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Zero Waste in the Kitchen: Finding a Cling Wrap Alternative That Works

If you're aiming for a zero waste lifestyle, or just want to take the first steps towards reducing your plastic waste, the kitchen is one of the first places you should look. There are loads of easy swaps and changes you can make to reduce your eco footprint and help the planet.

Today, we’re going to dive deep into cling wrap alternatives and find you a convenient solution to this single use plastic. The good news is that the alternatives work just as well, if not better, than wasteful throw away glad wrap. Whether you’re looking for biodegradable cling wrap, beeswax cling wrap, or new glad wrap alternatives that you may not have thought of yet, we’ve got it all covered right here.

Why is Cling Wrap Bad for the Environment?

Cling wrap (or plastic wrap as some people call it) is a single use polyethylene or PVC plastic that’s been around since the 1960s.

Plastic is everywhere in the modern world and, worryingly, just 12% of plastic in Australia is actually recycled. The rest ends up in landfill, where it takes decades to break down, or in our waterways and oceans, where it’s harmful to marine life. Soft plastics including cling wrap are a big contributor to that and many people don’t dispose of them correctly.

The good news is that there are also heaps of environmentally friendly alternatives to cling wrap that can be reused or recycled.

Is Cling Wrap Recyclable?

If you already have cling wrap that you want to use up, check if it’s made from PVC first as this type is not recyclable at all.

In normal recycling centres, cling wrap can clog and damage the machine. You shouldn’t put cling wrap and other soft plastics in your kerbside plastic recycling bin. If you do, you risk contaminating it and the whole thing ending up in landfill.

However, some cling film is recyclable under certain conditions. If it’s not made from PVC it can be placed in a special soft plastic recycling bin like the REDcycle bins at your local Coles or Woolies. If you’re still confused, or not sure whether your cling wrap contains PVC, check this list of accepted cling films on the REDcycle website.

Choosing one of these eco friendly plastic wrap alternatives, takes the guess work out of recycling your cling film. Take a look and we’re sure you’ll find something that lets you ditch the cling wrap for good.

Beeswax food wrap. Image: Pixabay

Fabric Based Alternatives to Cling Wrap

First, there are some great fabric based food covers to choose from. They’re great at keeping food fresh and can be easily cleaned and reused over and over again. Be sure to look for something with a waterproof lining or coating to make cleaning easier.

Look for something made from cotton or hemp and they’ll even be biodegradable when they come to the end of their lifespan.

Reusable Beeswax Food Wraps

Beeswax paper is actually a fabric (usually cotton) that’s coated in melted beeswax to seal it and make it waterproof and most people refer to them as beeswax wraps. Australia has a huge range available on the market today, so they’re readily available and relatively inexpensive. We like the Apiwraps, as you can get them in singles or in multipacks.

These reusable cling wrap alternatives are plastic free, all natural, and biodegradable. Simply wash them in cool water after each use and reuse them for up to 12 months. Then, you can either reseal them yourself with beeswax or compost them in the garden.

They can’t be washed in hot water so aren’t suitable for meat and fish but they’re the perfect reusable food wraps for fruits and vegetables or for covering dishes. Unfortunately, they’re not dishwasher or microwave safe as the wax can melt.

Vegan Food Wraps

Vegan food wraps are cloth food covers made in exactly the same way as beeswax wraps but they’re made with a plant based coating like soy wax, making them 100% vegan friendly. Try The Family Hub Organics for an Australian made vegan version using vegetable wax, tree gum and jojoba.

They have the same great benefits as beeswax sandwich wraps do but without the animal products and are not meant for use in the microwave or dishwasher.

Fabric Food Covers

These types of reusable food covers are made from fabric with a waterproof lining, and usually have elasticated edges so they can fit snugly over containers. Look for something biodegradable such as cotton or hemp to limit its environmental impact, such as these fabric food covers from 4MyEarth.

