Stop the bus! Did you know that cling wrap is almost never recycled? And can you imagine how many reams of cling film are produced every year? Globally about 3 million tons are used annually!
What can I do?
Pledge #7 is all about giving up cling wrap in your home and trying to avoid it in stores.
Although making food last longer is budget-friendly, and reducing food waste is a key part of a sustainable lifestyle, we shouldn't do so at the cost of our environment by using single-use plastic to do so!
Thankfully, there are several great alternatives to plastic cling wrap:
- Reuse the container your food came it. Inevitably, some of the products you buy are going to come in plastic packaging, so why not reseal the bag with a twist and a peg instead of using a new container?
- Reusable beeswax wraps are available health shops they are also easy to make at home - we love that they are so easy to use!
- Reusable silicone bags, like Stasher bags, may look and feel like plastic,
- Reusable storage containers - glass is great for use around the home, and metal lunch boxes are ideal for travel. Good quality plastic containers are also better than single-use options - but check that they are recyclable!
- Glass jars - these last forever, and are essentially free!
- A normal bowl with a plate over.
- If travelling, consider a good quality luggage lock, rather than plastic wrap!
Why does it matter?
Like almost all plastic products, cling wrap is made by mixing tiny little plastic nurdles that look just like oversized fish eggs. There have been many instances of containers spilling trillions of these pellets into the ocean - just as has recently happened and now we're seeing nurdles on the beaches around Cape Town and the Garden Route.
An incident like this happened in the Durban harbour in 2017. After this spillage, nurdles were found as far up the western coast as Namibia! Being a PVC (recycling code 6) means that, as it breaks down in landfill or incinerators, it releases a highly toxic chemical called dioxin. When in the ocean, it attracts heavy metals and pollutants such as DDT and PCB which are extremely poisonous to fish. And of course, we, in turn, eat the fish!
Myth-busting: Aluminium foil
Some people that are resistant to the idea of making use of reusable alternatives may believe that aluminium tinfoil or aluminium food trays are a more sustainable alternative to cling film - well, this is a double-edged sword.
While aluminium foil doesn't pollute the oceans the same way plastic films do, its environmental impact is significantly higher thanks to the highly energy-intensive processes needed to manufacture aluminium. Cling film uses 83% less energy and produces 88% fewer emissions than aluminium foil by weight - and that difference is not insignificant! However, recycling foil reduces its energy cost by as much as 95% compared to virgin metal, and although it is commonly believed that used aluminium foil is not recyclable, it actually is recyclable is South Africa, provided it is properly separated. The reason some recycling collectors do not accept foil isn't that they can't, but because greasy food waste associated with foil can contaminate other recyclables such as paper and plastics that share a bin with it.
So, what's the verdict? While aluminium foil certainly isn't ideal, it is okay to use in limited circumstances - such as cooking. Just do what you can minimise your foil usage, do not use it as a single-use food storage option, and always separate your foil to be recycled together with your cans.
Who can I follow?
Local Capetonian, Karoline Hanks, has upskilled local Masiphumelele women to create SUPAlternatives(Single-use plastic alternatives) reusable products like beeswax wraps and bowl covers, mesh fruit and vegetable bags, bunting and other cost-effective alternatives to plastic. Check her out on Instagram.
Take the 28 Day Challenge! Make your Ocean Pledge!
This post is part of the #28DayOceanPledgeChallenge! You can find the other 27 posts and challenges on the Two Oceans Aquarium website, or by signing up for the Challenge newsletter below to receive one challenge a day for 28 days: