How Easy Is It to Replace Single-Use Plastic In Your Kitchen? We Tried It—Here’s What Happened
Of the 8.3 billion metric tons of mostly disposable plastic made since 1950, only nine percent has been recycled. Not only was this shocking fact named the statistic of the year for 2018, but the numbers also stunned the team of scientists who set up the study.
So, where did the rest of the plastic go? Since plastics take 400 years to decompose fully, the majority is sitting in our landfills or littering our natural environment and oceans. While ocean plastic is killing millions of marine life yearly, estimations show that by 2050, our landfills will hold 12 billion tons of plastics.
These numbers call for something to be done. Rolan Geyer, professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, says we can’t manage what we don’t measure. As a society, are we willing to trade convenience for a healthier environment? If so, Rolan says, “Maybe we think about using different materials. Or phasing them out.”
No longer ignorant or uninformed, I knew I wanted to make a change. But would giving up plastic wrap and baggies be sustainable for me, and would I find replacements that actually worked? I gave it a try—here’s what happened.
My Problem: I Was Feeling the Weight of Single-Use Plastic And Wanted to Do My Part
For years I’ve recycled at home and looked for ways to do what I can with reusable or recyclable storage containers and paper bags. However, I’ve also used plastic wrap and single-use baggies at home and in my work as a personal chef. Every single time I threw away a bag or piece of plastic wrap, I felt guilty and frustrated.
Since my job is often to make a week’s worth of meals in one day, I see the majority of a family’s food waste and recycling in a single cooking session. One especially busy week, I reached my max for internal discomfort. The amount of packaging from the ingredients plus the plastic wrap, containers and the baggies I used to re-package the cooked and prepped food was unbelievable. I started digging into the research to see how I could begin to, as Rolan says, phase out the plastic in my kitchen and perhaps in the homes of my clients if they were interested.
My Solution: Replace My Plastic Wrap and Baggies with Beeswax Wraps and Silicone Bags
After saying goodbye to the last piece of plastic wrap in my kitchen and dropping off my stash of unused plastic bags at my local recycling drop spot, I turned towards my possible replacements. First off, the vibrant etee beeswax wraps caught my eye, so I researched the company and liked what I saw. I started with a three-pack of beeswax wraps in multiple sizes they like to call land (green), sea (teal) and sky (blue) because they believe Everything Touches Everything Else, hence their name etee.
Upon arrival, I rolled my wraps into a tight ball to activate the beeswax and make them sticky for all future uses. When needed, I top a bowl or wrap a piece of food by pressing my hands around the edges to warm the wax and then sticking the wrap to itself to seal. I love seeing my colorful wraps in my now empty-ish food storage drawer or wrapped over food in my fridge.
Along with the wraps, etee sent me two sample beeswax bags to try. Between work and home, I buy multiple bunches of herbs and greens each week. After washing the produce, I like a storage option that keeps them from getting soggy and spoiling. The size of these bags was an excellent replacement for the gallon-sized bags I had been using. The produce stayed fresh and crisp in etee’s food bags, where the organic cotton gives them air to breathe, but the beeswax seals and keeps them crisp.
Etee wraps have an average lifespan of 120 to 150 uses, or about four to six months if used daily. If well cared for, many say they last longer. No warm water or microwave for your beeswax wraps, or you’ll see the natural coating disappear onto your food or into your sink. To wash your wraps, rinse them under cold water with an eco-friendly soap, then hang or lay flat to dry. Because they are biodegradable, when the wrap wears out, they can go directly to compost.
Next, I added three Stasher bags to my new plastic-free kitchen. These plastic bag alternatives are made of pure platinum silicone from natural resources, mostly sand, and can be used in the microwave, oven, fridge and even cleaned in the dishwasher. The patented pinch locking seal of the bags is remarkable—works every time, and the seal is tight. Cut apples stay fresh in my daughter’s lunch, and crackers don’t get stale like other cloth bags I tried and failed with over the years. Those green onions I used a week ago? Still fresh.
Stasher bags are endlessly reusable, meaning they could last decades, just don’t flip the bag inside out as the pinch lock seal could be compromised. The fact that Stashers can be cleaned in the dishwasher is a convenience I didn’t expect to have. While I have yet to try Stashers in the oven or microwave, there doesn’t seem to be anything these bags can’t do. Whether I’m flying with their TSA approved sandwich-sized bag, packing a snack to go or cooking sous vide, these bags do more than I ever did with my single-use baggies. The initial sticker shock now seems silly. These bags are worth every penny.
The Result: Goodbye Plastic, Hello Etee and Stasher
I don’t miss plastic wrap. As it turns out, the plastic wrap was a well-worn habit, not a necessity. I can’t come up with one thing I miss or need it for now that it’s gone. No more cutting my fingers on the plastic wrap box or tangling myself or my dishes in a clingy mess of wrap. Guess what’s more manageable and keeps food as fresh as plastic? Beeswax wraps.
I feel less guilt and more joy. Every time I seal a bowl or wrap foods with beeswax wrap and toss my washed herbs or kale into my Stasher bag, I feel relieved and happy that I’m not using plastic. Who doesn’t need more messages of joy transmitting to our brains instead of guilt and frustration? I know I do.
Every time I do a quick rinse of my wraps and bags, I am grateful for building another sustainable habit that serves my life and the earth. With etee wraps being compostable and Stashers recyclable, none of my new storage options will end up in a landfill. What a relief!
I am motivated to do more. Once I saw the amount of plastic I was using for myself, and on behalf of clients, I couldn’t unsee it. And now that I’m more aware of everything that goes into my trash, I’m noticing products I no longer want to buy that have packaging I can’t compost or recycle easily. Putting one small step into action (so far just in my kitchen!), I’m motivated to do more research and take on the next area of my home and life. Also, I now feel responsible for communicating to brands I love that this is important to me and our world by my consumer choices and feedback opportunities.
I wish I had made this change years ago, but choosing to give up conveniences and familiarity is daunting, and I know well how good intentions take the back seat. On this side of my plastic purge, this change was pretty painless. In the end, this experiment helped me find products that work better than before, which I will try to remember next time avoidance creeps in.
Want to start phasing out plastics in your kitchen? I recommend starting with an etee food wrap starter pack and a Stasher bundle or bag to begin. I love the combination of both and have already ordered a few more options.
Our writer was gifted a free starter kit of etee beeswax wraps to try, but all opinions are her own. Want to find out what happened when she gave up coffee for matcha? Here’s what happened.
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