A PROBLEM THAT AFFECTS US ALL
The kitchen is the room of the house that generates most of the plastic waste of families. And it is that one of the characteristics that we like most about plastics (its durability) is one of the main reasons why they are so harmful to the environment.
The numbers speak for themselves. In 1950, a world population of 2.5 billion people produced 1.5 million tons of plastic; In 2016, a world population of more than 7,000 million people produced more than 320 million tons of plastic. This figure is expected to double in 2034. Each year, the seas and oceans are recipients of up to 12 million tons of garbage representing 85 percent of marine litter.
«The elimination of plastics in the kitchen not only helps the environment but to achieve a healthy life, without toxic substances attached to our food that can seriously harm our health.»
40 percent of the plastics produced are containers, used only once and then discarded. The plastic recycling rate in Europe is only 30 percent. Although the plastic does not biodegrade, it does photodegrade: the sun’s ultraviolet light breaks down the plastic into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic known as microplastics that consume marine fauna almost without realizing it. When plastic is not destroying creatures from the depths, it moves to landfills, where it will take more than 400 years to degrade.
These microplastics act like sponges. They absorb and retain all kinds of toxic chemicals, such as DDT and PCBs. Unable to distinguish their food from microplastics, many marine animals end up dying with stomachs so full of plastic that no food can pass through them. They can literally starve to death with a full stomach.
If these marine animals survive to be consumed by humans, the plastic they have consumed and the toxins they have absorbed, end up directly in our food chain.
Little by little we are becoming aware of this. Proof of this is that the glasses, cutlery, straws and small plastic containers for single use have the days counted in our country. At the latest, in 2021, the prohibition of its sale in Spain will come into force according to a resolution approved by the Environment Commission of the Congress of Deputies in accordance with European regulations.
THE PLASTIC IN THE KITCHEN
Plastics seem to invade all aspects of our lives, and cooking is no exception. At the time we cook, we store and pack food to go. We have the opportunity to get rid of plastic in favor of safer and more environmentally friendly materials.
«At the latest, in 2021, the prohibition of its sale in Spain will come into force according to a resolution approved by the Environment Commission of the Congress of Deputies in accordance with European regulations.»
Fortunately, we are increasingly aware of the importance of avoiding the use of plastic in the kitchen. Vegetable starch, bioplastics and paper are just some of the materials used instead of plastic. Even a researcher from India has created edible utensils.
Most of us pay more attention to the ingredients of our food than to the container in which they are found, but the latter is also important. Plastic products contain a chemical called bisphenol A, more commonly known as BPA. It is used to harden plastic and is found in a wide range of products such as water bottles, cans, medical devices, CDs and more.
Exposure to the chemical has been linked to cancer, as well as reproductive problems, so it is a good idea to limit the amount of BPA carrier products we use. Products labeled “BPA free” are also not necessarily safe. The chemical used as a substitute for BPA, bisphenol S (BPS), has effects on the endocrine system similar to those of BPA, and can also affect thyroid function.
SIMPLE TIPS TO AVOID PLASTIC ON OUR DAY BY DAY
Since we know the pernicious effects of plastic on our body and our environment, it is time to get rid of it in the kitchen. Here are several ideas that can help you:
1. Use reusable shopping bags. At this point it is perhaps already obvious, but many still forget at home the reusable shopping bag, made of cloth or paper, when they go shopping. It is always preferable to carry a cloth bag in your bag or backpack at all times just in case.
2. Buy utensils and cutlery made of metal and wood. This not only helps the environment, but also ensures that plastic toxins do not have access to food.
3. The same goes for nonstick pots (nonstick coating is actually a type of plastic). Therefore, it is better to use stainless steel or cast iron pots.
4. Buy food in glass containers instead of plastic when possible. Acquire dairy products in returnable glass bottles. There are some brands that sell milk, yogurt and kefir in glass jars.
5. If you want to find products without plastic containers, try to buy in your local agricultural market. Fresh produce, bread, eggs or meat from local farmers markets can be placed directly in our bags.
6. Try to avoid canned foods. The food cans are lined with plastic containing bisphenol-A (BPA), the aforementioned toxic chemical.
7. Make bulk purchase (cereals, legumes …). Many bulk products come in eco-friendly packaging, so it is better to opt for it whenever possible.
