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 14.7 million tons of plastic containers and packaging were generated in 2015 alone. One way to cut back on that production is to shift demand by using other types of storage options.
Another reason to move away from plastic storage is because of health concerns. We have been warned about plastic for years because chemicals like BPA and phthalates, which are considered to be endocrine disruptors, can seep into our food. In August, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned families to avoid microwaving and dishwashing plastic containers that contain harmful chemicals since heat can cause plastics to leak BPA and phthalates into food. They recommend that we use alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, and avoid plastics with recycling codes 3 (phthalates), 6 (styrene), and 7 (bisphenols) unless they are labeled as “biobased” or “greenware.”
Here are options for storing food without using plastic:
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
You can purchase some mason jars to store your food in or instead of just tossing those extra glass jars from pickles, olives, pasta sauce, and salsa into your recycle bin, wash them out and use them to store other foods like soups, chili, and drinks.
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. You can easily transfer your leftovers from your stainless steel cooking pots and pans right into these containers.
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. You don’t even need a bag! 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.
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. They are made from a blend of hemp and organic cotton cloth that contains beeswax, tree resin, and jojoba oil to create a self-adhesive to stick to itself so you can create sealed packages and pouches. 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 a half-eaten tomato or onion that needs to be covered up. The best part is that they can be used over and over again—just rinse and reuse. They typically can last up to one year. And when you are finished using it, you can toss it into your compost pile because it is naturally biodegradable.
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 like 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 if you are crafty.
You probably already have some wax paper hidden in a cupboard in your kitchen for baking, but think about using it instead of plastic wrap. You can reuse it by cleaning it off first. Although you can’t recycle wax paper because of its coating, you can add it to your compost pile if you have a soy-based, biodegradable brand.
Here’s a super simple one—use brown paper bags to store fragile produce in the fridge like berries and figs. Be sure to throw these into your compost bin as well.
These are a quick way to wrap up sandwiches, fruits, and veggies for quick, temporary storage.
Fabric Bowl Covers
Another really easy option is to use the bowls you already have and slap a fabric bowl cover on top to store items like berries, pasta, or salads. You can find lots of these covers online to choose from.
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?