Beeswax Wraps Replace Plastic Wrap

Last updated on February 27, 2021.

Beeswax wrap over a bowl
Image by RikaC from Pixabay

If you’re reading about beeswax wraps, chances are that you already know that plastic wrap and plastic Ziploc bags are single-use disposable items and they are unsafe for human health and the environment. Annually in the U.S., we purchase millions of rolls of plastic wrap and boxes of Ziploc bags. They are not recyclable, and in landfills and incinerators, the plastic can release highly toxic chemicals called dioxins. Worse, when plastic gets hot, it can leach chemicals into your food! The best thing to do is to find an alternative: aluminum foil (which is still disposable), reusable glass or metal containers, or beeswax wraps.

Beeswax wraps are simply reusable coated cloth wraps for keeping food items fresh. I discovered them about 3 years ago, and I was immediately excited by the prospect of eliminating disposable plastic wrap! I bought some Abeego brand wraps and have been a convert ever since. They are completely zero waste, they preserve food, and are free from toxic ingredients. Here’s a short video from that company about how to use them:

I believe Abeego was one of the earliest online stores to sell beeswax wraps, and this is exhibited in their quality. There are many other companies and many Etsy shops that make these now, so you have lots of choices. They are a little expensive on the front end, but they last at least a year or longer, and you save money by not buying disposable plastic wrap. And they are compostable at the end of their life, unlike plastic wrap.

Are beeswax wraps DIY-worthy?

Many people ask if they can save money by making their own. I’ve found that it depends on your results. I have invested a lot of my own time and money on DIY wraps and found that they lack the same pliability and texture that I liked from the ones I purchased. That said, there are thousands of DIY recipes and methods for making beeswax wraps on your own. I’ve tried several of them and here’s how I did it.

Fabric

This was the most fun part for me! I love choosing fabric. For this project, I chose to use medium and large scraps that I already had on hand instead of buying new fabric. Make sure you wash the fabric first so that you are starting with clean fabric. Then I measured and cut squares in various sizes with pinking shears.

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Ingredients

It is difficult to get the right concoction of ingredients. Abeego’s wraps are made with a formulation of beeswax, tree resin, and jojoba oil. Their wraps are smooth, adhere well, and smell good. I first made these using beeswax only, and they came out ok. I thought I could improve them by mixing beeswax with pine tree resin and jojoba oil, according to the online instructions I was following. The resin did not spread evenly despite my best efforts and clumped in certain spots. This made the wraps crusty and difficult to use. The ones I made with beeswax only came out better, so on my third trial, I went back to beeswax only. Again, they’re ok and functional, but not the same quality as the purchased versions.

I recently discovered that some companies, such as SuperBee by BeeConscious Company, sell DIY kits with their proprietary formula premixed into a bar for you to make wraps with your own fabric at home. This would save the struggle of trying to calculate the measurements just right. What a cool idea!

Beeswax bar and knife on cutting board
You can buy beeswax pellets or grate your own from beeswax bars. I have done both and found grating the bars to be less expensive. But it ruined my grater. Instead, you can chop up the beeswax bar into little pieces and it seems to work just as well.
Chopped beeswax pieces on a beeswax wrap
Chopped beeswax pieces on a beeswax wrap.

Method

I read quite a few online posts about how to make these and found three general methods, of which I’ve tried two. They are:

      • Oven
      • Flat iron
      • Hand dip

The easiest and my favorite method is to place the fabric on a flat cookie sheet and sprinkle the ingredients on the fabric, then put it into the oven at 200-225 degrees (F) for 3-6 minutes. Be prepared to use an old or second-hand cookie sheet, as it is difficult to get all of the beeswax off after.

For the ironing method, lay wax paper* under the fabric on an ironing board, sprinkle the ingredients on the fabric, then lay wax paper on top. Next, iron on a low setting. This method is effective too but more time-consuming than using the oven. The last way involves melting the ingredients in a double boiler and dipping the fabric into it. This is the one I didn’t try because I anticipated the mess I would make.

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Overall, my wraps are functional and I use them all the time in combination with my Abeego wraps. I’ve spent many hours trying to perfect these, and have not achieved the perfect wrap. I am also unable to make any larger than my cookie sheet, so I would have to purchase them if I want extra-large sizes. After lots of trial and error, I think purchasing works best for me. But you may have better results, so don’t let me dissuade you!

