If you’re used to plastic baggies and wrap, chances are you reach for them automatically. Next time you do, consider giving them up—for health as well as environmental reasons.
Chemicals in plastic can migrate into food, especially fatty foods. Most sandwich bags are actually made from #4 plastic, which is currently considered ok by the scientific community. But it can be remarkably tricky to confirm which plastic your baggies or wrap are made of without calling manufacturers, and it’s never wise to place food in an unknown plastic. Some plastic wrap is #3 PVC, which can contain hormone-disrupting phthalates—not desirable.
It’s easy to understand why to avoid unsafe chemicals on and around your food. But it’s harder to grasp how using disposables can harm our kids and us. Think about it, though. Any plastic—#4 or #3 or something else entirely—used only briefly is a waste of resources. Plastic clogs our landfills and oceans, and may never decompose completely. Need a visual of where your baggie will likely end up? Do a Google image search for “great Pacific garbage patch.” Marine animals eat the plastic and then we wind up eating plastic when our families eat seafood. It’s an unhappy cycle.
The good news is that it’s easy as can be to use reusable baggies or to cover a (glass) bowl of fridge-bound leftovers with a reusable plate instead of plastic wrap. Reusing plastic baggies and/or wrap isn’t the answer; plastics designed for single use aren’t meant for reuse. When plastic breaks down over time, it’s more likely to release its chemical components into your food. Rely instead on non-plastic reusables. Look for easy-to-wash items made of glass, stainless steel, and lead-safe ceramics. These come in all shapes and sizes. For plastic baggies, swap in food-safe fabric bags. These are sometimes lined with waterproof materials, so read labels to make sure you’re not buying an unsafe plastic-lined baggie. For plastic wrap, swap in washable beeswax cloth in varying sizes. Bonus: reusables can save real cash! They also drastically reduce trash. The EPA says one year of school lunches creates an average of 67 pounds of trash.
If you must use disposables from time to time, look for unbleached wax paper and paper baggies lined with vegetable wax instead of petroleum-derived wax. There are cupcake liners made from this too, so stock up for the next bake sale.
There is truly life beyond plastic. Come on, give it a try.