How to Freeze Food Without Plastic

Written by Ollie Wilkinson

The plastic freeze

Freezing food. We all do it. And why not? After all, it preserves our groceries and leaves waste out in the cold. But what if your freezer containers are ironically contributing to global warming? Keep your grub as cold as ice, without the planetary sacrifice, by discovering how to freeze food without plastic.

Why shouldn’t we store food in plastic?

You don’t need to be a wizard to spot plastic beasts and where to find them. These containers are everywhere you look, from supermarket aisles and convenience stores to chip shops and Chinese takeaways.

the world produces 141 million tonnes of plastic packaging per year

Many of us know the unsustainable shortcomings of plastic waste. So, why does the world produce 141 million tonnes of plastic packaging per year, the equivalent weight of 15,000 Eiffel Towers (sacré bleu!)?

Supermarkets store food in plastic because it’s cheap, light and flexible. But, as you’ll know from the Slinky gathering dust in your loft, these qualities are not enough to justify mass usage.

Here’s why storing food in plastic isn’t always a good idea:

  1. 1. Plastic can take up to 500 years to break down, and 88% of it is incinerated, buried or shipped overseas (Big Plastic Count), causing an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
  2. 2. Some plastics contain potentially harmful chemicals that can contaminate your food.
  3. 3. There are more environmentally friendly alternatives readily available (more on that soon!).

In October 2023, the UK government is introducing a ban on single-use plastic, signifying an impending end to the number of takeaway boxes spilling out of your booby-trapped cupboard. Soon, you’ll need to find new ways to freeze food without plastic. But chill out, because we’ve got you covered.

Does plastic leach into food when frozen?

You’ve probably seen the scary headlines about microplastics in human bloodstreams and microwaved containers leaching plastic into foods. Studies suggest leaching (a term used to describe chemicals transferring from plastic) most commonly occurs during changes in temperature. The best way to avoid any possibility of plastic leaching into your frozen and reheated food is simply to avoid plastic altogether.

How to freeze food without plastic

Freezing food preserves flavour and nutrients while helping you save waste and avoid yet another trip to the shop. But storing your frozen meals and leftovers in plastic containers comes at a cost to the planet. So, how do you have your frozen cake and eat it? By freezing food without plastic!

the best ways to freeze food without plastic

The five best ways to freeze food without plastic

These eco-friendly alternatives make preserving food waste easy peasy non plastic freezy:

Metal containers

Go to war on food and plastic waste by giving your freezable meals a full metal jacket. Stainless steel containers are versatile and can go straight in your freezer.

Metal is also easy to clean and keeps your food fresh while locking in nutrients. But bear in mind that these should never (we repeat, NEVER!) go in the microwave.

Glass containers

Ah, our ol’ friend glass, a firm favourite on our return and reuse milkround. Is there anything it can’t do? Glass jars and storage containers are microwavable, dishwasher-safe and often freezable. This puts them among the best ways to freeze food without plastic.

However, be mindful that you should avoid freezing liquids in glass, as they can expand when frozen. You should also make sure food is properly defrosted before reheating in glass, because just like your nan during a heatwave, glass can reach breaking point during a sudden temperature shift.

Reusable beeswax

Beeswax wraps are non-plastic freezer bags that are waterproof, reusable and an eco-friendly alternative to clingfilm and tupperware. They even break down in your home compost bin!

Reusable silicone

Silicone may be a loose relative of plastic, but it’s a lot more reusable (and therefore sustainable). Free from petroleum-based chemicals, silicone is flexible and durable, meaning it won’t crack, split or shatter in different temperatures.

Learn more by reading our rundown of the eco-friendliness of silicone.

Baking paper

Despite what its name might suggest, baking paper isn’t just limited to soggy bottoms and Hollywood handshakes. Parchment baking paper is plastic free and you can fold it to your desired shape, making it a great material for freezing food.

Freezing meat but want to quit waste cold turkey? Try butcher paper! This is designed to wrap meat and fish and keep it fresh and frozen.

Can you put tin foil in the freezer?

Heavy-duty, food-grade aluminium foil can be used to wrap most foods in the freezer as it protects against moisture, oxygen and bacteria. But it shouldn’t be used for highly acidic foods like lemons and limes, because this can result in degradation and spoilage. Food experts recommend freezing food in foil for a maximum of a year.

Technically, tin foil is a safe option for storing frozen food. But just like plastic, it’s not the most sustainable. Despite being recyclable, landfill sites see a lot of foil over time, and the mining process for aluminium foil’s raw materials does create greenhouse gas emissions.

Can glass go in the freezer?

You bet it can! If you’ve got food you want frozen and you can’t hold it back anymore, let it go in the freezer in an empty glass container. Freezable glass containers are the perfect waste-fighting solution for preserving leftovers. You can buy these online and in some sustainable cookware stores. But remember, don’t use these for food or drink you know will expand over time or when frozen, as this can cause the glass to shatter, crack and break.

Are Pyrex containers freezer safe?

Pyrex dishes and containers are freezer safe, and in some cases, safer than regular glass containers because they’re less likely to crack or shatter. However, there are still a few definite no-nos, such as:

  • • Placing hot Pyrex dishes in the freezer and cold Pyrex dishes in the oven or microwave. Rapid temperature changes can cause glass dishes to crack.
  • • Tightly sealing Pyrex containers shut. This can create unwanted pressure and potential cracks in the glass.
  • • Using Pyrex or glass containers that already have cracks in them. This is not only a shatter-risk, but also a food safety risk.

What now?

Using plastic in your freezer may preserve food waste, but this unsustainable material is cold comfort for the planet.

Lucky for you, sustainability’s a breeze when you can plastic free freeze!

For more guidance on preserving food and fighting food waste, dive into our tips on keeping fruit fresh and discover how to make your veg last longer.

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