Plastic has probably been part of your life for as long as you can remember. As a baby, you would have been fed through plastic bottles, plastic plates, and plastic cutlery, because it doesn’t break and it is easy to clean. Growing up, there is no doubt that plastic has been there for you all the steps of the way, from lunch boxes to water bottles, from cooking utensils to food packaging, from shopping bags to plastic straws in your cocktails.
But it’s time to end this dependent relationship you have with plastic. The break-up is inevitable. And there’s a simple reason why: you and plastic, it’s a toxic relationship.
The truth is, plastic is bad for your health, and it’s bad for the planet. Because it is non-biodegradable, it will never disappear entirely. Every single plastic item that has ever been created still exist, in one form or another, somewhere on the planet. It could have been recycled into another product, or it could have ended up deep in the ground or floating somewhere in the ocean.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, it also turns out that plastic is seriously dangerous to our health, especially when it comes in contact with our food and our drinks. Plastic is not only made with chemicals, it also has the ability to carry other external chemicals it gets in contact with. That means that, even if your new food container looks like it is safe to use, it could be contaminated with other chemicals that are seriously dangerous for human health.
But let’s not panic just yet. Alternatives to plastic exist and they are easily accessible.
Because we are so dependent, without always realizing it, starting a plastic-free diet can be a little tricky. The easiest way to get started is to focus on one room in your house where plastic should be banned: the kitchen. It is easier done than what it may seem. Follow the guide!
1/ Don’t get fooled by the BPA-free label
BPA, or Bisphenol A, is a chemical found in most plastics, used to harden it. Research has shown that this chemical is dangerous for human health. In food containers, BPA is even more dangerous as the chemical could leak into the food, especially if the container is heated up. So naturally, more and more food containers are now made BPA-free and advertised as such.
But BPA-free does not mean that it is safe to use: plastic is made with a lot of other types of chemicals that can, when heated up or put in contact with your food, leak chemicals that will go straight into your body when swallowed. In fact, plastic containers that are « microwave-safe » only mean that they won’t break or melt when heated up, not that they are 100% safe to use. Any plastic container will almost undoubtedly leak some kind of chemicals into your food or your drink, no matter what the label may say. The risk is even higher for older containers that are a little bit damaged inside: you should throw these away immediately.
2/ Beware of bioplastics
Bioplastics can either be made from biomass renewable sources such as vegetables fat and oils or cornstarch, or can refer to plastic that breaks down into tiny pieces (called microplastics). When buying a product made with bioplastics, you are still unsure of what exactly you are buying.
On top of it, bioplastics can be just as bad for the environment as normal plastic. Dropped in the oceans, they would entangle and choke marine animals just like plastic already does, or break down into microparticles that will feed fish and other seafood. On land, the production of bioplastics would require intense agriculture and, with it, the use of chemicals polluting the soils.
The best option is to avoid buying bottles and containers that are not made of glass, bamboo, stainless steel or other safer material.
3/ Cutting boards : glass or wood ?
Plastic cutting boards are hugely popular. They are easy to clean, quite resistant, and usually flexible enough to fit easily in any drawer in the kitchen. But plastic cutting boards should be avoided, for a very simple reason.
When cutting your carrots, your meat or your cheese, the knife goes through the plastic, a little bit more every time. Even if you don’t notice it, tiny pieces of plastic will get cut off and attach to your food: that plastic will go straight into your stomach.
You can easily replace your cutting boards with glass or even wood ones. Glass is the most resistant material of all, however, it is not always the easiest one to use as food can slip and it is a little heavier. Wood ones are a good option, however, you should make sure to change them regularly and as soon as you notice any small damage to it. You don’t want to eat plastic, but you certainly don’t want to eat wood either.
4/ Food containers and jars
Plastic lunch boxes and plastic containers are never a good idea, even if they are BPA-free. That goes for the ones you use to warm up food in the microwave, to the ones you fill with carrots, sandwiches, grapes or other cold snacks. Luckily, there are many options to replace them with, more durable and economical.
Although glass containers are a little heavier than plastic ones, they are by far the best option for food you want to freeze or reheat in a microwave. Make sure to check the instructions on the box first, as not all of them are suitable for both purposes. Glass containers are the most durable ones, and the safest to use.
Other lighter options to carry your food around or store it at home are containers made of stainless steel or bamboo. If the bamboo ones are very light and easy to carry around, the stainless steel ones are more durable and, most of the time, leakproof. But where glass and stainless steel containers often come with a silicone lid, it is possible to find lunch boxes made entirely with bamboo.
5/ Everyday and single-use plastic-free cutlery
Cutlery with plastic handles might sometimes be cheaper, but they are also the ones the most likely to break easily. They also should not be washed in a dishwasher, as the hot temperature can affect the material and encourage chemicals leak, which will then end up all over your dishes. Luckily for you, replacing everyday cutlery with ones that are not partially made with plastic is as easily said than done.
But what about the single-use cutlery for your lunchtime salad, your picnics, and your birthday parties? Here again, this is a problem that found its solutions. More and more brands are getting into the market of selling eco-friendly and plastic-free cutlery, made with materials such as bamboo, seaweed or wood. Some of them are even edible!
6/ Getting rid of the food packaging
Plastic food packaging represents a huge, if not the biggest, part of your household plastic waste. And as it is the biggest problem, it is also the hardest one to solve: from meat and fish to vegetables and condiments, plastic packaging is difficult to avoid when shopping in a supermarket. The good news is, more and more supermarkets are getting in the trend of replacing plastic bags with paper ones and letting you bring your own container to the butcher or the fishmonger. However, the easiest way to avoid plastic packaging is still to shop in your local market.
Get yourself a plastic-free reusable grocery bag and reusable containers, and buy your fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish from the market. Bring your own container for nuts, dried fruits, olives, and meals already prepared. Get bread from the bakery, where it’s fresh and doesn’t come all wrapped up in plastic.
More and more supermarkets and local shops are offering dried food such as pasta, cereals, rice, and lentils in bulk: use one of their paper bags or bring your own reusable container and fill it up yourself, with as much as you need. It’s often cheaper than buying the plastic-wrapped ones, too.
7/ Grocery bags and bottles
Finally, let’s not forget about the most obvious ones: the plastic bag and the plastic bottles. So-called single-use bags and bottles are amongst the biggest threat to the environment and the oceans. They end up polluting our landfills and our seas, and even the water we drink. Most bottled-water you buy will contain microplastics. Sadly, your tap-water will most likely too.
If you already have plastic bags in your home, don ‘t throw them away without giving them a purpose first: they could be used as a bin linen for example. Buy yourself a reusable, plastic-free eco-friendly bag instead and carry it around whenever you go shopping.
Recycle your empty plastic bottles, and stop buying bottled-water: your tap-water is good to drink, and it is much cheaper too. You should invest in a filtration system before consuming it, though: tap-water can carry microplastics and some chemicals too.
At rOcean, we created a water device that connects to your tap and filters, flavors and carbonates your water to your taste. So even if you prefer sparkling or flavored water, you can still resist the urge to buy a plastic bottle that will end up polluting our oceans and landfills, while also saving time and money : our smart device works at the touch of a button and our reusable flavor pods can be refilled with whatever you want, from one of our own refill to your own creation.
So you can enjoy fresh, healthy, tasty and plastic-free water without leaving your home.
First published: https://rocean.com/blogs/rocean-blog/the-ultimate-guide-to-a-plastic-free-kitchen