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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

It’s Easy to Go Plastic-Free

Nov 26, 2019 12:01PM
By Sandi Schwartz

Many of us grew up with Tupperware containers (our moms loved those Tupperware parties!) and never thought twice about storing our leftovers in plastic. But now we have several reasons to look for alternatives to plastic wrap and plastic storage containers. For starters, we know that plastic is damaging our environment, especially our oceans, soil, and drinking water supply. The EPA estimated that 14.5 thousand tons of plastic containers and packaging were generated in 2017 alone. One way to cut back on that production is to shift demand by using other types of storage options.

Health concerns are another reason to move away from plastic storage. In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) warned that microwaving and dishwashing plastic containers can result in BPA and phthalates, which are considered to be endocrine disruptors, leaking into food. The APA recommends using alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, and to avoid using “plastics with recycling codes 3 (phthalates), 6 (styrene), and 7 (bisphenols) unless they are labeled as ‘biobased’ or ‘greenware.’”

Switching from plastic storage is not as challenging as you might think. There are now so many better alternatives out there to choose from. Which is your favorite?

Airtight Glass Containers These are a great option for storing, heating up, and transporting all kinds of foods and liquids. They are available in a variety of sizes and shapes, including square, rectangular, and oval. Their secure lids, which can be stainless steel or clip-on, keep liquids like sauces from leaking. Plus, feel free to toss them in the dishwasher because their material won’t degrade over time.
Mason Jars and Leftover Glass Jars Instead of just tossing those extra glass jars from pickles, pasta sauce, and salsa into your recycle bin, wash them out and use them to store other foods, such as soups, chili, and drinks. Alternatively, purchase some mason jars.

Insulated Stainless Steel Containers These durable, long-lasting containers are double-walled and have a silicone seal for airtightness so they can keep food and liquids warm or cold for hours.

Tiffins These traditional Asian containers are made from stainless steel or ceramic. What makes them unique is their built-in carrying handle so you can easily transport food from place to place. In addition, they contain separate compartments to keep multiple items intact. Tiffin is a smart option when you are picking up takeout food and want to make sure various foods do not mix together.

Bento Boxes Typically found in Japanese restaurants, you can now get these containers for your home as well. They are made out of either stainless steel or wood, and contain multiple dividers to separate portions or items.

Reusable Non-Plastic Wraps One of the most innovative ways to store food without using plastic wrap is to use reusable wraps. The self-adhesive wraps are made from a hemp-and-organic–cotton blend cloth that contains beeswax, tree resin, and jojoba oil. They are water-resistant, easy to handle, soft, pliable, come in a variety of sizes, and smell fabulous. Although you can use them for almost anything, they come in handy for sandwiches and snacks, or when you have half a tomato or onion that needs to be covered up. The best part is that they can be rinsed and reused, typically lasting up to one year. And when you are finished using one, you can toss it into your compost pile.

Silicone Containers and Bags These flexible storage options come in a variety of colors and some are even oven-safe. They are great for storing and freezing liquids and can be cleaned in the dishwasher. Be sure to look for silicone storage bags made from food-grade silicone so they don’t contain any harmful chemicals, such as BPA, PVC, or phthalates.

Cloth Food Sacks If you are looking to store sandwiches and dry snacks, cloth food sacks are a good alternative to plastic bags. You can find them online, in many stores, or you can even make your own.

Wax Paper You probably already have some wax paper on hand for baking, but it can also be used in place of plastic wrap. Although you can’t recycle wax paper because of its coating, soy-based, biodegradable brands can be composted.
Paper Bags Here’s a super simple one: Use brown paper bags to store fragile produce like berries and figs. Be sure to throw these bags into your compost bin as well.

Cloth Napkins These are a quick way to wrap up sandwiches, fruits, and veggies for temporary storage.

Fabric Bowl Covers Slap a fabric cover on bowls of berries, pasta, or salad. Find a selection of covers online.
 
Sandi Schwartz is a freelance writer/blogger and mother of two. Find her at happysciencemom.com.