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How can I possibly live without cling film?

SI Lichfield & District member Nichola Balmer, leads the Club’s Planet sub group. She’s also a trained volunteer ambassador for the Waste Savvy Staffs project and available as an online speaker. Here she muses on cling film (as you do…)

If you give up one thing to help our Planet, give up plastic wrap – PLEASE!

Plastic film, including cling film, makes up roughly half of all the plastic packaging used in the UK each year. That’s huge.

Many local authorities don’t accept plastic film in their kerbside recycling collections (including Staffordshire), so a lot of this ends up in landfill.

Cling film (and plastic film more generally) is an example of ‘single-use plastic’, which hit the headlines in 2018, prompting many of us – and some retailers – to start seeking out alternatives to plastic products that we use once then bin. Takeaway coffee cups, drinking straws and takeaway food containers all had a spotlight shone onto them.

Image of salad and other fresh foodsAdd this to the fact that 70% of all food waste in the UK is produced by homes like yours and mine, and you have the possibility of a “virtuous circle” going on…What do I mean by that? Well, throwing less food away will make a MASSIVE reduction in our domestic waste, so we need to use leftovers more and “cook extra & freeze” to reduce the energy we use in cooking and use up food which is nearing its “Use By Date” (more on labelling another time, don’t get me on that one here! Grrrrr)

You may count cling film among your kitchen essentials, but it’s easier to do without than you might think. It could even shave a pound or two off the weekly groceries shop. 

What’s the good news? There is no bad news…

The good news is that you don’t have to spend any money on “green alternatives” unless you want to…reducing our consumption in the first place is the holy grail of waste management, so why not start by using items you already have, before looking elsewhere?

We’re Soroptimists…we KNOW this stuff, but perhaps we’ve got out of the habit owing to our busy lives? None of the ideas here is new, so think of this as a gentle reminder…

How about I try and buy food without plastic packaging in the first place?

Absolutely. No more to be said there really…So much original packaging is non recyclable film…

How do I store my leftovers?

We all know that leftover food should be covered to stop the spread of germs in the fridge, but that doesn’t mean you need to reach for the cling film. If you don’t want to use plastic food storage boxes, put leftovers in a bowl with a small plate on top as a lid. If you use shallow enough bowls, you can stack another bowl with its own plate lid on top to save fridge space.

Reuse glass jars/lids – if you’re freezing food in them remember to leave 20% empty space at the top to allow the contents to expand – more if the food is quite “wet” such as a sauce. This is not necessary if you’re just refrigerating the food of course.

Image of different cheeses on a boardSome food – such as cheese – actually keeps better without cling film, which can trap moisture and encourage mould. Biodegradable paper wrap can be used and then put into the compost bin. You could use a special cheese box with a filter, or foil of course, which is largely recyclable (wash it and screw it up into a tennis-ball size before adding it to your kerbside recycling). As blue cheese can seep liquid as it matures, put it on a plate to avoid pungent leaks in the fridge. That said, it doesn’t last long enough in our house for me to worry about seepage!

If you’re food storing in bowls, reusable silicone lids are freely available. Useful for melons and larger fruit I find, (just put the silicone lid straight on the melon), and for covering leftover salad which I tend to make in a large bowl with a diameter larger than any of my plates.

How do I cover food I’m reheating?

Reheating leftovers or steaming food in the microwave is fast and convenient, and a covering of cling film helps prevent splatters. Instead, turn a plate or bowl upside down and place this over the food you’re heating – pasta plates work particularly well on dinner plates.

You can buy reusable plate (spatter) covers of course…or use “bowlovers” – these are shaped elasticated cotton fabric covers – easily home made (or by the Club sewing bee of course) and fully washable and reusable. You can make them “bespoke” to fit your bowls. Here’s a video tutorial.

What do I do with my picnic/lunch?

Plastic lunch box containing healthy foodSome of my “tupperware” is 30+ years old and perfectly serviceable. It exists and I don’t want to ditch it, so I’ll keep on using it until even I have to admit it’s “had it”, at which point it’ll get used in the garden/greenhouse/garage. A friend made a micro wildlife pond from a large plastic cake box which she sank into the ground and surrounded with plants. It’s still going strong in her tiny urban garden and looks lovely. In larger gardens you can use them to make “watering holes” for birds and small mammals. Just make sure they can get out safely if they fall in by adding piled up stones or pieces of wood they can use to get themselves out of the water.

I also reuse takeaway containers and lids for food I make for the freezer. Once again they already exist, though now I collect my takeaways in my own containers on the rare occasions we have one. My indian cooking skills have vastly improved so the need is much less great nowadays.

Or you can use reusable wax wraps. You can buy them easily, or better still you can make your own if you’re “crafty”- here’s how. Wax wraps are biodegradable ultimately, though you can rewax them yourself to extend their life. Help with maintaining wax wraps is here

Image of melons cut in half and slicesAt SI Lichfield & District our Planet sub group is asking all members to do “just one thing” to help the environment…we’ll be asking members to “take the pledge” (stolen with pride from another local Sorops Club) and ditching the cling film would be a great first step!

If you’d like to know more about what SI Lichfield & District is doing to help the environment – take a look at our Planet page, and if you’d like to join in – just get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!

P.S. If you’d like an online presentation on Waste Savvy Staffs from Nichola – you can contact her here.