By GMB Nutritionist, Melissa Fine.
Takeaway containers, cling wrap and zip-lock bags: plastic food packaging sure seems hard to avoid, but there are other alternatives - some of which you’re likely to already have on-hand.
We’re all for fresh, packed lunches at GMB, but could do without the plastic packaging! Sure it’s convenient but it’s not necessarily good for you, and it’s definitely not good for the environment.
Just a few of the issues surrounding plastic food packaging:
It typically ends up in landfill.
This is for several reasons, one being that plastic wrap and plastic containers often go into the trash with bits of food stuck to them – this can make them non-contenders for recycling, along with any other recyclable materials they’ve contaminated.
Even non-soiled cling wrap is a challenge, as chemicals are often added to give it the desired ‘stretch’ and ‘cling’, and these can’t be removed. Cling wrap also tends to clog Multi-Reuse Facility (MRF) machines.
It can contain nasty chemicals.
Long term, these may have undesirable health effects, with Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and Bisphenol A (BPA) being two kinds of chemicals you don’t want leaching from your plastic packaging into your food.
PVC is common in cling wrap, and can leach into food upon exposure to heat – one reason why it’s better to reheat your food in a microwave and oven-safe glass container. BPA is found in more rigid, plastic food containers; washing a plastic bottle for reuse seems like an eco-friendly thing to do, but this is actually what can encourage BPA to leach into your drink. Better to drink from a glass jar.
So, our new year’s resolution: to make an extra effort to cut back on using plastic for our tote-able meals and leftovers.
…Here are five plastic packaging alternatives that may not have crossed your mind.
1. Beeswax Wraps
We’re especially excited about Apiwraps Beeswax Wraps – made from certified organic cotton, natural pine resin and organic coconut oil, these are your eco-friendly alternative to plastic wrap. Inspired by the oilskin food wraps used in colonial times, Apiwraps founder Freyja is all about bringing ‘old school’ food wrapping materials back to our kitchens – the kind of stuff our great grandparents would have used.
We also love these beeswax wraps because they work: they’re thin and bendy, but don’t break - and we didn’t have any trouble sealing or cleaning them…all you need is a pair of warm hands to assist sealing, and some natural hand soap and cold water for cleaning. Air-dry or pat dry with a paper towel and your wrap is ready to seal your next meal!
2. Empty Peanut Butter Jar
We go through a lot of natural peanut butter at GMB! Rather than putting an empty pb jar into the recycling bin, lately we’ve made a point of peeling off the sticker (FYI, Mayver’s nut butters have an ‘easy-peel’ sticker that leaves no residue), giving it a good wash and reusing it for food storage: a cost-effective, long-lasting and BPA-free container!
Perfect for transporting your smoothie, muesli + yoghurt, or even your glass of water to wherever you’re heading. I also reuse my nut butter jars for pantry storage; they make great, non-porous containers for dry goods like rolled oats, muesli, rice or quinoa. Homemade bliss balls look pretty in a jar too, whether you’re entertaining or gifting them.
3. Paper Bag
Remember back in the day, you’d take your morning tea to school in a brown paper bag? I even remember decorating paper bags for party favours when I was a kid. Time to bring back the good old paper bag! If you buy a stack, just make sure that the insides aren’t lined with plastic; you want a bag that’s 100% paper to ensure it’s recyclable. And hold on to any paper bags you get at gift shops or the supermarket – you can reuse for packed lunches.
4. Tea Towel
Another material you might not have thought of using as food wrap, a tea towel can help keep fresh produce fresh; it also ensures they don’t take on the smells from other foods in the fridge. A tea towel wrap not only reduces food waste, but is durable and easy to wash, so can be used time and time again.
After a whole heap of meal prep, there’s no need to cover a plate of food with plastic if you’re going to be eating it at home the next day. Why not make use of the pile of plates collecting dust in your kitchen, and cover what you’ve made with a bread or dinner plate?
Here’s to a less plastic-heavy 2018! Got any other plastic packaging alternatives? Let us know in the Comments, we’d love more up our sleeve!