Set of homemade beeswax wraps
Set of my own beeswax wraps

Caring for beeswax wraps

They are very simple to care for whether homemade or purchased! You wash them with mild dish soap and rinse in cool water. I bought a small, square, metal drying rack that hangs above my kitchen sink. I wash, rinse, and hang them on a clip to air dry! Of course, if you buy them, check the recommended care on the package first.

Drying rack for hang drying beeswax wraps

You will know when it is time to cycle out your old wraps, as they will appear dingy or stained. But if you have a few that haven’t been used as frequently, but seem less pliable or sticky than before, you can restore the wraps. I simply spread a small amount of beeswax over the existing wraps and place it in the oven for 2-3 minutes at 200-225 degrees (F).

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SuperBee features a video to restore wraps as well, only without using additional beeswax. They simply put the wrap in a toaster oven to remelt the wax so it spreads back out:

Goodbye, Plastic Wrap 

Beeswax wraps are a superior food storage solution. They are a great replacement for plastic wraps, plastic Ziploc bags, and plastic food containers. Whether you purchase beeswax wraps or make them, the fact that you are open to getting rid of plastic in your life is awesome and potentially life-changing. If you decide to make them, I encourage you to find quality instructions online to make your own. And if you perfect your method, be sure to comment below and tell me about it!

Thanks for reading, and please subscribe!

 

*Note: Most wax paper sold today is not actually coated in wax, they are coated with a thin layer of paraffin, which is petroleum-based (plastic-related). In this post, the wax paper I used was a brand called If You Care and sells healthier and environmentally friendly kitchen products. Their wax paper is coated with soybean wax and I put it in the compost when I’m done with it. I bought it at Whole Foods but you can find it online as well.

If You Care Waxed paper
Photo by If You Care

 

Additional Resource:

Article: “The sticky problem of plastic wrap,” National Geographic, July 12, 2019.

This post does not contain affiliate links nor did I get paid to promote the products in this post. All photos by me unless otherwise noted.

The Packaging Industry and How We Can Consume Differently, Part 1

Last updated on August 5, 2021.

Yellow excavator on mounds of waste, Indonesia
Waste pile in Indonesia. Photo by Tom Fisk from Pexels

Waste. We have so much of it that we require large machinery to move it around for us. There’s so much waste that our landfills are overfilling; the ocean is polluted with plastic and toxins; and in parts of the world, people have to spend their days living and working surrounded by large amounts of waste.  This article is the first in a series about the impact of packaging and the packaging industry.

Most packaging comes from items we buy regularly. I recently purchased a bottle of Zyrtec. Almost all medicines come in plastic bottles, but I had to buy a plastic bottle of Zyrtec inside of more plastic packaging! I emailed the company to ask why and if they would consider ending the practice of overpackaging. Unfortunately, Johnson & Johnson, the owner of Zyrtec, sent a generic response: “We appreciate you reaching out to us with your concern. We always value the views and opinions of our consumers…We will make certain your feedback is shared with the appropriate management of our company.” This is the typical response I receive from companies but I keep trying nonetheless.

Zyrtec packaging. Photo by me
Zyrtec packaging surrounding the small plastic bottle of tablets. Photo by me

 

“Packaging and containers are the largest segment of municipal solid by waste by product category.” -Beth Porter, author of Reduce, Reuse, Reimagine

Packaging is Everyone’s Responsibility

I am a recycler and I encourage you to recycle. But unfortunately, recycling isn’t the answer. Globally only about 9% – 13% of plastics are actually recycled. Since recycling doesn’t work in our current systems, we have to find a better set of solutions. Less packaging is one idea.

Corporations and companies are not doing enough to prevent plastic pollution, especially through the packaging industry. They have the power to stop producing packaging with disposable plastics and the resources to create more sustainable packaging. But we consumers have power too, to convince those companies to change.

“As consumers, we don’t give ourselves enough credit for how powerful we really are…View your purchases as having a direct impact on the goods and services companies choose to make.” -Tom Szaky, TerraCycle

I recently read The Future of Packaging: From Linear to Circular by Tom Szaky and 15 packaging industry leaders. The book exposed me to more information than I knew existed about packaging and the packaging industry. Then I read other books and several articles about the packaging industry. So I decided to share what I’ve learned with you, in several posts.

