Clingfilm’s negative impact on the planet is about as thinly veiled as the food it seals. Looking for eco-friendly alternatives to clingfilm? We’ve got you (and your food) covered.
Clingfilm: a brief history
Clingfilm was invented in the 1930’s, when a lab worker struggled to remove a piece of film inside a leftover vial. Realising that is was clingy and impervious to air and water pressure, Ralph Wiley, our accidental inventor, suggested using it to protect automobiles from wind pressure and salty ocean waves.
90 years later, we’re back to square one. Only this time, instead of a vial, we’re struggling to remove it from the planet.
Clingfilm may not be affected by ocean water or the atmosphere around it, but the same can’t be said for the reverse.
So, is clingfilm bad for the environment?
“Much of the hundreds of millions of tons of plastic waste in our oceans is made up of microplastics.”The Conversation
Clingfilm may protect food and preserve meals, but it doesn’t protect the planet or preserve natural resources. Quite the opposite, in fact. In America, it’s called Saran wrap. Swap the “r” for a “t”, and that pretty much sums up its impact on the environment.
Clingy by name and by nature, clingfilm can take hundreds of years to decompose. And when it does eventually break down, it turns into microplastics, which leech harmful chemicals into our groundwater, our oceans, and endangers the world’s wildlife.
Is foil any better for the environment?
Thanks to this blog, clingfilm’s plans to destroy our planet are about to be foiled. Speaking of which, don’t even get us started on foil.
Swapping clingfilm for foil isn’t a much better solution for the environment. Why? Because the production of tin foil requires a heck of a lot of energy and heat. According to Science Focus, aluminium mining causes six times more water pollution and three times more greenhouse gas emissions than clingfilm!
Does clingfilm leach into food?
Studies suggest that “most plastic items release a tiny amount of chemicals into the beverages or food they contain.” This is known as ‘leaching.’ Just like plastic bottles and takeaway containers, this happens with clingfilm, too. One study from the University of Arizona claims that plasticisers in clingfilm can be released from the material “with time, use, and under certain conditions.”
Fresh and smooth for a time, then turning clingy and toxic, clingfilm is basically the ex-boyfriend of food preservation.
Leaching is one of the many reasons our milkround avoids single-use plastic, alongside its impact on the planet, emissions, waste of natural resources, threat to wildlife, marine pollution… okay, we have plenty of reasons for avoiding single-use plastic.
Related Reading: Sustainable Packaging Types and Key Definitions
What to use instead of clingfilm
As great as it is at preserving food and keeping things fresher for longer, clingfilm is made of single-use plastic. AKA our green milkround’s sworn nemesis. Our farm fresh milk doesn’t come in return and reuse packaging just because it tastes nicer. Glass bottles are also better for the planet, as proven by our Life Cycle Analysis!
Here are some eco-friendly clingfilm alternatives you can use to preserve, freeze, refrigerate and tightly protect your grub:
- Use a bowl and cover with a plate: you know, the old fashioned way!
- Use a plate and cover with a bowl: ah, the ol’ switcheroo.
- Ceramic crockery: fancy and more eco-friendly. Now we’re talking.
- Glass: Only real legends use glass instead of plastic, right?
- Reusable silicone containers: Silicone isn’t always the most eco-friendly choice, but reusables are certainly more sustainable than single-use clingfilm. Speaking of which, have you seen our reusable silicone bottle tops?
- Tupperware: Albeit plastic, the lunchbox is a classic for a reason. Tupperware is air-tight, microwaveable, freezable, and most importantly, reusable!
- Beeswax: Waterproof, antibacterial and biodegradable, beeswax wraps are a fantastic natural alternative to clingfilm. AND, they’ll finally give you a retort to fire back at your dad next time he says something is “none of your beeswax”. Buzzing!
Can I use tinfoil instead of clingfilm?
This is a bit like asking, ‘can I use salt instead of sugar?’ You can. But that doesn’t mean you should.
Practically speaking, tin foil can replace clingfilm in many scenarios, from wrapping your sarnies to preserving your refrigerated leftovers. However, if you’re looking to do these things without having a negative impact on the planet, you should try one of the eco-friendly alternatives mentioned above, like beeswax and reusable containers.
If you use foil in the oven but want to reduce your environmental footprint, you could use oven-safe, lidded dishes like crockpots and roasting dishes instead. You can also try reusable baking sheets and non-stick tray liners, which are available at many eco-friendly homeware stores.
Single-use packaging may as well be called no use packaging. But reusable cookware reduces waste, the need for new materials, and our reliance on landfills.
Can I use instead of clingfilm in the microwave?
Not foil! If you take anything from this blog today, let it be that. A good place to start would be reusable tupperware or covering with a microwaveable side plate.
What did people use before plastic wrap?
Ever noticed the distinct absence of clingfilm on cave wall drawings and history books? People ate food long before plastic wrap was invented, and it’s no coincidence that the rise of global warming has coincided with the rise of plastic.
The only thing cutting edge about clingfilm is the jagged strip in the box. And let’s be honest, that never works either. It’s about as sharp as Derek Zoolander or the robbers in Home Alone.
Here are a few ways people preserved produce before plastic wrap was invented:
- They made wraps from banana leaf and seaweed. These makeshift containers protect freshness while giving your grub an extra natural flavour boost. Wondering what else you can do with leaves? Check out our guides on how to use beet leaves, what to do with cauliflower stalks and how to grow veg from scraps.
- They used glass jars. This started in the 1800s, when Napoleon Bonaparte offered 12,000 francs to anyone who could help protect and preserve his army’s food supply. The prize was awarded to Nicolas Appert, who suggested using glass jars sealed with cork and wax. We’ve waited years for this to come up in a pub quiz…
- They bought less. Supermarkets have normalised bulk buying and plastic packaging. Before the days of stacked shelves and sassy self check out machines, people would shop little and often to keep their meals fresh and their bins empty.
Glass jars… Buying less… Making full use of their food to reduce waste… Genius, right? Now if only there was something that still offered all of this, but with the convenience of modern day technology… That’d take some group of brainiacs…
How do you store food without clingfilm?
Clingfilm is the worst film since Cats. And at least that starred James Corden. This really has no excuse. So, how do you store food without using plastic wrap?
As well as using eco-friendly clingfilm alternatives like beeswax and reusable containers, you can also preserve food with a specific set of skills. In other words, Liam Neeson style!
How to store food without clingfilm:
- Use greaseproof or parchment paper. You can then toss this in your home compost bin afterwards.
- Use biodegradable food bags that you can throw on your compost once you’ve used them.
- Use brown paper bags. You can reuse these until they get a bit tatty and torn. At this point, you guessed it, just feed them to your compost bin!
- Use glass containers with cork lids. These are hardier and more reusable than single-use plastic.
- Keep it in the pan! There’s no shame in leaving your Korma leftovers in the saucepan. Just stick a lid on and refrigerate it, ready to eat the next day. Or an hour later.
And that’s a wrap!
Are you part of the growing movement of people looking to make positive, sustainable changes in your life? Our milkround is a great (and incredibly easy!) place to start, empowering you to:
- Reduce food waste by shopping little and often
- Support independent suppliers and British dairy farmers
- Fight plastic waste with return and reuse glass-bottled drinks and farm-fresh produce in home-compostable, recyclable packaging
Long story short, we’re all bling and no cling!