Today’s modern kitchen is usually full of plastic food storage containers, plastic bags and wraps, which is not the most sustainable food storage containers. It was not always the case, as people used to store food in glass or ceramic and even paper. Plastic wrap was first invented in 1908 and we all know how popular Tupperware products are, that many people would call any plastic storage container Tupperware.
Most food storage containers are made of plastic. New research is showing us that plastic is bad for your health and the environment, so we want to have phthalate free food storage containers. It is time to say goodbye to plastic, detox your kitchen and get the safest food storage containers. So what are the alternatives?
What makes Plastic Bad?
1. Why is Plastic Bad for your Health?
BPA’a and phthalates from plastic food storage containers can leak into food or liquids. The risk increases when the plastic container is heated, leading to disturbing health hazards like cancer and endocrine imbalances.
- Chemicals from plastic containers can leak into food and even more so when it is exposed to heat.
- Never heat food in the microwave using plastic.
- Steam and heat from the dishwasher and even ultraviolet rays from the sun, can also unlock harmful chemicals.
- Acidic foods like tomatoes, can interact with plastic, leading to toxic chemicals leaking into the food. Don’t store anything acidic in plastic, use glass instead.
Getting rid of plastic is your easiest option to protect yourself. Don’t use plastic water bottles, and specially not if they have been left in a car and exposed to heat, as chemicals from the plastic can leak into the water. New research has linked that to a cause of breast cancer in women.
2. Why is Plastic Bad for the Environment?
Most plastic is made from petrochemicals that are derived from fossil fuels and are not sustainable. Not all reusable plastic containers are recyclable. Most plastic unfortunately end up in landfill and also the ocean, where it hurts and kills aquatic life.
So we now know that plastic is not only bad for the environment, it is also bad for our health. At the moment we don’t have a plastic option that is safe, so let’s have a look at the safest food storage containers that are healthy alternatives to plastic, and are also phthalate free food storage containers.
Sustainable and Healthy Alternatives to Plastic for Storing Food:
- Beeswax wraps – long-lasting, washable and reusable and also compostable at the end of its life. It is made from cotton cloth with a coating of beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin. It is a sustainable option but look out for organic cotton and sustainable beeswax.
- Cotton produce bags with a drawstring is a sustainable alternative to plastic storage bags.
- They are washable and reusable.
- Cotton is breathable so store it in the crisper drawer to prevent the content from drying out. The most sustainable options are bags made from Fairtrade or organic cotton.
- Glass is non-porous so will not absorb flavors and odors from food.
- It also won’t leak any chemicals into the food.
- Glass is sustainable and can easily be recycled. It is made of silica (sand) that occurs naturally, sodium carbonate (soda ash), calcium carbonate and cullet (glass waste).
- Glass is see-through so ideal for storing foods like cereal, pasta, flour, sugar, nuts, coffee etc. keeping the food fresh and free of bugs.
- It is breakable and could crack if frozen due to food that expands. Always check with the manufacturer that it can be used in the deep freeze.
- Glass does not always have the best sealing options, although glass canning jars do seal very well. Also, glass bottles and jars with a glass lid and a rubber seal and stainless steel clamps to seal it.
- It is easy to recycle glass is and storage containers are often made from recycled glass.
- Glass is heavy to carry around, so it is not the best choice for traveling.
- Have a look at the best glass food containers with lids here.
- Stainless steel is easy to clean, unbreakable and can withstand hot and cold temperatures.
- Many stainless steel containers are available with silicone lids, making them airtight.
- It is a long-lasting metal that can last for many generations, so waste is reduced.
- Stainless steel is recyclable and most stainless steel products contain sixty percent recycled material.
- Acidic foods should not be stored in stainless for long periods of time, as the acid might start reacting with the stainless steel and metal could start leaching into the food.
- Bamboo bases or containers with cork lids are free of BPA’s, PVC and phthalates. It is sustainable and looks stylish.
- Wood is also free of BPA’s, PVC and phthalates and will keep food cold or hot for longer than stainless steel.
- Ceramic containers can withstand temperature changes so are suitable for storing in the fridge and freezer.
- It can also be used in a conventional oven or microwave oven.
- It does not impart any chemicals and will not absorb flavors or odors from the food.
- Silicone is normally regarded as safe for food storage as it has not been shown to react with food. It is still made from plastic which is derived from fossil fuels, so it is not the most sustainable option for food storage. It is better than traditional plastic though. Make sure that you choose “food grade” silicone and it is best not to heat it. It works well as lids for glass and stainless steel storage containers. Silicon zip-up bags are also available.
The safest food storage containers are glass and stainless steel. You can also reuse sustainable food storage containers, like glass bottles and jars, in which you bought food, like peanut butter or jam. Reusing is far more sustainable than using disposable products.
Other option are to use pasta straws and take your own utensils (bamboo or metal) that can be reused. Whatever you choose, it needs to be phthalate free food storage containers.