Single baking potato sold in plastic packaging for microwavable "convenience". Photo by me
Single baking potato sold in plastic packaging for microwavable “convenience”. Photo by me

“And then there’s the ubiquitous plastic packaging, which envelops practically every product imaginable, from apples to eggs, foam bath to lipstick, toy cars to printer cartridges.”1

Packaging history

How did we get to today, where we have packaging for every single item? Packaging inside of packaging? So much packaging, often made from either mixed materials or unrecyclable materials, that we now have a waste crisis? How did we get here?

Packaging used to be sustainable and reusable with very little waste. Glass bottles held soft drinks, milk, medicine, etc. Consumers returned these and the companies sanitized and refilled them. During World War II citizens collected scrap metal, paper, rubber, and even cooking waste. Cities sometimes issued quotas for recycling.

Beginning in the post-war era, packaging increased to make life more “convenient” and “easier” for women running households. At the same time, the global population was growing at a higher rate than ever before – tripling between 1950 and 2010. Consumerism grew along with increased wealth and disposable income in the western world. Plastic packaging in all forms became cheaper to create and ship while increasing convenience for consumers.

Life Magazine article of August 1, 1955 about "throwaway living".
Life Magazine article of August 1, 1955

The False Notion that Plastic is More Sanitary

Plastic also became the “sanitary” way to serve and sell food, a somewhat false notion that persists even today. While plastic can prevent foods from cross-contamination and spoilage, it is not the only material that can do so. There are many options but sadly, plastic has become the standard.

DuPont advertising for cellophane wrapped produce
“Clean and fresh” advertising of DuPont cellophane to increase convenience.

“The spreading fear of a contaminated environment has spawned legions of buyers of bottled water, pasteurized egg and dairy products, and irradiated meats and seafood. Packaging can be highly misleading, however.” -Daniel Imhoff, Paper or Plastic

For a full history of plastic packaging and plastic in general, I recommend  Susan Freinkel’s Plastic: A Toxic Love Story.

Cover of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story

The Current Situation

Packaging today is out of control. Despite solutions and ideas and innovations, there is far too much packaging in everything, made of all material types. “Today, the average American throws out at least three hundred pounds of packaging a year,” according to Susan Freinkel. In 2017, nearly 30% of U.S. municipal solid waste was from containers and packaging according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).2 This amounted to 80.1 million tons. The EPA estimated that about 50% of that was recycled but only 13% of plastics were recycled (but the number is most likely under 10%).

“About half of all goods are now contained, cushioned, shrink-wrapped, blister-packed, clamshelled, or otherwise encased in some kind of plastic.” -Susan Freinkel, Plastic: A Toxic Love Story

Many types of packaging are not recyclable. Even the ones that are recyclable are often not recycled. One solution is to avoid purchasing as many products in packaging as possible, something I often write about. You can read my article on going plastic-free with food consumption.

The sad truth is that branding and marketing often drive packaging design, rather than environmental issues. This is beginning to change, but not at a fast enough pace to keep up with the rate of consumer packaging disposal.

“More often than not, the perceived value of being ‘green’ is trumped by bottom-line costs.” -Daniel Imhoff, Paper or Plastic

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is advertising or promotions in which green marketing is deceptively used to persuade the public that an organization’s products, aims, and policies are environmentally friendly when they are not. Let’s call this what it is: this is false advertising. Here’s a video with excellent explanations:

I encourage you to read up on greenwashing because it’s everywhere!  Many companies participate in this practice. Remember the Volkswagen scandal? Volkswagen intentionally advertised low emissions vehicles but they actually equipped those vehicles with software that cheated emissions testing. Those vehicles emitted as much as 40 times the allowed amount of pollutants. While that’s an extreme example, this happens all of the time and it can be so subtle that you aren’t aware of it.

Please see my list on how to avoid greenwashing.

Consumers expect companies to dedicate themselves to making a positive social or environmental impact…they want to be able to trust them to prioritize ethics. – KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz, founder and CEO of Sustainable Life Media, “Consumers Care,” The Future of Packaging

In my next article, I’ll detail some of these greenwashing terms, such as “biodegradable,” “compostable,” and “bioplastics”.

Thank you for reading! Please watch for future parts of this series by subscribing.

“If you want to eliminate waste in your life – and in the world – the answers will always come down to one simple thing: consume differently.” -Tom Szaky

 

Additional resource:

Article, “The cost of plastic packaging,” by Alexander H. Tullo, Chemical & Engineering News, October 17, 2016.

