Plastic wraps are very handy when you want to save food for later, but they are a single-use product and can quickly add to your waste.
The Environmental Consequences Of Plastic Wraps
Causes Plastic Pollution
Recyclability is not an issue for plastics. Unless it is a very bad mixture, most plastics can be recycled by waste management facilities. But sadly, 79% of that ends up in landfills harming wildlife and marine mammals.
Plastic wrap is one of the biggest contributors to plastic pollution. When littered, it breaks down into microplastics that are ingested by small animals and releases harmful chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates into the environment.
Increase Single-Use Waste
Plastic wrap is designed for single use. It is normally used to wrap and preserve food for a short amount of time and then discarded, contributing to the overall amount of waste generated. Wrap that is heavily soiled with food particles loses its recyclability significantly.
One other habit people build up without realizing is that plastic wraps encourage overconsumption. When you wrap a single-serving item with plastic wrap, you carry this thought that it has to be consumed as soon as possible, otherwise, it can go bad. This is neither good for your health, nor the environment.
Uses Non-Renewable Resources
Plastic wrap is made from a polymer of ethylene which is derived from natural gas or petroleum. It is a non-renewable source of energy and can not be offset. Let alone the energy that it takes to operate the production machinery.
Production is not the only culprit. Transportation and disposal of plastic wraps consume non-renewable resources at every step which contributes to the depletion of these resources and the emission of greenhouse gases.
What To Replace Plastic Wrap And Cling Film With
Single-use plastic wraps and cling films can be replaced with reusable food wraps as an alternative option, ideally vegan ones.
Reusable food wraps are made of natural materials, such as beeswax, cotton, and tree resin, which can be used multiple times and then washed and used again.
This can reduce the need for single-use plastic items, which are a significant source of plastic pollution.
If you are in search of one, I can recommend the vegan food wraps from Khala & Company. They are made from plant-based waxes unlike most wraps using beeswax and can be hand washed and hung/pat dried. It does not play well with heat so you will have to keep it away from dishwashers and microwaves.
They are available in a variety of sizes and bundles so you can finally stop wrapping small servings with needlessly large wraps.
What Makes Reusable Vegan Food Wraps Eco-Friendly
The natural fibers used in vegan wraps are biodegradable and compostable, meaning they can be broken down by microorganisms and other living animals into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass.
Compared to plastic wraps, if vegan wraps end up in landfills, they will break down naturally leaving little to no impact on the natural system. In any case, this feature should not be abused as they can still possess a threat to aquatic life, and be disposed of properly in a bin.
Can Be Reused And Recycled
Reusable wraps as the name suggests can be used, washed, and used again until it tears apart. The lifespan of these wraps is decent. One can last several months easily. You can increase the lifespan by carefully washing it with cold water and keeping it away from heat.
They are many ways you can recycle a torn vegan wrap. If you have a garden, you can compost it in the soil to increase its nutrient. If composting is not an option, you can dispose of them with your other food waste.
In case your wrap is made from bamboo or eucalyptus, some facilities might be able to recycle them in a more useful way.
Companies, that care about sustainability, maintain an ethical production environment. What I mean by that is, they consider using natural raw materials and practice fair wages and working conditions. Vegan wrap is a very niche and sustainable product and this happens to be the case for most producing companies out there.
Ethical production is can go a long way to make sure both the workers and the environment benefit. However, you should not blindly trust when a company says they are ethical and should rather look for a trusted certification mark on them.
The Tradeoffs Of Using Vegan Food Wraps
The most noticeable difference between plastic wrap and vegan wrap is how resistant they are to heat.
Plastic wraps can withstand temperatures up to 176°F (80°C) and can be used in microwaves and ovens if they are labeled like that. Whereas vegan wraps contain wax and other plant-based materials that will start melting as soon as it comes in contact with high temperatures.
So if you are planning to replace plastic or cling wraps with these alternatives, you would also have to take the wrap out before putting your food inside a high-temp cooking appliance.
Needly to less, reusable wraps would cost you more money and you will not be able to buy it just anywhere like plastic wraps.
But once you do, you will save money, contribute to saving the environment, and a lot more. Limited availability is less of a problem since you will not have to buy fresh ones again for months.