Plastic (is not so) Fantastic: A Shift in Thinking

bike lunch bag

One of the ‘unsavoury’ results of spending a lot of time in the kitchen is the large consumption of plastic – plastic wrap for leftovers, plastic containers for transporting and storing food and so on. Add that to the plastic that comes as food packaging and you can end up with a lot of waste, which is both expensive for us to dispose of and pretty crappy for the environment.

The thing that I don’t like about plastic, or more so, the philosophy of plastic, is its disposability. It feels wrong every time I use plastic wrap, which is intended for single use. We recycle our plastic takeaway containers which store a surprising amount of food. I don’t feel like that’s enough though. I’ve been doing some hunting for plastic alternatives. I had two things in mind – true plastic alternatives, stuff made out of something more eco-friendly than plastic, and disposable alternatives, stuff designed for repetitive use.

Start at zero

I really want to buy all of the cute lunch bags and enviro-happy things. Dinosaur lunch box? Yes please. But first, start at zero. What can you re-use, recycle or simply not buy? Zip-lock bags are still plastic but more reusable than plastic wrap. I reuse the produce bags that you get at supermarkets: they’re good for transporting lunch. Bread bags are also useful. Keep any containers that you can and store them. Every 6 months have a rummage through and recycle anything that you never use. I’m sure you all know of the unlimited uses of an ice cream container. I recently started making my own mayonnaise which has a myriad of benefits to shop-bought but a primary benefit is that I don’t buy any plastic. My co-worker (and all round awesome lady) Katie has started buying fresh milk which comes from a vending machine at a local veg store (from a farm not far away) – you take your own bottle to fill. I love this kind of thinking most of all.

Cute lunch bag box options

If you work away from home, you need a lunch transporter. Here are some options that are slightly higher class than a bread bag. (Also, if you don’t make your own lunch most of the time, you should start with that!)

This leopard print insulated bag.
Cute animal lunch bags (for the child or the child in you).
This eco sandwich wrap.
This classy lunch bag.
This bento-style box.
This cute DIY.
This cute cotton lunch bag (US).
These cute sandwich pockets.
Steven’s range of Sistema containers.

Food wrapping options

This Orla Kiely cake tin set. (I think I could justify the price because I would get a LOT of use out of them).
These reusable food wraps. A true plastic wrap alternative.
Cute bowl covers (other good stuff on this website).
The onion pod. Seems gimmicky but I like the idea of a dedicated onion container. (There are also options for avocados, tomatoes, lemons and more)
This bamboo container set. Great price!
And cute Malamine bowls with lids.

I think that reducing plastic is about pinpointing the exact times that you fall into the plastic trap. For me, its mostly leftovers. We’re two people and I cook for a small army. We always have leftovers, which is great, but storing them is kind of a drag, especially at night when I just want to curl up in a ball with Pesto and sleep off dinner. Its very easy to reach for the plastic wrap because its there. Make it easy to do the right thing. My next investment will be some sort of bowls with lids. I’d like glass or the bamboo ones featured above. How easy is it to put a lid on something? I like that!

I saw one of the ‘better living’ ads the other day, featuring Glad products. Sure, zip zap and there’s your food covered up and away you go. But is that really better living? I’d love to live in a society where the norm was working away from using plastics. I’m no saint. Plastic lives in every room of my house, but every time I roll out the plastic wrap I almost cringe. There has to be a better way. A way that is no more difficult. A way that works for someone like me, who works all day, comes home to churn out a blog post and maybe some study and cooks dinner. Why is it so easy to buy plastic wrap and not so easy to shell out a bit of cash for some tasteful, long-term, friendly alternatives? I LOVE all of the above options I’ve listed and I swear that just one of them (or any others not listed) would be a great step in the right direction. Let’s make that step.

I don’t think its an all or nothing situation. I think you can have your plastic wrap and your Malamine bowls. In an ideal world we’d cook and eat less, produce little waste and not make so much crap out of plastic. But in this world that we actually live in, where non-plastic sandwich holders are handmade by someone who probably makes little money from that venture, the best thing we can do is change our way of thinking. Next time you reach for the plastic think about the time line of that product. My wage goes in an impossible number of directions but I plan on making one of those a pretty, feel-good, plastic alternative. I hope you’ll join me. Many hands make light work. Always.

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