Plastic Free July – Part 2: Plastic Wrap Alternative #1

When looking at the plastic I used, I tried to find the areas I used the most plastic that gets thrown away. For me, that happens in my kitchen, so my initial goal has been working on reducing that waste first. With the amount of cooking I do, there is always plastic that ends up in the trash that isn’t recyclable. Something I realized, is that I use a lot of plastic wrap, so finding something to replace that has been one of my focus areas. Sadly, I have yet to find something that is a direct, one to one use replacement because I use it for so many things.

Common Uses:

  • Covering Dishes
  • Wrapping Leftovers
  • Wrapping Food for Freezer Storage (partial layer)

Uncommon Uses:

  • Wrapping around meat when tenderizing to prevent splatter and excess damage
  • Rolling out pie dough between layers to prevent sticking to surface and for easy transfer
  • Easy clean up for icing decorator bags (trick I learned to keep it less messy in use and clean up)
  • Covering rising bread dough bowls (holds in warmth and helps rise better while keeping dough moist)

I’m sure there are loads more that I’m forgetting or ways other people use plastic wraps. Because there are so many different ways to use it, there really isn’t a single replacement for it. At least, not one I’ve found.

The most common use, covering and wrapping food or leftovers, has a few different alternative options. The first one, and the focus of this post (another alternative option coming soon) is beeswax wrap. It is basically a biodegradable fabric that is coated in beeswax. It comes in several different forms and is reusable to a point. Once it reaches that point, everything in it is organic and can be put in the trash or compost.

To test these out to see how well I liked them and how many ways I could use them in place of plastic wrap, I bought these sets that had 3 different size squares in each packet.

Beeswax Wraps
Beeswax Wraps

The largest size is big enough to cover a standard size dinner plate, so you are limited on what you can use these for. You can get a roll of it and cut it to size, but I didn’t want to make that investment (again, not exactly inexpensive) if I wasn’t going to like them.

The way these work is beeswax is somewhat pliable and softens with the heat from your hands. It is also on the slightly sticky side so it clings to itself and whatever you are covering. When used correctly, it does create a liquid tight seal. You can cover dishes or even directly on food as it sticks really well to itself. You simply rinse it in cold, soapy water after each use and hang it to dry before storing it.

Plastic Alternative/Replacement:
Some common plastic wrap uses

Pros:

  • Eliminates some plastic wrap use
  • Reusable
  • Biodegradable
  • Liquid tight seal
  • Comes in a variety of size options for versatility

Cons:

  • Is not a 1 to 1 replacement for plastic wrap. You will need other alternatives for other types of uses.
  • Beeswax is sticky and can leave a residue on whatever you cover, including your hands, and isn’t always easy to get off (my experience is with glass).
  • Because of the way you have to clean this, cold water, I would be hesitant to use this in covering raw meats. I haven’t attempted to use any kind of a bleach solution, so I don’t know if that is an effective disinfectant method. Using hot water will melt the wax and either reduce the lifespan or make it completely unusable.
  • Limited longevity: I haven’t had these all that long so I’m not certain of their lifespan, but they will need to be replaced over time.
  • Does not stretch, so there is a bit of a learning curve if you are used to stretchy plastics.
  • Seems to not hold in odors as well as plastic.
  • Cost: Like most other plastic alternatives, these are not inexpensive. Since they do have a specific lifespan, that may make these cost prohibitive for some.
  • Questionable on freezer use: I haven’t attempted this trial. The fact that this will stiffen in colder temps because of the beeswax, I would think there may be some issues with the sealing function of these in freezing conditions.

I haven’t quite decided whether I like this alternative or not. The limited use is an issue for me, so is the stickiness. I’ve debated getting the roll as most of my need for these is larger in size than these packs provided, so I’ve struggled to fully test these out.

I think this is one of those products that some people will really love and others won’t, depending on how they use it. It IS a viable alternative for some common plastic wrap uses and in a one use plastic throw away versus a multi use biodegradable, the biodegradable still lands you on the better side of things.

