How to make your fridge a plastic-free zone

We’ve cut back on plastic shopping bags, but there’s still a whole lot of plastic wrap and packaging going into the average fridge.

When major supermarket chains banned single use plastic bags, it took a while for shoppers to get used to reusable bags.

But, from an environmental perspective, the efforts are paying off.

Only six months after the changes were introduced at checkouts, the National Retail Association said 1.5 billion single use plastic bags had been saved.

Overall, we’re using 80 per cent fewer plastic bags across Australia.

But we can also help the environment by reducing the amount of plastic going into our fridges – mostly with food packaging and wrapping.

So how can you keep food fresh and clean without plastic?

Swap plastic containers for glass

“Store leftovers or opened food in glass containers and jars,” says Claire Bell, recycling campaign manager at Planet Ark.

Herbs can be kept fresh in glass jars in the fridge and some yoghurt and milk can also be bought in glass jars.

Don’t throw away your plastic containers though.

Use them until they wear out, then recycle them and replace with glass containers.

You can repurpose glass jam jars, coffee jars and sauce bottles for storage by giving them a rinse them with warm water, adding two teaspoons of baking soda and a teaspoon of salt and washing again.

You don’t always need wrap for leftovers

“Food that will be eaten in one or two days can stay in a bowl with just a plate covering the top,” says Claire.

But if you want to wrap food and leftovers, use bees wax instead of plastic.

“Beeswax wraps work well, particularly for foods like cheeses or deli meats,” says Claire.

The wraps are usually made from cotton fabric coated with a mix of beeswax and pine resin.

Once you’ve used them you simply clean them with cold, soapy water and dry them ready to use again. They last for around a year.

Let fruit and vegetables hang loose

Most fruits and vegetables can be stored loose in the crisper drawer.

But don’t store well-ripened fruit next to other fruits and vegies, as they release a natural gas called ethylene that can make other fruits and vegetables ripen too quickly and spoil.

Buy in bulk

“Some items are hard to buy without plastic, such as yoghurt,” says Claire.

“Buy those products in bulk so you have less packaging and then reuse the tub for storage before recycling.

“If possible, find a deli or butcher who will let you bring your own container for produce, or visit a bulk food store with your own containers.”

Written by Sarah Marinos.