Cling film and tin foil have long been a staple kitchen items. We use cling film to cover our left over food, wrap sandwiches and other packed lunch items. Tin foil, or more accurately aluminium foil, is often used for cooking.
But did you know that these food coverings are bad for health and the environment? The good news is that there are healthy alternatives to cling film and tin foil, and all it requires is changing your habits!
What’s the problem with cling film and tin foil?
Cling film – the problem with using cling film is that it is a single use plastic that may harbour harmful toxins, as well as being bad for the environment. Cling film cannot be recycled, and ends up in landfill where it stays for hundreds of years.
Plastics never fully break down. The particles get smaller and smaller over time, but it never goes away. That’s why even microscopic lifeforms have been found to contain plastic particles that have been ingested as some kind of food. Imagine the effect that has along the food chain!
Cancer Research UK warns about using cling film in contact with food especially when microwaved, due to the possibility of chemicals leaching.
Tin Foil – the making of tin foil, or aluminium foil as it is also known, has a huge effect on the environment.
To produce tin foil, the earth has to be mined for bauxite rock, which is then smelted to produce aluminium. This destroys land, plants and habitat for wildlife, not to mention the knock on effects that the waste products from this process causes.
Pressing block of aluminium into thin sheeted rolls takes a heck of a lot of heat and energy, again making it bad for the planet and unsustainable.
Why is Tin Foil Bad for Health?
When used at high temperatures, like in an oven, aluminium leaches into your food as it dissolves in contact with acids and salts that are produced from cooking food.
Studies into the effects of tin foil on health are ongoing, but it’s fair to say that aluminium leached into the food we eat is not good for health. Aluminium is a neurotoxin, meaning that it affects the brain, and this may result in earlier onset of conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
Aluminium in the body also has a weakening effect on the bones, preventing calcium from being deposited.
So, using aluminium during cooking will result in small amounts being leached into food. Using it to wrap or cover cold foods is safe, although you should avoid wrapping acidic foods such as citrus and tomatoes, as the acids can degrade the foil.
Healthy Alternatives to Cling Film and Tin Foil
I have always been a user of cling film, and only recently realised it wasn’t recyclable. Hey, I’m still learning!
I thought to myself that ‘if they can recycle plastic bags, then surely cling film is similar’ and just popped in into our recycling bin. Now I know different, so I’m trying out new eco/health friendly alternatives to cling film.
Alternative Food Covering – Leftovers stored in a fridge are perfectly fine simply covered over with another plate or bowl. Or if you prefer an airtight version, try reusable food covers.
Yes they are made of silicon, but reusing a product again and again is far better than throwing plastic cling film into landfill each day. You can also reuse any plastic tubs and containers you already have.
Glass storage containers – these are often cheaply available, and have the advantage of being stackable.
Waxed Paper – this is an excellent alternative to cling film for wrapping cold foods. The thin layer of wax on each side make it moisture resistant and non-stick. Do not use it with heat though, or the wax will melt.
Lunch Boxes – For sandwiches and lunch, I like the Roll-Eat Boc ’n’ Roll reusable sandwich wrapper.
This is a great step on a more eco-friendly, zero waste journey. Keeps sandwiches soft and fresh for hours, and is able to accommodate other sizes and shapes of food thanks to the nifty fastener. It comes is a range of colours.
BPA free and wipe clean on one side, this reusable sandwich wrap is perfect for lunchboxes. If it gets really dirty, you can put in the washing machine!
Beeswax Wraps are another good eco-friendly alternative to cling film, and can be used to cover food bowls, wrap sandwiches and other food items.
Alternatives to Tin Foil For Cooking…
Lidded Cookware – Aluminium foil is often used to cover meats and other foods while baking, to help keep in the moisture. The same affect, and a safer one, can be achieved by using roasting dishes with lids! Although it might be initially more expensive than buying foil, see it as an investment… you won’t have to but aluminium foil ever again!
Reusable Baking/Grill Sheets – If you’ve always used aluminium foil on the BBQ, especially to stop veggies or skewered kebabs from burning, then there’s more good news. These wipeable, reusable baking sheets and grill mats can be placed on top of a BBQ grill to cook your food just how you like it.
Leaf Wraps – Some types of plant make excellent wraps to protect food from burning or drying while being cooked. In the hunter-gatherer times, and in some modern cultures today, food is wrapped this way.
Seaweed is one good covering for food while being roasted. You can forage for it if you live near to the sea, and it imparts a lovely flavour and added nutrients to the food you’re cooking.
Banana leaf is another alternative to aluminium foil, and can often be found in Caribbean and West Indian food stores.
There’s no doubt that aluminium foil is really handy to use, so if you can’t ditch it fully then there are other options. You can buy recycled aluminium foil, like this brand, that uses 95% less energy to produce than the usual foil. It also comes in unbleached recycled cardboard packaging.
Make a Difference
Ditching the cling film and tin foil benefits the health of your household. We have enough synthetic compounds and chemicals permeating our immediate environment, it makes sense to reduce this as much as possible.
As for the environment, when it comes to issues like this, you might wonder if what you do makes a difference. Well, although stopping the use of cling film and tin foil might seem like a small contribution to the environment, it does matter. Imagine if a hundred people all made a small change, then a thousand… these small changes add up to something very significant, something that actually does make a difference. You can be part of that.
My challenge to you is to make one small change and stop using cling film or tin foil and see how it goes. It might surprise you that it’s actually doable, with fairly little effort.
Yes, you might have to invest a little in buying some reusable products, but in the long-term this saves you cash, keeps your family food healthier and helps the planet!
Do you have an alternatives to cling film and tin foil? Please share in the comments.
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