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Reducing waste at home with reusable food covers

The pros and cons of reusable food covers such as beeswax wraps and reusable sandwich bags.

reusable food safe covers on containers and fruit
Last updated: 12 March 2020
Lead image credit: Little Bumble.

There are many environmentally friendly 'green' alternatives to cling wrap, such as beeswax wraps and reusable silicone pouches. But with so many options available, it can be difficult to figure out which product is right for your needs.

We look at the pros and cons of four different types of reusable food covers.

wrappa beeswax wrap

Image credit: Wrappa.

Wax wraps

Brands include Bee Wrappy, Little Bumble, Apiwraps, Wrappa, Bee Green

What is it and what's it made from? Cloth wraps are coated with beeswax or, for vegan versions, soy or other plant waxes, making them flexible and helping them 'cling' to food or containers, particularly when they're warmed with the heat from a user's hands. Depending on the brand, they may be made with organic cotton and/or organic, plant-based dyes.

$RRP Most brands sell combo packs of various sizes, and prices vary depending on the size and quality. Bee Green Beeswax Wraps start at $3 for their extra-small size and $12 for their jumbo size.

Suggested uses Wrapping around fruit and vegetables or across bowls or other containers to keep food fresh.

Pros Can be washed and reused for up to 12 months. Then either re-waxed or composted in the garden.

Cons They can't be washed in hot water so they're not suitable for wrapping meat or fish and they can't be microwaved or put in the dishwasher. Some may also need a rubber band to properly seal them around containers.

seed and sprout food huggers

Image credit: Seed and Sprout.

Silicone food savers/huggers

Brands include Food Huggers, Farberware, Seed & Sprout

What is it and what's it made from? Shallow, expandable silicone 'cups' that 'hug' around the cut edge of fruits and vegetables, keeping them fresher for longer.

$RRP Various, depending on size. Seed & Sprout's four-pack of different sizes is $24 plus delivery.

Suggested uses Works on most fruits and vegetables including apples, onions and tomatoes. Can also be used over cans, jars and other small containers. Specialty shapes are sold that work best for avocados.

Pros Easy to use and they keep food fresher – and for days longer – than if food is left uncovered.

Cons Although they're reusable, once they tear or crack they're not biodegradable. They may pick up odours from strong-smelling food.

seed and sprout silicone film

Image credit: Seed and Sprout.

Reusable silicone 'film'

Brands include Agreena, Seed & Sprout

What is it and what's it made from? Flexible, stretchy, reusable, food-grade silicone film that can be used in place of cling wrap or baking paper.

$RRP Agreena's four-pack of 2 x 20cm square wraps and 2 x 30cm square wraps retails for $24.95.

Suggested uses Covering food and baking.

Pros Dishwasher, microwave and oven-safe, although not at high temperatures.

Cons Non-biodegradable, although Agreena has a partnership with an independent recycling facility allowing customers to return used product for recycling.

Sinchies Reusable Sandwich Bag

Image credit: Sinchies.

Reusable sandwich bags

Brands include Kappi, Sinchies, Bare & Co, Ecopocket

What is it and what's it made from? Silicone or plastic reusable 'ziplock' bags and pouches

$RRP The Ecopocket starter pack of three pouches (1 cup, 2 cups and 6 cup sizes) retails for $19.99.

Suggested uses Storing any fresh food that would usually be stored in a disposable zip-lock pouch.

Pros Versatile and easy. Freezer-safe.

Cons Can be used in the dishwasher, but handwashing is more likely to get them clean. The plastic brands like Sinchies are not suitable for microwaves.

Reusable food covers growing in popularity

Green products like beeswax wraps and reusable silicone pouches are becoming increasingly popular for storing and transporting food.

"We saw a 500% increase in sales after our first year, and a 300% increase from last year to this year," says Sam Bala, who owns Blue Mountains NSW-based Bee Wrappy beeswax wraps with his wife Christine.

We saw a 500% increase in sales after our first year

Joanne Shumack from Upcycle Studio in the NSW southern highlands tells a similar story, adding that their reusable product sales including their own-label brand of metal lunchboxes have tripled in the last two years.

"There's an increase in customers who want to go plastic-free," she says. "We believe customers are looking for practical, good-quality solutions that are kind to the planet as well as their health."

We asked members of our CHOICE Community whether they've used reusable food covers, and 83% of respondents said they've used beeswax wraps, 35% have used silicone lids, and 26% have used silicone ziplock bags.  

Case studies

Why use reusable food covers?

According to leading plastic wrap manufacturer Glad, the Australian plastic wrap market is worth $51 million, and nine out of 10 Australian households buy plastic wrap.

That's a lot of disposable, single-use plastic wrap potentially ending up in landfill, or the environment.

Plastic wrap is just one tiny percentage of the plastic we get rid of every year – the World Wildlife Fund says globally there are 53kg of plastic produced per person per year.

And if plastic production carries on as models predict, roughly 12,000 million metric tonnes of plastic waste will be either in landfills or in the environment by 2050.

It's no wonder that many households are looking for alternatives to plastic wrap and other disposable plastic food storage options such as sandwich bags.

redcycle bin

Image credit: REDcycle

Can I REDcycle cling film?

While many types of soft, scrunchable plastic can be recycled at selected supermarkets through the REDcycle scheme, cling wrap isn't one of them in some cases.

"Some cling wrap is made of PVC, a material we are not able to process, and some isn't," says Rebeca J.O. Gleghorn, marketing and communications manager for REDcycle.

"The issue becomes that with them all mixed together, it's impossible to distinguish between the two once in the recovery system."

Since we last updated, REDcycle have updated their allowed list of cling film to include the following brands; Glad, Coles Home brand and Woolowrths Essentials Home brand only – or get yourself some reusable food covers.

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