Plastic wrap has been around for generations, used to preserve leftovers and prevent food from becoming stale. While it’s definitely convenient, it’s also made from a form a plastic known as low-density polyethylene (LDPE), and after we use it, it ends up in our already overflowing landfills and takes hundreds if not thousands of years to decompose.
“Plastics are very long-lived products that could potentially have service over decades, and yet our main use of these lightweight, inexpensive materials are as single-use items that will go to the garbage dump within a year, where they’ll persist for centuries,” Richard Thompson, lead editor of a report published in the Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B, a scientific journal, said in an interview. Chemical-filled plastic debris like plastic wrap often ends up ingested by marine animals and can poison our wildlife. It can survive for thousands of years in water, disrupting habitats. And, when it’s buried deep in landfills, it can leach those harmful chemicals that eventually spread into groundwater.
The other major concern when it comes to plastic wrap, is that LDPE may contain diethylhexyl adipate, which is a potential endoocrine disruptor that has been linked to breast cancer in women and low sperm counts in men. Recent evidence has also suggested that heat makes chemicals in plastic leach into food and drinks – so if you reheat your plastic-wrapped food in a microwave, that means there is an even greater risk of serious health issues. Two major reports in 2014 linked 175 compounds to health conditions linked cancers, fertility, and fetal development.
Researchers have discovered that the trace chemicals found in plastic products are responsible for a wide range of medical conditions. As a result, many manufacturers have altered the materials used in their plastic products; however, not all companies have made these changes, and some of the replacement materials, including LDPE, may not be as effective in preserving your food. Plus, as manufacturers aren’t required to list the actual chemical makeup of their plastic wrap on the boxes, it’s can be hard to find out what’s actually in it without calling the manufacturer, potentially putting your health at risk, along with the health of our planet.
Given all that, don’t you think it’s time to break the plastic wrap habit? It may seem like a major challenge, but if you’re looking for a simple way to green up your kitchen by switching out your plastic wrap for a more environmentally-friendly option that won’t risk you and your family’s health, it’s actually a fairly easy change. There are quite a few plastic wrap alternatives out there, including these.
1. Glass food storage containers
With a multitude of outstanding options available on the market these days, glass food storage containers are an easy swap for that plastic wrap. They can easily go from your oven to kitchen table to the refrigerator, which means using them can also reduce the need to wash so many different containers too – saving you time and further lessening the impact on the environment. These glass containers, such as these ones available on Amazon, are safe for use in oven, microwave, dishwasher, freezer, and refrigerator. They are BPA free and recyclable!
2. Mason jars
Mason jars have been used for preserving foods more than 150 years. Quart and half-gallon size jars are great for storing things like soups, sauces, broth, and even leftover casseroles and sides. You can find a whole variety of sizes here.
3. A dishcloth
A dishcloth is ideal for fresh produce. You can wrap it up in a cloth and place it in your refrigerator, or put your produce in a bowl and lay the cloth over the top. By adding a rubber band, your makeshift container will be airtight without the need for plastic.
4. Bee’s wrap
Bee’s Wrap is a relatively new, but brilliant invention, created by an avid gardener and cook Sarah Kaeck as a reusable, sustainable alternative to plastic wrap. It uses cotton muslin cloths which are dipped in beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin. The material is still until the heat of your hands, when wrapping up whatever food you might have, warms them up, creating a seal. The beeswax and jojoba oil contains antibacterial properties to help with preservation too. You just use the warmth of your hands to form the wrap over the food or the top of a container, and the wrap will hold its shape when it cools to keep it sealed and fresh. When you’re done, wash it with gentle soap and cool water and it can be reused. Bee’s wrap is available to purchase from here on Amazon.
5. Parchment or (Soy Derived) Wax Paper
You can also use parchment or soy derived wax paper to wrap your sandwiches for a picnic or office lunch instead of using plastic wrap or plastic baggies.
6. Make your own non-plastic wrap
Making your own nonplastic-wrap is an option too. To do so, you’ll need the following:
- A heat-proof container to melt the beeswax
- Fabric cut to any size, like 8″ X 8″ or 12″ X 12″, in the thinnest, tightest weave material you can find (tightly woven muslin is ideal)
- Tongs or chopsticks
Place enough beeswax in your heat-proof container so that, once melted, there will be about a half-inch of melted wax in the pan. Place the container over very low heat on the stovetop and allow it to slowly melt. Once it has all melted, carefully place a piece of fabric inside of the wax, making sure that it’s thoroughly coated. Then, lift it out and let the liquid wax drip off until the wax has cooled, typically just a minute or two. Once the wax has hardened, set it aside to cool completely, then re-dip the edges or any spots that were missed, if necessary.
To use it, cover or wrap your item, using the warmth of your hands to slightly soften the beeswax, and then press and seal the wrap into place. You can re-use it by washing with cold water (hot will melt the wax) and a small amount of dish soap. Let it dry completely before using.
Some things really don’t need plastic wrap, but as so many of us are in the habit of using it, we cover them up with it anyway. Before wrapping, consider whether or not it’s really necessary.