By Fredrica Syren:
Since going the Plastic Free July Challenge I have gotten lots of questions about how we store food without plastic.
For us, reducing plastic has been a work in process for a while; little by little, we have worked on changing our routines to exclude plastic. Food storage is one area that can be tricky. Lots of people rely on plastic wrap, foil or plastic zip lock bags to store or freeze their food; but the good news is that there are lots of greener, less waste options.
First, let’s talk about why plastic is so bad. Although most plastic is said to be recyclable, the truth is that most of it is down cycled, a process of converting waste materials or useless products (such as plastic) into new materials or products of lesser quality and reduced functionality. For example, a plastic milk carton can’t be recycled into another carton, so instead it becomes plastic lumber. After its life cycle as lumber is over, the plastic (lumber) will end up in a landfill anyway because it cannot be recycled again. However, too much plastic trash ends up in the ocean and poses a danger to marine wildlife. Furthermore, plastic is bad for our health because it contains toxins (such as BPA, the most controversial) that leak into soil, water, wildlife and our bodies. These very harmful toxins cause damage to our hormones and nervous system, and create all kinds of problems and illnesses.
So now to best part: Is it possible to store food without plastic? Absolutely!!!
The first thing I did when eliminating plastic was to look for glass food containers I could use for storing cooked and raw leftover food in both fridge and freezer. Then I got smart and started saving old mason jars for food storage. They are perfect for freezing cooked beans or homemade tomato sauce in portion sizes; the large ones are great for storing soups and stews. Metal food storage containers are also a great option for both fridge and freezer. The bonus of using metal is that food thaws quickly in a dish of hot water.
Instead of using plastic wrap and foil, we now use bee wax wrap and cloth bags. Bee wrap is sheet made from 100% organic cotton fabric, natural beeswax, and jojoba oil, coconut oil and tree resin. It’s a flexible wrap that is reusable: all you have to do is clean it in cold water. It clings like plastic wrap, so you can wrap food in it or cover a bowl, for example. For snacks and sandwiches on the go, we use reusable sandwich bags I bought at the farmers’ market.
If giving up on food storage bags is hard, there are compostable bags as well as cling wrap to buy. These types of bags are made from the starches of GMO free crops, so they are completely compostable and plastic free.
When I freeze bread, I use cloth bags. I learned this trick from Bea Johansson at Zero Waste Home. It works like a charm. She actually uses pillow cases for her bread☺
Once you start looking, you will find many great plastic free food storage options, and you will be one step closer to a zero waste life!