Should we stop using plastic in the kitchen?

Plastic pollution is having catastrophic effect on the environment.
– Photograph by Gerald Simon

Plastic pollution is making headlines at the moment.

Here at EatBy we’re obviously mad keen that the use of plastic packaging is reduced across all industries – not just food. And, yes, we’re delighted to see that the media has jumped onto the”reduce plastic packaging” bandwagon. Here in the UK the government is attempting to ban various disposable plastic items such as drinking straws. It’s become a farcical race to between the British and European governments to ban drinking straws in order to prove which administration can do something with the least amount of bureaucratic man hours. As crazy as it seems that MEPs and MPs are measuring their political aptitude with drinking straws it is, at least, a positive start.

The UK and EU battle to be the first to ban plastic drinking straws.

Plastic packaging

We’re keeping a close eye on the developments in the packaging of pre-prepared meals – more specifically the black plastic containers that can be used in the microwave. These containers are made from plastic that is currently not recyclable. There are some manufacturers who are using alternatives, including bamboo and cardboard. These are still the minority and tend only to be used on premium products. The UK grocery store, Iceland, must be congratulated for making the pledge to completely cut plastic packaging over the next few years. Aldi is also selling non premium ready meals in greener packaging. We hope it’s only a matter of time before these alternatives become mainstream. And as you’ll soon see, will be doing our bit to encourage the transit over the next few years as our business moves into its next phase.

However, plastic should not be shunned completely for the moment. It still has its uses! Especially when it comes to reducing food waste. It should be mentioned that disposable plastic items such as drinking straws, shopping bags and disposable non recyclable packaging are the enemy. Reusable containers and recyclable plastic products must continue to play an important role in maintaining sustainability.

Personally, I would like to see a return re-use containers, just like the glass milk bottles and drinks bottles that were commonplace when I was a kid back in the 70s/80s. But recycling is OK when it’s done properly.

The vast majority of plastic packaging and containers have a recycling code somewhere. You’d be in a minority group if you understand these. Most people just want to know that it’s recyclable so it goes into the recycle bin. For the geeky reader, Wikipedia has a pretty comprehensive list of these codes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recycling_codes

Packaging is generally designed to keep your food in good condition during transit and storage. But fresh foods quite often don’t come packaged or the packaging is inadequate. Storing food in optimum conditions is one way to make food last longer while it’s stored in your fridge or cupboards. Using the correct containers may prolong the life of your food and help you organise your food storage which also leads to reduced food waste. While there are a number of alternatives to plastic, these alternatives lack the durability of plastic. But it’s important to weigh the benefits of durability against the possible damage to the environment and the health risks posed by some plastic containers.

Using storage containers in your kitchen.

If you choose to use plastic Tupperware type containers for food storage it is recommended to look out for and avoid BPA (Bisphenol A) and BPS (bisphenol S) plastics. BPS was developed to replace BPA but it turns out it is’t much safer! Many manufactures make a point of stating their products are BPA/BPS free. But also look out for chemicals called phthalates (OMG its a plastic minefield!) These chemicals are used as plasticisers to make products more flexible or sturdy – but research has found they could also be harmful.

A search on Google will produce loads of info on these badboy chemicals but a good rule of thumb is that plastic containers should only be used for dry items in chilled or room temperature conditions and shouldn’t be used to cook, heat or freeze. At the end of the day, your gran, if she lived ’till 98, most probably used Tupperware containers containing BPA. All I’m saying, yes, better to avoid risky plastics, especially where our children are concerned, but I’m being pragmatic about it too. Going back to the recycle codes, plastics with codes 1,2,4 and 5 tend to be pretty safe.

Anyway, there are some brilliant food storage containers that are safe to use and easily available on Amazon (and on other stores but we’re Prime members and Amazon seems hard to beat!)

I’ve added some info below about some we’ve tried and like.

Pyrex Simply Store.

These high are quality glass containers with simple snap on lids. Great for keeping food fresh and the glass is particularly robust. These come at the top of my list because they’re oven, microwave fridge/freezer and dishwasher proof. They’re a little more pricy than some but you get the quality you’d expect and a two year warranty and replacement lids are available too. Maybe I’m swayed by the Pyrex name and the history of a company that’s supplied glass kitchenware for eons. But there’s a lot to be said for trusting a name you know.

 

Glasslock Oven Safe

The Glasslock Oven Safe range is actually just as good as the Pyrex range. They come a close second simply because I prefer the less bulky lids on the Pyrex range with makes a small difference when they’re in a fridge – the contents are easier to see in the Pyrex containers. But if you prefer a a splash of colour and a bombproof click seal on your containers then these will give you quite a thrill. The lock down latches undoubtedly offer more secure than the pyrex lids and the content is visible through the lid.

 

Borosilicate Glass Cylinder Airtight Food Storage

These are perfect as functional ornamental storage jars – because they’re rather nice to look at. The lid is made from bamboo with an airtight silicone seal. So they’re almost completely plastic free. Obviously they’re not designed for heating food and the lids can’t be used in the dishwasher. But we love them for storing dry foods like rice and pasta – especially the fancy coloured pasta which looks a bit artisan on a shelf and you kinda remember to use it when it’s in view.

 

Collapse-It Silicone Containers

These are really great for a number of reasons. Firstly they’re made of silicone which is pretty safe (FDA approved) but they’re also collapse/fold flat(ish). They’re so robust you can take them out of the freezer and put them straight into the oven! So, form our point of view they’re the perfect way to store cooked food for later- which is a great way to reduce food waste. In our opinion they’re not particular attractive. But does that matter when they’re in your freezer?

 

Re-usable Silicon Storage Bags

These are great for freezing food. Just like the tubs above, they are freezer, oven, microwave, dishwasher, boil in a pan and even toaster proof! There’s no fillers, coating, BPA, BPS, BPF, PVC, phthalates, or any the unpleasant chemicals. The seal is pretty good – it has a kind of clamp rather than a zip. But there’s a word of warning – if you microwave something in them be sure to open the seal a little if you want to avoid cleaning up a minor explosion!
Otherwise, these are amazing. there’s a link here to Amazon’s choose – but they’re available from many suppliers at different prices so do a search if they’re not on offer.

These are just some we like but there are hundreds of other Food Storage Containers available.

Remember that whatever container you use it’s always a good idea to note when you put in in the fridge, freezer or cupboard. Using labels, posit notes or writing on the container with a dry-wipe pen is sensible. And of course, our EatBy App will remind you of the food you have stored in the kitchen!

If you have any other recommendations be sure to let is know.

But some of these containers are Plastic!

Yes, but the main cause of plastic pollution is packaging. Single use packaging is thrown away. Most in the UK is sent to landfill or recycled. But some ends up in the ocean. And around the world the problem is much worse.

But plastic packaging is a recent phenomenon. We did without it for millennia! When I was a kid (not too many decades ago) food was bought from shops – fruit and veg from the green grocer, meat from a butcher. And most things were wrapped in paper – yes, paper. Can you believe that. Paper.

Once home items were transferred into containers. I’m sure you can see why multi use containers can reduce plastic waste even if they, themselves, may contain plastics. We are very interested to see how the supply of food evolves to accommodate the trend to reduce plastic pollution.

And may it continue.

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About EatBy App Team

We are the EatBy App team who are responsible for bringing you the EatBy App. Our app is designed to help you help the environment and save a lot of money every year. You could reduce the amount of food you waste, reduce your carbon footprint and save around $1,000 each year. It's a win, win, win! The EatBy App is free on the App Store and Google Play.
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