We encounter plastic, in some form or another, at least one hundred times a day. It’s in our clothes, our appliances, our cosmetics, our hair products and even our food. Only last month, a campaign against using plastic in tea bags was launched—an issue most of us didn’t even realise. One of the most successful campaigns, that has been running for several years, is that of the 5p carrier bag charge. After being introduced in England in 2015, their usage has been reduced by 90%. It’s been incredibly successful and it’s now common knowledge to take a bag for life or another reusable bag when going shopping.
However, this is just the start of the war against plastic and today I’m focussing on one of my own personal issues, plastic sandwich bags.
What are plastic sandwich bags made from?
Most plastic sandwich bags, zip seal and Ziploc bags are made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE). While LDPE can be recycled, lots of people don’t realise they can be and to make things worse, many of these sandwich bags have ‘a cannot be recycled’ sign on the packaging—for reasons I’m looking into.
As such, most get thrown into the landfill. Last year a study, conducted in the US, revealed that in 2017, 11.91 million Americans used 21 or more sandwich bags every week. That’s over 250 million bags used in the US alone.
These bags take 1000 years to fully degrade and many find their way into the environment and ocean—harming thousands of species of wildlife and ocean wildlife every year. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, up to 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die each year from eating plastic.
As a child and teenager, we used plastic sandwich bags and Ziploc bags almost every day to pack our lunches and snacks. While we washed them out and reused them many times, we did eventually have to throw them out. Today, while I use them less they have become a staple storage solution for all of my backpacking snacks, trail mixes and dried fruit whenever I go hiking and I know many other hikers who also use them because they are lightweight and easy to fold. But after realising the extent of the damage these bags are causing, I’m pledging to cut these bags out and urge you to do the same.
Finding an eco-friendly and reusable alternative to these bags is incredibly easy. I’ve listed some of the best options below:
Best alternative to plastic bags
- Material lunch wraps – These reusable lunch wraps are made of cotton and polyester and are BPA free. They are machine washable, easy to fold and lightweight.
- Zippered lunch bags – Said to reduce 500 plastic bags in their lifetime, these zippered bags are food-safe and dishwasher safe.
- Konserve food wraps – Made from recycled PE plastic, these lightweight wraps open out flat to double as an on-the-go placemat.
- Stainless steel lunch box – Plastic-free and incredibly versatile. These lightweight lunch boxes contain dividers to separate out your foods.
- Reusable silicone bags – These silicone bags are made of food-grade silicone— no BPA, BPS, BPF, PVC, phthalates, or any other poisonous chemical. They are much more durable than standard plastic sandwich bags and are leak proof! Great for making overnight oats on the trail.
- Stainless steel snack boxes – Lightweight and easy to fit into your rucksack. These snack boxes are durable and will last for years.
- Resealable snack bags – These snack bags are much more durable than your standard plastic sandwich bag. They are dishwasher safe and are free from BPA, PVC, latex, and phthalates.
- Adjustable jute bags – These bags are completely plastic-free. No velcro, no nylon lining, just juco fabric (75% jute and 25% cotton), a cotton string loop and two wooden buttons to adjust the size of the bag. Great for non-spill foods.
For freezing food:
- Reusable silicone bags – These silicone bags are made of food-grade silicone— no BPA, BPS, BPF, PVC or phthalates. They are heat and cold resistant, meaning they are great for freezing food.
- D2W freezer bags – As well as reusable and recyclable, once they have reached the end of their lifespan, these freezer bags degrade into harmless compounds—water, carbon dioxide and biomass.
Are there biodegradable plastic bags?
While not reusable, you can also get biodegradable plastic bags. It’s a good idea to carry some of these when backpacking, as you can use them as rubbish bags and food waste bags and dispose of them at the next campsite.
Have you found any other alternatives to plastic bags that you use? Share below!
For more plastic-free inspiration, see these 10 easy ways to cut your plastic usage and save money.
Featured image: Flickr/ Melissa