The Great Plastic Challenge, Week #3

(Week #2 can be found here, Week #4 can be found here. And the effort to get Burt’s Bees/Clorox to manufacture inexpensive unbleached beeswax waxed paper for consumers to use is here and here.)

Little snack size ziplock plastic bags–they’re soooooo handy for when the Unreliable Narrator wants some carrot sticks, or slices of cheese, or a bunch of (whole wheat) pretzels in his lunch. Yet try as I might to wash and re-use these, inevitably we end up throwing a whole bunch away.

So, what should I replace them with?

I have to say that normally we use little plastic containers to put wet & sticky lunch things in, like spaghetti in tomato sauce or Chinese sticky rice with mushroooms. Or cantaloupe cubes. When we rely on ziplock snack bags, it’s because there’s not a lot of space left due to the configuration of the interior of the lunchbox and the things we’ve already packed. So a flexible, soft-sided substitute would be best. And some water-proofing would be ideal too, in case I feel like throwing some watermelon chunks in but there’s no space left for a hard-sided container.

Given how much I’ve heard about lead-impregnated vinyl lunchboxes (yikes!!!) and other leaded vinyl objects, that’s not a good earth-friendly or kid-friendly option either.

I searched hard for something re-useable and found this: the Wrap N Mat. It’s basically an eight-sided napkin that’s waterproof on one side. You put the food in the center, and wrap it up, sealing it at the velcro closure. Now I love that this is re-useable. BUT I’m not so excited that the PEVA wraps are made in China (of course too many things are, like my beloved Trader Joe’s organic frozen mixed veggies) and so any greenness of the product is negated by the carbon footprint it takes to get the product to me. I’m also not hugely excited by the U.S.-made PVC coating on the side of the Wrap n Mat exposed to food. Polyvinyl chloride is really toxic to manufacture, and it’s not so great to have it touching your food directly.

So here’s what I’d like: I’d love to connect up with a work-at-home person who sews and is crafty, who could whip me up some hankies that I can insert my own soy-based wax paper inserts into. Then I can fold up the hanky with whatever’s inside, velcro it shut, and slide it into my kid’s lunchbox. Then when he’s done eating, he can throw the wax paper into the worm bin and bring the hanky back for reuse.

I’d love a secure, non-leaky, biodegradable wax-paper option that the Unreliable Narrator could just throw in the worm bin when done. (His teacher, the fantastic Ms. B, has a worm bin filled with red wrigglers that the kids get to peek at and stir up every so often.) It turns out that paraffin and other petroleum-based waxes are not as biodegradable as you’d think.

Sigh. Maybe I should just get ahold of the soy-based wax paper (this, or this
unbleached paper) and experiment with folding patterns for envelopes. Maybe the cloth exterior isn’t needed and I can just fold a pouch for whatever I pack the Unreliable Narrator. (We use glass containers at home for food storage, and never re-heat food in plastic, but for really messy foods we’ll always re-use our plastic containers for lunchboxes. There’s no glass containers allowed at my son’s school for obvious reasons.)

Well, I think I just squeaked out an actual win this week to eliminate all the little plastic snack bags that go into my son’s lunchbox. But just barely! I love the soy-based waxed paper and can definitely see a way to use it. I’m 1 for 3 in this Great Plastic Challenge.

By the way, here’s a handy guide as to safe and unrecommended plastic containers for kid and adult lunches.

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6 thoughts on “The Great Plastic Challenge, Week #3

  1. we use those tiny rubbermaid containers and just reuse them. i can fit a bunch of them in my girl’s really small lunchbox. and i keep them in my car. we try to use glass at home as much as possible, but for the girl, right now, it’s all plastic. it’s a hassle to bring in all the containers every day and wash them every night. thx for printing all the eco-stuffs.

  2. Hi. Just wondering about the soy wax paper. Have you tried it and does it work for you?

    Also, the Natural Value unbleached wax paper is petroleum-based, by the way. I contacted the company and confirmed this back when I was researching wax paper. But if the King Arthur wax paper is indeed 100% biodegradable soy wax, I’m really interested!


  3. hi beth,
    here’s the thing: i think the king arthur soy waxed paper is not going to be economical to buy unless you set up a buying co-op. each box of soy waxed paper costs $3.95, and then USPS shipping and handling up to $15 costs $5.95. (i didn’t want to pay $9 for one box of soy waxed paper that still might use bleached paper so i decided to hold off for now and keep re-washing my little plastic snack bags.) with the co-op, it might be cost-effective to go in on buying them in bulk with a group of friends who live close by, that way you can spread out the s&h charges.

    i’m trying to organize a buying co-op now with interested people in my neighborhood, and also working to get my son’s school to switch over. if i succeed at the latter, then maybe i can work out a deal with the school’s buyer to order a few extra boxes for me and i’ll reimburse them.

    will keep you posted! of all my research, the discovery of a soy waxed paper made me most excited!

  4. Pingback: The Great Plastic Challenge, Week #2 « P i l l o w b o o k

  5. Pingback: Unable to Mind My Own Beeswax, Part 2 « P i l l o w b o o k

  6. So excellent to find others looking for a way out of the plastic jungle! I am working on a paper for group I belong to. I am charged with the task of determining the least harmful plastics both to humans and to the environment.

    So far I have come up with this: there aren’t any.

    We need to rethink the whole plastic thing. But then, it might meet its own demise if we see the end of the oil era.

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