Breaking the Plastic Addiction in the Kitchen

I’ve never been fond of plastic. It’s just got to not be good to have millions of plastic food storage containers piling up every day when they take thousands of years to break down. Take plastic bags alone; over a million are used worldwide every minute for an average of just 12 minutes.

plastic-bpa-free-storage-post

And while I feel a bit better about my stash of reusable GladWare containers after finding that they’re made of safer polypropylene plastic and are BPA-free (note that Tupperware’s reusable containers are made of polycarbonate, which does contain BPA), they’re still plastic and I’d just rather not use them.

But what’s a girl to do with leftovers? Picnic fare? Our daughter’s lunch?

In asking those questions I found a few answers. Here; my guide to breaking the plastic addiction.

Step 1: Do the Math

You’ll probably balk at the prices for reusable containers at first glance (I know I did). But you really need to think of these as an investment—the antithesis of disposable. For instance, I bought three of the sandwich bags down below for about $24 at the beginning of the school year. That’s roughly 200 days of bagged sandwiches and apple slices and crackers that saved 600 plastic baggies and they’ve probably got another two years in them. So let’s make it an even 1,800 plastic bags saved. Given that fold-top baggies are roughly $2.25 per 150 (for a total of $27 for 1,800 bags), the overall price comes out as a wash. You could make similar arguments for storage containers and water bottles, too.

Step 2: Make a Plan

Because of the high up-front cost, I’m a big believer of staging your break from plastics. Let’s say you’ve got a drawerful of GladWare containers; then sandwich bags and a water bottle might be a good place for you to start. If your plastic containers are on their last legs, consider buying a more eco-friendly set made of glass, ceramic or stainless steel. But be deliberate and make a plan.

Step 3: Make a Choice

There are two ways of going about this. You could dabble with a bunch of different options and then make the big investment with your favorite, or you could go whole-hog from the get-go; there are benefits and drawbacks to each approach. Dabbling lets you pick just what you like, but because they’re meant to have (very) long lives, you’ll be stuck with a drawer full of mismatched food storage containers. Going whole-hog will get you uniformity, but it might also get you a drawer full of containers that don’t quite meet your needs.

Whichever approach you choose, here are some of our favorites:

  • Wrap-n-Mat Sandwich Wraps – I love how this works as both a sandwich wrap and a placemat. We used this and the LunchSkins for Noe’s lunches all year.
  • LunchSkins Sandwich Bags – These reuseable bags are great for sandwiches, but I like them even more for apple slices, crackers, nuts, etc.
  • LunchBots – Stainless-steel container sets that work both for fridge and on-the-go.
  • KidsKonserve Nesting Trio – Another stainless-steel choice in a nice variety of sizes that nest to save space.
  • Bormioli Rocco Glass Storage Containers (set of three) – This set reminds me of some glass containers I bought from IKEA years ago and still love.

Do you have other recommendations? I’d love to know your favorites …

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5 Replies to “Breaking the Plastic Addiction in the Kitchen”

  1. Great topic, Lia! Thanks for bringing it up.

    I don’t have to deal with packing school lunches (that’s a challenge), but I’ve switched over to glass containers for leftovers in the home and food storage. I just don’t like the plastic waste and the possibility of chemicals leeching into food. My favorites are the Luminarc jam jars and the Pyrex containers. I use both also in the freezer.

    I’ve written about this on my site, with pictures of the products I like:
    http://teaandcookies.blogspot.com/2008/05/making-green-home.html

    Thanks for bringing up the topic. I think there are a lot of people who would like to be doing something better.

  2. There is nothing inherently bad about plastic just as there is nothing inherently good about glass or stainless steel. Lia says she would “just rather not use” it. That’s fine, but is there any other reason we should break the “addiction?”

    I understand the value of reusable containers: disposable plastic sandwich bags and plastic wrap aren’t good for the environment. But reusable BPA-free plastic is as good health-wise or ecologically as glass or stainless steel. In fact, it’s more likely that your city recycles those reusable plastic containers than (non-bottle) glass containers or stainless steel.

  3. Tea …. Thank you for your suggestions. I’ve seen the Luminarc jars and like them. Only I’m good for now on the jar front with reused mayo, mustard and jam jars. I’ve liked Pyrex in the past too … do you find them to seal well?

    Adrian … Good question. And I have a few answers. Certainly it’s better to reuse any container; plastic or not. But when considering the impact of the production of the container itself, plastics still lose–they’re made of non-renewable resources (70% natural gas) and the bulk of plastics are not produced from virgin (not recycled) materials. Post-consumption, polypropylene containers (like the GladWare I talked about above) are not accepted by many recycling programs because of the high melting point of their resin, which means they have to be removed from the other plastics.

    Health-wise, I know that technically some of these plastics are deemed safe, but I continue to grown more wary about what we don’t know yet and don’t really want to be a guinea pig. I had a shelf full of plastic baby bottles when the announcements started trickling out about BPA being harmful to children and didn’t like the feeling of having already done something I couldn’t un-do. I’m not saying that will happen with other plastics in the future, but if I can remove the risk by using a glass container over a plastic one, I will.

    I hope that helps!

  4. I’m considering investing in the tiffin-style tins for my daughters (8 & 10) for next school year. It will serve the purpose of replacing their plastic-and-who-knows-what-else-lined insulated lunchboxes and also avoid the plastic lids that most non-plastic reusable containers still have. I also happened across a container similar to the lunchbot that had a snap-on stainless steel lid AND a separate tray that can be used for snacks or ice packs (which gets over the insulated lunch box issue too). lifewithoutplastic.com seems to have a decent selection of various containers.

  5. Pingback: Alphabet Soup: The Lastest News on BPA | Nourish Network

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