Cling film, single-use plastic bags and tin foil might have been a common find in kitchens and lunch boxes for years, but they are fast falling out of fashion as more and more people realise or accept the environmental impact of single-use plastics. So how do you replace them? With a reusable sandwich and snack bags.
And because more and more people are taking notice of how small changes to their daily lives can make a big impact on the planet, reusable alternatives are now widely available in a big range of styles and materials.
The most common options for a reusable sandwich and snack bags are silicone baggies, lined fabric bags with zip or velcro closures and wax wraps made using either beeswax or a vegan alternative.
Silicone is a great material for food preparation and storage. It’s more environmentally friendly than plastic in a number of ways including:
- Silicon is extracted from sand rather than needing to be dug out of the ground.
- Silicone reverts back to non toxic substances if burned meaning that if it does end up in landfill it doesn’t pollute.
- If Silicone ends up in the ocean it doesn’t leech toxic chemicals.
- It can be recycled (although generally not in curbside recycling).
- It’s non-toxic and doesn’t contain any hormone mimicking chemicals that can be found in many plastics.
As well as the environmental advantages Silicone is also incredibly durable and resistant to both high and low temperatures meaning you can freeze it, put it in the microwave, and clean it in the dishwasher, making it a practical option for food as well as an eco-friendly and healthy one.
Wax wraps are ideal for sandwiches and snacks. They are perfect for keeping food fresh and they have the advantage of folding up nice and small after use.
Made from natural materials they are fairly low energy to make compared to the alternatives and they can be easily composted at the end of their life although you can refresh them to make sure they last as long as possible.
Wax wraps are a little trickier to look after as they don’t like hot water so you need to gently hand wash them. But they are non-toxic and very versatile replacing cling film for wrapping food and covering leftovers as well as transporting snacks and sandwiches.
Fabric snack and sandwich bags are another popular option usually incorporating a fabric outer with a waterproof lining.
The Keep Leaf Baggies are our favourites. Ethically made in India they have a 100% cotton outer and food safe, toxin free liners that keeps food fresh. They have a velcro closing making them really easy for kids to use and thus perfect for lunch boxes. And they can be easily wiped clean between uses or popped in the washing machine.
Reusable sandwich bags for lunch boxes
Switching to a reusable sandwich bag like those made by Rolleat or Keep Leaf is a quick and easy way to reduce your use of single-use plastic. If you make sandwiches for lunch boxes or send anything else in a sandwich bag then reusable snack bags are the perfect eco-friendly solution.
Our range of reusable pouches are easy to use, keep food fresh all day, and are machine washable so you can use them over and over and over again. The Keep Leaf ones can even go in the dishwasher.
These handy little bags have a waterproof inner layer that means you can use them for cut-up fruit or veggies as well as sandwiches, and they’re also great for nuts, dried fruit, popcorn, crisps and crackers.
The velcro closure makes them easy for even little hand to use so they are perfect for children’s lunches. And they come in a great range of colours and designs.
Tips for less wasteful lunches
Lunch boxes can be one of the hardest places to reduce waste. Crisps packets, yoghurt pots, biscuit wrappers, mini bags of breadsticks are all hard to replace with waste-free items unless you are up for making your won at home. And even the sandwiches or wraps muffins etc you do make so often end up being wrapped in a layer on single-use plastic to keep them fresh.
However, while making your kids lunch 100% waste-free might be tricky, depending on what you give them of course, reducing the amount of single-use packaging that ends up in the bin is simpler than you might think.
Starting with the sandwiches you can easily replace cling film or plastic sandwich bags with reusable sandwich wraps or reusable sandwich bags.
But don’t stop there. These bags can easily be used for all sorts of other snacks. They are great for crisps, veggie sticks, crackers, fruit, cookies and so on. Basically, anything you could put in a regular plastic sandwich bag. You could try buying a big bag of crisps and such popping a handful in their snack bag or sending some breadsticks or crackers and a little tub of soft cheese instead of a pre-packaged cheese dipper.
Making cookies or flapjacks is a fun activity for the kids to get involved with, and a much lower waste option for a sweet treat at lunchtime than an individually wrapped chocolate bar or a cereal bar.
Instead of buying individual yoghurts you could consider getting a big tub and decanting a portion each day. Little pots are good for this or you can get reusable pouches that are perfect for younger kids. These are generally dishwasher safe making them easy to clean and another easy switch for low waste lunches.