8. Instead of covering the food with a normal plastic wrap, use foil or Bee’s Wrap (bee wrap), reusable cotton sheets coated with beeswax. Bee’s Wrap packaging is recyclable and does not contain plastic. It is designed to keep moisture and prevent food from drying out. Therefore, it not only protects food from the elements or from cross contamination, but also gives them a longer life. It can be washed and reused several times, and lasts up to three years. At the end of its useful life it can be cut into strips and used as fertilizer or you can wrap firewood with these wrappers and use them as a natural and effective fire starter. In addition, they can be easily purchased online. You can also opt for waxed paper or parchment paper secured with an elastic band. Another option is to try reusable silicone plastic caps. Or, the simplest, a dishcloth or a cloth napkin on a jar with an elastic band.
9. When storing food we can also choose reusable silicone bags that are suitable for being frozen. Silicone bags last much longer and are less likely to release toxins than their plastic counterparts. The base material they are made of is silica (sand derived from quartz), which is commonly found throughout the world. You can also find washable cloth bags with zipper or velcro closure, but they do not have such a tight closure and are usually not used for cooking.
10. Nor do we have to go crazy and get rid of all the plastic in our kitchen at once. We must take advantage of the shelf life of the products and replace them once they are broken. The most sustainable option is to use what you already have before buying something new. When they break, look for a version that is made of renewable materials such as metal, fabric, wood or bamboo. Try bamboo box organizers, metal kitchen utensils, cellulose sponges (plant based), cloth napkins and wicker baskets.
11. Do not buy products in plastic bags or nets and run away from processed foods that always come in plastic wrap. Your health will also appreciate it. Many fruits and vegetables emit ethylene, a natural gas that accelerates ripening (for example, bananas). To prevent fresh produce from maturing too quickly, let air circulate around food instead of keeping it in plastic bags or boxes.
12. Replace children’s plastic plates and bowls and look for metal or wooden plates instead. You have to start educating the little ones and also learn that if things fall they break, and handle them carefully.
13. Forget Tupperware, a glass or metal container is a much healthier option. The used jars of sauces and jam are perfect (and free). When you freeze food in glass containers, remember to leave at least 2 cm of space at the top of the jar. This allows food to expand when frozen. Baked goods can be frozen perfectly in cloth bags.
14. If you still don’t have a reusable water bottle, it’s time for you to have it! Made of stainless steel or glass, they will make the water always taste good and delicious without the dreaded cross contamination caused by the use of plastic.
15. Stainless steel straws are easy to use and buy. They usually come in pairs or sets of 4, straight or inclined so you can take some with you when you’re traveling. They also come with a cleaning brush to clean them when necessary.
16. Natural cleaning brush. Another place where we can stop using brushes or sponges made of plastic and synthetic fibers is the sink. The best is an ecological and biodegradable brush. For example, one with bamboo handle whose bristles are made of natural coconut fibers. Once it has worn out and it’s time to throw it away, you can put it in the fertilizer.
17. Another idea is to pull crafts and make our own cloth covers for bowls and bowls, with a rubber band and little sewing knowledge. You can choose many different colored fabrics and customize, being an original gift for family and friends. In addition, it can be a fun activity to carry out with children.
18. Paper bags are back in fashion! Every time you pack your food or small bottle for work, use a paper or cardboard bag.
19. When you go shopping, take your containers with you. You can take your own tuppers to the deli, for example. At first they will look a bit weird, but this is like everything, a matter of habit;)
20. Do you love morning coffee? Get rid of single-use coffee capsules and use a traditional espresso machine. Sometimes the simplest is the best and the most natural.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PROGRESSIVE CHANGE
Reducing plastic in the kitchen is a gradual process. It is better to start replacing things little by little as necessary and once these changes are settled, move on to the next one. In a short time the use of non-plastic materials in your kitchen will become something natural. Changing habits from one day to another is very difficult and frustrating. You just have to think about avoiding as many waste as possible.
Planning our shopping list also helps the environment. Sometimes we accumulate products that expire without realizing it and must be discarded. To reduce the consumption of plastic it is also necessary to supply our refrigerator and shelves only with what we need. We should always look at what we already have at home before going out to buy.