Plastic-free food wrapping: simple and natural alternatives to reduce waste

I am determined to reduce the creation of plastic waste in our household.  It constantly surprises me, even in a household of conscious consumers with a big edible garden, how much plastic waste we produce. We have committed to making new steps each week to change this.

Long ago I abandoned the regular use of cling wrap.  As well as the environmental impact, I was concerned about the leaching of harmful chemicals into our food. I prefer to store food in lidded glass bowls, or in a bowl topped with a plate. I do have a selection of BPA-free containers - originally bought for lunchbox use, which are often used. But right now, I am loving beeswax infused cloths to wrap food.

We finally ran out of our huge pumpkin harvest, so needed to buy one from our local organic farmer at the Crystal Waters monthly market on Saturday. I'm so pleased he doesn't sell chopped pumpkins with plastic wrapping - just whole pumpkins in their natural wrapping (skin). Even with extra dinner guests on Saturday, we couldn't finish the entire pumpkin so I wrapped a beeswax infused cotton cloth around it to keep it fresh on the bench (too big for the fridge).  The beeswax wrap easily moulded to the shape of the pumpkin with the heat of my hand and will rinse off when the pumpkin is finished with it.

The eggplants are also huge at the moment - I used a smaller beeswax wrap for this.
I had seen these cloths in my local organic store for sometime and decided to give them a go. I love them and think they are a fabulous alternative to plastic food wrap.  I want lots more - to wrap the children's lunch items, to wrap cheese, to wrap the sliced end of sourdough bread and more.  This week's project is to make a whole lot more at home which will be a far more economic option. I have lots of funky cotton fabric offcuts I can chop up and a tub of organic beeswax I can use to infuse. I'll post some photos soon of how this goes.

The beeswax wraps help to cut down food waste too. They still let the food breathe but slow the rate of decomposition. Beeswax has been used for centuries to seal preserved foods, to wrap cheeses - it is one of nature's natural preservatives and has anti fungal, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties.

Other ways we have decided to reduce plastic wrapping is to avoid buying pre-bagged fruit and vegetables - for example bags of potatoes, apples or carrots, especially avoiding anything in cling-wrapped trays. It's just as easy to take a basket and select individual items. Buying directly from growers at farmers markets or through a box scheme can help to reduce packaging too.

I'm being very mindful of what items we are buying in and seeing if we perhaps could grow more in our own garden or substitute it for something else.  Our local farmer grows the best un-bagged carrots - they're huge! I'm happy to support his amazing efforts, but we definitely need to grow more potatoes and garlic.

Beautiful local carrots - and these are just the baby ones! The tops of carrots are totally edible too.
I'm also exploring ways to diminish other plastic wrapped items we commonly use - for example pasta and tofu. It is time I dusted off the pasta maker and learnt the art of tofu-making. I'm good for rice, quinoa, pulses, chia and the like. I can take home-made cloth bags to the local organic coop store and buy these by the scoop.  I particularly love getting the wholemeal Australian rain-fed rice.

Little by little we will reduce the waste going into our bins and therefore into the environment, and reduce our reliance on energy intensive production of plastics. Each step along the way is bringing so many more benefits too, such as wasting less food, buying less processed food, saving money, and eating more healthily. I think this is a really worthwhile household challenge.

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