onto your food and besides, it will wear out after several uses.
Taking care of the wraps is really easy— all you have to do is rinse them in cold water and add some soap if necessary. Dry them out, and they are ready to go back to work! The wraps usually last for about a year, then they might not stick well and will become thinner. If that happens, you can re-was them or cut them into strips and put them in your compost pile. To make sure the wraps stay in shape for as long as possible, don’t wash them in warm water and prevent any contact with hot air or surfaces.
Since beeswax wraps have won the hearts (and bowls) of many people, there are many brands selling them in stores, on Amazon, or Etsy. I prefer to help small businesses like the one I have so I shop on Etsy often. TwoBusyBees is a small business that is EU based. They have wraps is multiple sizes (some even large enough for a loaf of bread) and super cute prints.
BeeZeroWaste is based in the UK. Their wraps are all made from organic cotton and plant resin. The regular wrap is covered with sustainably sourced beeswax, but you can also opt for a vegan version made with coconut oil.
Just like plastic, silicone is not a natural material, but it can boast of many other benefits that plastic doesn’t have. Unlike plastic, silicone doesn’t degrade into micro fragments, which means it’s a lot less likely to contaminate your food or the oceans. Silicone is also very durable and will stand the test of time without any cracks, scratches, or unwanted smells. The biggest drawback of silicone is the fact that it can be quite hard to recycle — silicone recycling requires special facilities that are not easy to come by. Considering you can reuse silicone items for years, they are still almost always a superior alternative to plastic, especially single-use plastics.
Many companies noticed the beneficial properties of silicone and started using it for food wrapping a long time ago. Silicone lids are one of the most common ways of how you can use silicone in your kitchen. Similarly to beeswax wraps, they come in different sizes, so you can choose the ones that will fit your bowls, cups, jars, pots and pans. However, you don’t need to look for a perfect match — silicon is a stretchy material, so you won’t have to worry about not finding the right lid for your bowl. They also create an airtight seal, which will keep your food fresh for a long time. Finally, silicone lids are not temperature-sensitive, so they are microwave, freezer, and dishwasher-friendly. Just make sure the lids are made from safe BPA free food-friendly silicone.
While some eco-friendly food wraps use innovative materials or technologies, others take inspiration from the past. Just a couple of generations ago, single-use plastic was nowhere to be found, so people had to make do without it in the kitchens. Most of the time, people would cover their bowls and jars with some cloth and fix it with a rubber-band. If you only need to store something for a short time, this method is a perfect way to keep something fresh or protect it from insects. Fabric food wraps are very cheap and are easy to make by yourself. Unlike other food wraps, you can also throw them into the washing machine.
There are many kinds of food that we buy in plastic packaging that can be easily replaced by textile options that are better for human health and the environment. If you love bread, consider buying a reusable textile bag for your loaves. For example, this linen one from TheRawLinen won’t only reduce your plastic waste, but will also keep your bread fresh for a long time. You can also get food covers for your jars and bowls that are coated with a food-safe polyurethane liner, which makes them grease, smell and water-proof. These bowl covers won't wear out like beeswax ones and can be washed and used for years.
I hope these alternatives to plastic wraps gave you some inspiration on what to use in stead of plastic clinge film.