Footnotes:

Product Review: ECOlunchbox products

Apple on top of books. Photo from Pixabay.
Photo from Pixabay.

Last year, my son began school and I was confronted with the choice of sending his lunch with him or letting him eat school-provided lunches. It was not a difficult decision because, in our county, nutrition is somewhat of a joke. Pop-Tarts are considered a healthy breakfast choice in the schools, and items such as Chicken Fried Steak and Cheese Pizza are often served for lunch.  Hopefully, many parents know that those types of foods should be served as an occasional treat and not a frequent meal option.

But today I’m not here to debate school menu options and argue about nutrition. For me, it was an easy decision to send his lunch every day. So my next decision was on the type of lunch box and containers to purchase.

Plastic-free options

Obviously, I didn’t want to buy plastic, nor did I want him to eat out of plastic containers because of the potentially toxic ingredients in them. Further, I did not want to regularly use single-use disposable items like plastic utensils, zipper bags, or individually wrapped foods like applesauce packets and prepackaged fruit. I also can’t send glass containers to school, which is what we use at home.

So I searched Google for all types of eco-friendly lunch boxes and such, and was delighted to find lots of options! I read up on different companies, read reviews, and looked at my options several times before settling on the ECOLunchbox. They assert that they offer “100% plastic-free, ocean-friendly, non-toxic food containers.” I read their story and read reviews of their products on their site as well as Amazon’s. Here’s a video from the founder, explaining why she founded this company:

“When I launched in 2008, my business plan was to take the tried-and-true tradition of metal lunch boxes and make it new again for modern consumers.” -Sandra Ann Harris, founder of ECOlunchbox and author of Say Goodbye To Plastic: A Survival Guide For Plastic-Free Living

Review of the products I ordered

I ordered the Blue Water Bento Splash Box and Pods Set, which consists of three stainless steel containers with leak-proof silicone lids. They are dishwasher safe (obviously not microwave safe but we try to avoid the microwave anyway). They have been used and transported and washed 5 days per week for 8 months now and show little signs of wear! I’m really glad I chose these.

The containers are very easy to clean, are very durable, and eco-friendly. I like the sizes as well because they can accommodate a sandwich or salad in the large one, and crackers and fruit in the smaller containers.

These containers are light to carry and easy to use. The company indicated that the “non-slip tabs on the lid are embossed for kid-friendly easy opening,” and I have found that to be true! My son does just fine with them on his own. They are indeed leak-proof, as long as he puts the lids on tight (which he doesn’t every time, but it’s minimal leakage). He really likes his containers.

ECOlunchbox Splash Box and Pods Set
ECOlunchbox Splash Box and Pods Set, the exact set I’m reviewing.

We also ordered the Blue Water Bento lunch bag. Made of organic cotton, the bag is machine washable which is practically a must with young children! It also features cute designs of ocean animals. My son chose the Dolphin print. I really like the Sea Turtle print too:

ECOlunchbox Sea Turtle Lunchbag
ECOlunchbox Sea Turtle Lunchbag.

The bag is made to hold the Splash Box and Pods. I can also fit a small Kleen Kanteen water bottle inside. The top closes with Velcro and it has a handle to carry it. My son and I both like the bag, however, the velcro wore out within just a few months, albeit from the daily use (abuse?) of a 5-year-old:

ECOlunchbox Blue Water Bento lunch bag
ECOlunchbox Blue Water Bento lunch bag. Photo by me.
The Velcro wore out within a few months.,
The Velcro wore out within a few months. Photos by me.

Solution

It’s always better to repair something than to replace it, if and when possible. I decided that I’d just replace the Velcro. I bought white sewable Velcro strips at the craft store (unfortunately those come in plastic packaging). Then, I simply removed the old Velcro and sewed on the new strips. It took me about 10 minutes to fix and it was very easy.

Replacement Velcro strips. Photo by me.
Replacement Velcro strips. Photo by me.

Problem solved! The new Velcro works great.

Overall, I like the bag and would buy it again. Young children can be really tough on their things, so I don’t know if it was faulty Velcro or just excessive wear and tear. And now I know I can just replace the Velcro easily. I could even try sew-on snap buttons!

I hope this post was helpful, and thanks for reading! Let me know about your eco-friendly and plastic-free lunch solutions in the comments below!

I did not get paid for this review and this post contains no affiliate links.