We’ve all heard the old saying “a penny saved is a penny earned”. They often go unnoticed, but once you take a closer look, it’s the little expenses in life that add up.
The average family goes through close to 1,000 plastic bags and 24 rolls of plastic wrap per year. Two boxes of plastic wrap, ranging from three to five dollars each, per month adds up to nearly $90 per year. Then throw in plastic bags, which cost anywhere from $5 to $8 per box, and you’re spending over $200 per year on something that you throw in the trash! You’re throwing your money away — literally!
The environmental impact of plastic wrap
Saran wrap is made from LDPE (low-density polyethylene), which, despite being considered safe for use in your kitchen, is contributing to the devastating impact of single-use plastic on our marine environments.
In one year, close to a jaw-dropping 300 million tonnes of plastic products are produced. And despite everyone being more conscientious these days, only 1% to 2% of plastic produced is actually recycled. Plastic doesn’t break down naturally very easily; in fact, it takes between 50 and 80 years for one plastic bag to decompose — and a milk jug can take up to an incredible (and devastating) 500 years.
Not only is plastic production and waste bad for the environment, but also toxins such as BPA, DEHP, and BPS in plastic find their way into our food and drinks. The World Health Organization has shown that exposure to these toxins can pose potential health risks.
So what are the alternatives?
Rather than putting your hard-earned money towards the $51 million dollar industry of disposable plastic food wrap, instead, invest in a product that you only need to buy once and can use over and over again.
Here are our 11 favorite plastic wrap substitutes for eco-friendly food storage and a happier, plastic-free planet.
1. Beeswax wraps
It probably comes as no surprise that we love beeswax wraps here at SuperBee. These nifty pieces of organic cotton are covered with sustainably harvested and pesticide-free beeswax, natural tree resin, and organic coconut oil to create a naturally antibacterial, antifungal, and easy-to-clean food storage wrap.
Both fridge and freezer safe and extremely pliable, they can be easily wrapped over a bowl filled with leftovers, molded around wrap fruit, vegetables, or cheese, or as a nifty way to store freshly-baked sourdough bread. The possibilities are endless! Best of all, they last for years and can even be revived if they’re starting to look a little crumpled and tired to give you even more use. At the very end of their life, pop them in your home composting bin — they’re a biodegradable alternative to plastic wrap.
And, with a couple of sets of beeswax wraps coming in at $40 USD, you’ll be spending less than a quarter of the cost of using Saran wrap per year.
Buy: The “Beeginner” beeswax wraps set or waxed food bag set
2. Reusable sandwich bags
Just like the wraps above, you can find organic cotton beeswax sandwich bags that are the perfect alternative to single-use plastic bags or plastic boxes for your lunch.
Because they’re safe to put in the freezer for up to 30 days, you can use them as an alternative to plastic boxes, enabling you to freeze meals and leftovers without needing to use even one strip of plastic.
They’re also a great alternative to ziplock bags, as you can fold over the top of the bag to seal the contents in and keep the air out. And, as they can be home composted when they finally lose their pliability, they’re a great zero waste form of food storage.
Buy: Waxed food bag set
3. Mason Jars
Everyone has a couple of mason jars kicking around their kitchen and for small portions of leftovers, lumps of cheese, or even chopped up veg or fruit, these are guaranteed to work a treat.
Better still, glass jars are free (well, once you’ve eaten the contents) and can be easily sterilized for use again in the dishwasher. Run out of lids? Use a beeswax wrap as a handy cover to keep the contents of your mason jar fresh and ready to eat.
4. Cotton bowl covers
Need something to cover bread when you’re baking or just to keep any insects off that salad bowl during your next picnic? Bowl covers made from natural cotton and with elasticated edges to make them easy to hold on tightly to the edge of the bowl are a great plastic wrap replacement.
They’re fully breathable and can be thrown into the laundry to wash. Bear in mind that these aren’t for long-term use for perishable items; you’ll want to have an alternative such as beeswax wraps up your sleeve instead for that.
5. A plate and a bowl
If you’ve got leftovers that are being stored briefly in the fridge and just need something to keep the food fresh until your next meal, an easy and no-frills storage method is to put the food in a bowl and use a dessert plate to go over the top.
You can also pop this straight in the microwave for reheating; the plate will replace Saran wrap and stop your food from splattering across the insides of your oven.
6. Glass storage containers
Plastic wrap might seem the easiest way to store food in your fridge and freezer, but swap out this single-use item with reusable glass storage containers. Many come with plastic lids, so opt instead for a glass or wooden alternative.
Most are microwave and freezer safe and can also be cleaned easily within the dishwasher, making them a handy addition to your food storage arsenal.
7. Organic cotton mesh bags
When at the grocery store, ditch single-use plastic bags for an environmentally conscious cotton mesh bag, instead. They’re great for picking fruit and vegetables up from the store and then hanging them in the larder where they can stay cool and fresh, as the mesh allows for air circulation that’ll prevent food from spoiling.
8. Aluminium foil
Aluminum foil can be washed and reused multiple times (just be careful not to tear it when cleaning), before being put into your recycling bin, making it significantly more eco-friendly than plastic wrap. Make sure it’s fully clean before being thrown away, otherwise, it can’t be recycled.
That being said, because it’s made from an alloy of aluminum mixed with iron and silicon to provide strength and resistance from puncture, it’s not the most sustainable solution, either, as producing aluminum foil is labor intensive.
9. Bento boxes
Typically made from stainless steel and with a wooden lid, bento boxes are a great alternative to plastic wrap when it comes to taking your lunch into the office or bringing snacks with you that would otherwise be wrapped in plastic.
Make sure you buy one with a leak-resistant lid to prevent any spillages if transporting liquids.
10. Silicone bowl covers
For storing items away in the fridge, ready for the next day, silicone bowl covers can be a great substitute for bringing out plastic wrap.
However, we’re not so keen on these as they’re not actually that great for the environment. While it’s not plastic, silicone is made from hydrocarbons derived from petroleum, so the chemicals and energy required to make it in the first place are high. Silicone is also not easy to recycle, so we’d only recommend this type of reusable dish cover if you really can’t get your hands on any of the above.
Looking to make your kitchen more eco-friendly and save money, too? Browse our range of sustainable, environmentally conscious kitchen products.