They aren’t suitable for directly wrapping food but they work great as reusable bowl covers. The great thing about fabric bowl covers is they’re generally plastic free (just be sure to check the waterproof lining), meaning they’re BPA, PVC and phthalate free.

Reusable Sandwich Wraps

Another eco food wrap option, reusable sandwich wraps are a great way to individually wrap sandwiches, rolls, or snacks and take them on the go.

The material these food wraps are made of varies greatly between products. Some are made from plant based fabrics like cotton and others are made from food grade recycled plastic, like these Onya lunch wraps.

There are some great benefits to using these types of wraps. The waterproof lining makes them easy to wipe clean, they usually come with a velcro closure to keep food securely wrapped, and they keep food fresh.

agreena-glad-wrap-alternative
Multipurpose silicone food wrap. Image: Agreena

Silicone Based Wraps

Silicone is a great non toxic alternative to plastic that’s food safe and has no BPA, PVC or phthalates. It’s non porous and impermeable, so you don’t have to deal with leaks and it’s even bacteria resistant.

Unfortunately, silicone is not biodegradable but it is very durable so will last a long time. When it reaches the end of its life it’s also much easier to recycle than cling wrap.

Basic Reusable Silicone Food Wrap

These are made to be used as a glad wrap alternative and are a thin sheet of silicone. They are soft and pliable enough to stretch over different sized containers or wrap food directly. They also “cling” just like glad wrap for a reliable seal.

Reusable silicone food wraps look a little like a piece of cling wrap, only thicker and much more durable. They can easily be cleaned in warm water after each use and are even dishwasher safe.

Multifunctional Silicone Cling Wrap

This Agreena wrap is a multifunctional silicone cling wrap that’s actually a great oven cling film, baking paper alternative, and tin foil substitute.

It looks and feels just like the basic silicone wrap and can withstand oven temperatures up to 220 celsius. It’s a great aluminium foil alternative that’s non stick and easy to clean and reuse. It’s also freezer, microwave, and dishwasher safe.

Silicone Bowl Covers and Lids

Silicone lids and bowl covers are actually more versatile than they sound. They can be used to cover containers and smaller ones can also cover cut fruit and vegetable pieces to keep them fresh. The smaller versions are sometimes called silicone food huggers or silicone food savers.

Silicone bowl covers like the Little Mashies reusable bowl cover set are super stretchy so they can securely fit over a range of different sized containers. They provide an airtight seal and are usually more secure and durable than silicone cling wrap.

Most of these types of silicone food covers are dishwasher, freezer, and oven safe so they’re super versatile.

Common Kitchen Items

Many of the reusable glad wrap alternatives that we’ve looked at so far are great at giving an airtight seal and keeping food fresh for long periods of time. We’d definitely recommend going with one of them as a long term substitute.

However, if you’re caught short and need a quick solution, there are some everyday kitchen items that can be used as a temporary solution.

Crockery (Dinner Plates and Bowls)

The easiest and quickest way to cover leftovers, keep contaminants out, and food fresh is with a dinner plate or bowl. They’re cheap, readily available in the kitchen, don’t cost extra money, and easy to clean.

It's a great way to cover food in the microwave to prevent splattering!

The downsides are that food won’t be kept fresh for long because they’re not pliable and don’t create an air tight seal, they’re heavy and are not an easy way to transport food.

Dish Towel

Another readily available kitchen item is tea towels. They’re cheap and easy to use when you don’t have anything else to hand. The good thing is that they’re more flexible than using a dinner plate so you can cover different shaped dishes without hunting through the cupboard for a particular one.

Unfortunately, they don’t provide an airtight seal either so won’t keep food fresh but they are an easy way to keep food covered as you wait for it to cool. You could also use a large elastic band to secure them tighter over the dish. Another downside is that they’re usually quite porous so if they sink into the food, they’ll soak up any liquid and make a mess.

So there you have it - multiple different ways to avoid single use cling film in the kitchen!

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