And of course it goes without saying you should treat your child to a reusable water bottle if they don’t already have one. Stainless steel bottles are both durable and easy to clean, and you could even choose an insulated option allowing you to send ice-cold drinks on a hot day and even warm drinks on a cold day.
Reusable Sandwich Bags
For most of us things have changed a lot from the time we were children in almost every area of our lives including how we pack lunch for work or school. And while cling film or plastic baggies were popular in the past there is a definite move towards more sustainable like reusable snack bagss.
We take a look at the various options available to replace plastic bags and cling film when making lunches to go and ask the question are reusable sandwich bags worth it. Both in terms of their environmental impact and in terms of cost.
Options to Replace Cling Film and Plastic Sandwich Bags
If you make lunches on a daily basis either for yourself or your children then the chances are you will include sandwiches or other items that benefit from being individually wrapped rather than just being loose in your lunch box or bag.
In the past cling film or little plastic food bags have been the most popular and obvious solution. But, as we all become more aware of the environmental impact of single use plastic and the need to consider the planet in our everyday life decisions there has been a definite move towards more sustainable options and reusable alternatives.
When it comes to sandwiches there are three main choices in terms of reusables.
- Sandwich sized tubs made either from reusable plastic or stainless steel.
- Wax wraps, either vegan or beeswax.
- Reusable sandwich bags or wraps.
All of these have their place and you may find you have a preference depending on exactly how you use single use plastic currently. For example wax wraps are a great alternative to cling film not only in lunch boxes but also for covering left overs in the fridge, wrapping up veggies, saving half a lemon or even keeping a loaf of bread or chunk of cheese fresher for longer.
Tubs can also be used in other ways especially for other snacks in your lunch bag or portioning up leftovers and reusable sandwich baggies are also great for fruit, biscuits, crisps, nuts and lots of other snacks. Anything you would have used a plastic bag for really.
Are Reusable Options Worth it?
Determining if reusable options are worth it will depend slightly on how you are measuring whether or not something is worth it. As in are you thinking in terms of saving money or in terms of the environmental impact. And of course how often you actually use them.
A stainless steel straw can last a lifetime and replace every future straw you might even wish to use. But this will only happen if you take it with you when you go out and don’t lose it. Likewise it doesn’t take many plastic bottles of water to make a reusable stainless steel water bottle worth the money. But you need to replace at least 50 plastic bottles to have a positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
When it comes to reusable sandwich bags the same principles apply. You need to use them plenty of times but if you do both the planet and your pocket will thank you.
When you are looking to replace disposable items with reusable alternatives, whether its reusable sandwich bags, drinks bottles or cloth nappies one of the first questions you are likely to ask is how long they will last.
It’s all very well using a reusable drinks bottle but if in fact, you end up buying one every few weeks because the one you had is lost or broken, then the environmental impact might not be as impressive as you hoped and you can buy a lot of cling film for the price of a reusable sandwich bag so cost-effectiveness has to come into it as well.
In general, as with the majority of reusable products, how long a reusable sandwich bag will last depends on a combination of the quality of the product, how often you use it, and how well you look after it.
Choosing Reusable Sandwich Bags That Will Last
The great thing about choosing reusable options whether it’s shopping bags, bottles, nappies or sandwich bags is that the benefits are two-fold. Not only are you not choosing single-use plastics and therefore protecting the environment, if you choose good quality products you will also save yourself money in the long run.
As with most reusable alternatives there are lots of options when it comes to replacing cling film or sandwich bags, including snack or sandwich bags, sandwich wraps and wax wraps.
Beeswax or vegan wax wraps are a great alternative to cling film for wrapping sandwiches. They are made from fabric, usually cotton, that is impregnated with wax and often natural oils to create a breathable fabric that will keep food fresh.
As they are made of natural and biodegradable materials the number of times you need to use them to have a positive environmental impact is lower. However, they also don’t last as long as reusable plastic wraps.
Generally wax wraps, if you look after them, tend to last for about a year of regular use. They can however be refreshed to prolong their life.
Reusable Plastic Wraps and Sandwich Bags
Generally, plastic wraps or bags, or fabric wraps and bags that have a protective layer of plastic. The Keep Leaf Bags are made with a cotton outer and a waterproof liner with velcro closing making them very easy to use.
They are machine washable but can also just be wiped clean between uses. And provided you look after them they will last for years. Plus they are toxin free making them safer for you and your family.