Kitchen Swaps to Eliminate Plastic
Plastics in the Kitchen
In our busy lives there are so many ways that unnecessary plastic waste enters into our homes. It’s seen most clearly in our grocery shops as most products come in plastic packaging not to mention anything that is prepared for us. Reducing this daily flow into our homes can be difficult and is often correlated to the time we have, our budgets for alternatives and the shopping options available to us.
While there are several ways to address the flow of waste from grocery shopping, here we wanted to look at the more permanent plastics that we bring into our homes. Products we use on a regular basis many times over are by far an improvement on single use plastics that serve a purpose for a small fraction of their existence. However there are good reasons to try to avoid even the multi-use plastics, including for environmental and health reasons. So what better place to start than the kitchen
When reviewing what you have the following guiding principles can help you make decisions about the next steps to take:
- Don’t Buy What You Don’t Need
- Reuse is ALWAYS better for the planet, even if its plastic. Buying something "eco-new" to swap out "perfectly functioning plastic-old" isn’t necessarily more sustainable, just looks more sustainable
- If you do buy new or replace, think about a products longevity, ease of repair or parts replacement, and its afterlife. Is this a product for life or will it be in the bin within a year? Can you repair it easily? Will it age quickly and become unappealing?
- As plastic items reach the end of their life, consider switching to materials like ceramic, glass, or metal.
- Adopt a gradual approach: replace items with eco-friendly versions as they wear out. This method ensures a sustainable transition without unnecessary waste.
Why should we avoid plastics in the Kitchen?
Using plastic containers and products in the kitchen poses potential health risks due to the leaching of chemicals into food and beverages. Studies indicate that certain chemicals in plastic can migrate into what we consume. This leaching process accelerates with heat, such as when microwaving food in plastic containers. Even plastics labelled as microwave-safe can be problematic, as heat tends to break down chemical bonds in the plastic, increasing chemical migration into food.
Chemicals like phthalates and BPA, commonly found in plastic products, are linked to various health concerns as are BPAs. Even its replacements, like BPS and BPF, might pose similar risks but more studies are required.
The starting point is asking if you need that specific utensil. It’s easy to think you need a specific gadget for this and that, but really there is little you can't do with a few good knives, some wooden spoons and a spatula. Even a rolling pin, if you need one sparingly, can be substituted with a glass wine bottle.
As you need to replace something try to swap out plastic utensils for wooden or metal ones. Not all products will come plastic free (eg spatula) but many will. In many cases Teflon coated pans mean we end up buying utensils that won’t scratch them, but these Teflon pans come with their own possible concerns (see below). Consider a cast iron pot or pan, after a few uses not only does it cook better but you can scratch, poke and scrub with metal utensils as much as you like.
For those seeking reusable baking options, consider products like reusable baking sheets, stainless steel muffin tins (a great choice for avoiding non-stick coatings), silicone muffin trays, reusable piping bags, and silicone muffin cases. These durable silicone alternatives, while not recyclable, significantly reduce waste and can form a key part of any eco-conscious kitchen.
Chopping Boards are another popular topic at the moment, at least on Tik Tok (I am told). Apparently every time you cut a plastic chopping board you are actually cutting small bits of plastic that mixes with your food. Wooden boards are a good alternative that is natural and often look more stylish too.
Seeking plastic-free alternatives to cling film for food storage? This topic is zero-waste 101 with it being one of the early targets of plastic waste advocates. An obvious place to start is by storing your food in the glass containers we covered above. Of course, sometimes you need to keep food fresh in a specific bowl or container, in which case reusable Beeswax wraps are highly effective for keeping food fresh. These wraps can be molded over bowls or directly around food (like sandwhiches or chopped fruit), except for meat or fish, where it's better to cover the bowl containing them. There are also vegan alternatives and beeswax wraps are easily rejuvenated with a beeswax bar and a quick pop in the oven.
Additionally, for packed lunches stasher bags are a form of reuable zip lock bag, made from silicone, which you can cook in and even suvie with.While the jury is out on silicone as a sustainable substance versus plastic as it isnt biodegradable it is more durable and less likely to break down into micro-particles the way plastic does. These bags are also great for freezing herbs and other uses in the fridge.
Pots and Pans
While our pots and pans used to be one of the most used and durable items in our kitchens its not uncommon to find these regularly thrown into landfill. A common issue is that the non-stick coating is scratched off or the whole pan is discoloured and never seems clean. There is also some conjecture that the non-stick coatings can have health impacts particularly as they are exposed to high heats during cooking and so leach into our foods.
One alternative is to opt for a high quality cast iron or copper pot. Admittedly these are more expensive but they will also last for life and perform optimally if properly cared for, seasoned and cleaned the right way. It also allows you to use metal utensils meaning no more silicon or shredded plastic items, and you can clean them with a metal brush. I do also enjoy that these can go into the oven! Another option is a stainless steel but these can deteriorate if not cared for properly and can be hard to clean and maintain, particularly excessively scratched, and often end up the same way as the non-stick coated versions.
This is one item that is often an investment, so do your research and get what’s best for you. In our home we have opted for fewer pieces (sizes and types) so we could get a good version of those we did get. In my experience a few smartly chosen sized pots and a decent sized pan is all you need for most of your cooking needs.
The typical kitchen clean-up often relies on single-use items like paper towels, cloths and sponges containing micro-plastics and chemical-soaked wipes. However, these disposables are not necessary for effective cleaning. There many eco-friendly alternatives available these days to reduce your kitchen's plastic footprint. Wooden dish brushes, for instance, offer a sustainable substitute for plastic brushes. Most made from natural materials like wood, metal, and a natural fibre for the bristles, with replaceable heads for extended use. For tougher cleaning tasks, wooden pot brushes or copper scourers are effective.
To further minimise kitchen waste, replacing conventional plastic sponges with more sustainable options is a straightforward yet impactful change as standard sponges can shed harmful microplastics with each use. Our compostable sponges won't end up in landfill but rather can be home composted.
Finally, ever being frustrated by having to use plastic bin liners? We sell a compostable bin liner to fit a range of bin sizes.
You can see our full range of Kitcen brushes and cleaning products here
Cleaning Liquids and Products
Plastic filled cleaning products has become a standard in many households, yet the environmental impact and potential health risks associated with these products are significant. Many of these products contain harmful microplastics, animal derivatives, and chemicals that are toxic to both the environment and our health. A shift towards eco-friendly cleaning solutions can drastically reduce this impact.
When it comes to dishwashing, eco-friendly alternatives are gaining traction. For example, dishwasher powders packaged in cardboard boxes are a more sustainable choice, with most mainstream supermarkets selling these. Other options include ishwasher tablets, which come in water-soluble wrappers, like we sell at The Source.
For those interested in exploring natural cleaning methods, there are guides and resources available that offer recipes and insights into making your own cleaning products. This approach not only lessens the environmental burden but also reduces exposure to harmful chemicals.
Of course we have you covered for most of these at The Source from washing up liquid, to laundry detergent and fabric conditioner, stain removers, rinse aid, dishwasher tablets and more. See the range here.