 

Plastic Free July – Part 1: Straws

There are lots of straw alternatives out there. Glass, stainless steel, bamboo and silicone. Some come in colors, which can be a great way to know which straw or drink belongs to which person. There are a lot of size choices. There are some that have bends and others that are straight. Some even fold up so you can pack them away in a case.

After doing a little digging and research after deciding how and when we used straws the most, I decided on a straight, clear glass straw that was bigger in diameter so it is perfect for thick shakes and smoothies. I wanted the clear glass so I can see that it is clean and isn’t building up anything on the inside. Anyone that has tried to clean a straw, especially narrow, twisty things, knows that can be a problem. Since longevity is the goal, I wanted to make sure this wasn’t an issue. That isn’t to say the other alternatives aren’t good choices, they just aren’t what I chose.

Glass Straw
Glass Straw

When I bought mine, I just got a set of 4 to cover everyone in the house. I knew at the time using these outside of the house was going to be difficult because they didn’t come with any kind of case, but I thought I’d be able to figure out something on my own. I never came up with anything that seemed workable, so I went looking and researching again and found individual cases that would fit the straws I already had. Because they are individual, anyone can grab a straw and a case if they need it. These in particular have a small rubber band where the cap meets the base to help seal it from any leaks. My straws are maybe at the very top end to fit, so there is a tiny gap under this band, but it still does its job.

Glass Straw and Cases
Glass Straw and Cases

So far, I’m loving these. We don’t go out often enough and I just recently got the cases, so I still have to test that out, but they look like they are going to work really well. I may need a bottle brush or a longer handled straw brush to keep the cases clean if needed, but they are big enough around that you can see inside fairly well. Because they are rigid rather than soft, like a cloth carrying case, these will help protect the glass when you take it with you.

Plastic Alternative/Replacement:
Straws and drink stirrers

Pros:

  • No more throwing away a single use, plastic straw (the obvious)
  • Easy to clean (these came with 2 cleaning brushes and are plenty long)
  • Perfect size opening for thicker drinks
  • Cases make them portable so you can use them anywhere
  • Made of the same type of glass as most baking dishes making them hard to break
  • Can be put in a dishwasher
  • Does not add a “taste” to what you are drinking like some other options

Cons:

  • These are straight, so if you need a bend you will need a different straw
  • Does pick up the temperature of your drink to some extent, but not as bad as stainless steel
  • These CAN break, they are glass, but they aren’t exactly fragile
  • Some may not like the hardness/rigidity
  • Length may be an issue for some when it comes to transport as these would be too long to toss in a small bag or purse
  • Cost – the straws and the cases are not cheap
  • Accessibility: Like most plastic alternatives, these probably aren’t carried in a lot of different locations, so you may need to find them online and order (which is what I needed to do), which can mean a lot of plastic in the packaging for shipping.

 

For me, the pros far outweigh the cons. Not everyone will feel the same as they have different needs. I’ve read where this specific alternative may not be an even remotely good option for people with certain disabilities. The alternative for them may be something like a silicone that has more flexibility.

 

Plastic Free July: Doing My Part

A friend of mine shared a post about taking a pledge to be plastic free for the month of July.

This is something that I’ve been working on personally for a while now, but I’ve got a long way to go. Locally, recycling plastic isn’t the best and we are a lot more limited than I’d like (though we are getting better). That said, I’ve seen too often lately that even a lot of the plastics that say they can be recycled still end up in landfills because there just aren’t the facilities to process those plastics. I do my best to avoid those, but not many companies are going this route yet, so alternatives are still slim pickings. I am trying to dig in and find those alternatives, though.

So, in the spirit of this pledge, I’ll be doing a few posts throughout July on some of the alternatives I’ve found for some of my bigger plastic uses and what I think about how well they’re working for me. Feel free to jump in and share your own along the way. I’m always up for hearing ideas about how I can reduce or eliminate plastic altogether.

This may seem like barely a drop in the bucket in relation to so many other issues our kids will face in the future, but it is one drop that I can attempt to do something about. There are others as well, but I’m only focusing on the plastic issue here in these posts.