Sneaky Sources of Plastic
There are many obvious sources of plastic like drinking straws, bags and containers, packaging, disposable cups and plates etc. But plastic is also hiding in many products that might not be so obvious to everybody, so beware the hidden plastic and see what you can do to avoid it.
- Teabags – did you know that many teabags have plastic in them?
- The alternative is to buy loose-leaf tea or look out for brands that specifically say what their teabags are made of, or organic brands use plastic free bags.
- Chip or crips bags – most bags are made from aluminium which is laminated with plastic, or plastic itself to keep the chips crispy. This type of plastic is almost impossible to recycle, although Terracycle will.
- alternative: Make your own crisps.
- Cans – many aluminium cans for coca cola and soda drinks, are lined with plastic to prevent corrosion by the content.
- Milk cartons and juice cartons – these are lined with plastic to prevent the cardboard from getting soggy and disintegrating. These cannot be recycled because of the plastic linings.
- Alternative: Buy milk in glass if possible, or if it is in a plastic bottle, at least these plastic PET bottles can be recycled.
- Paper cups and molded fiber containers are lined with plastic to prevent liquids seeping through and making it soggy and leaking the content. It is almost impossible to recycle these products because of the plastic lining.
- Alternative: if you are getting a take away, take your own keep cup for liquids or stainless steel or glass reusable containers.
- Microwaveable popcorn – once again the bags are lined with plastic which means you cannot recycle it.
- Alternative: make your own.
- Chewing gum: most chewing gum is plastic with added colors and flavors and many other additives and fillers.
- Plastic free gum is available or switch to all-natural mints or chew fresh mint.
- Glitter is colorful micro plastics and harms the environment.
- Alternative: just avoid it.
- Disposable wet wipes and baby wipes are usually cotton woven together with polyester and chemicals added for fragrances and to preserve them.
- Alternative: use old-fashioned water and soap, or make your own wipes. For wiping surfaces use cloth or paper towels with natural based cleaning solutions. You can make your own reusable wipe wipes and this is where you can find out how.
- Clothing: all synthetic fabrics release micro plastic particles when washed. The chemical in polyester, nylon, acrylic and other chemically produced fibers can be absorbed by your skin when wearing it and can cause endocrine imbalances.
- Alternative: wear natural fibers like organic cotton, hemp, linen, bamboo, silk and wool.
- Furniture and carpets – synthetic flooring made from polyurethane, polypropylene etc. contain chemicals and just like clothing, can harm us. And the same goes for furniture. Mattresses and pillows often contain synthetic fabrics.
Reduce the demand for new plastic by shopping alternatives.
- Avoid excess food packaging
- Use reusable containers to take lunch to work
- say NO to plastic cutlery and straws (bamboo etc.)
- Choose reusable water bottles
- Use reusable shopping bags
Although some sustainable food storage containers might not be a hundred percent perfect for each situation, they are far better alternatives than using disposable products or using plastic for storing food.
You want to make sure that you are using the safest food storage containers, and that means say goodbye to plastic and have phthalate free food storage containers.
More Tips to help the Environment
- Use rechargeable batteries – it is better for your pocket and has no acid in them.
- Unplug electrical appliances if they are not in use. Even if they are turned off, they still use a small amount of electricity.
- Buy second hand clothes.
- Use bamboo toothbrushes.
- Buy loose-leaf tea – teabags can contain micro plastics that end up in the oceans.
- Wash clothes in cold water and don’t use the drier to save electricity.
- Take car to the car wash and use less water than washing the car at home with a hosepipe running. Of course, you should be filling a bucket with water and wash it without a running hosepipe.
- Set energy saving on electrical devices so that it can automatically turn off after a certain period of inactivity.
- Give up quick or next day delivery to reduce the amount of delivery vehicles on the road. Group small orders together.
- Replace the shower head for up to date technology that uses less water.
- Use matches, rather than gas lighters.
- Reuse clothes hangers that you get with your clothes from the dry cleaners – return them to the dry cleaners or send them to metal scrap yard.
- Use biodegradable cat litter trays.
- Listen to music off-line. Streaming and downloading music uses a lot of energy.
- Reduce the brightness of your computer screen to save energy.
- Cancel spam emails.
- Use eco friendly search engines. Ecosia invests 80% of their profits to plant new trees.
- Use cloth reusable diapers or nappies.
- Have at least one meatless dinner per week. I have a meatless Monday every week, and instead enjoy just vegetables. I will have at least two other days in the week when fish will be on the menu or just veggies on their own again.
- Make your own reusable baby wipes from facecloths. Could buy flannels or towels and cut them smaller and hem them to save even more money.
There is a big selection of reusable and sustainable food storage containers available on Amazon.
I hope you have found this guide to the safest food storage containers helpful, but if you do have any suggestion or questions, please leave them below and I will get back to you.