When I gather the recyclables at work, I am always amazed at how many plastic sandwich baggies my employees leave in the lunch room. While I'm thrilled they take the time to rinse them and walk them over to my recycling box, I can't help but wonder what we could do to limit the use of these at all.
I have a few diligent employees (besides myself) who wash their bags after eating and take them home to reuse another time. I have done this since I was a poor college student. Simply turn the plastic inside out, rinsing it off or even using a dab of soap, and viola! You have fresh bags for the next day of lunch.
Another quick and easy method of reusing bags is to start with trash from another item and use it for a storage container. Favorites for this include bread/bun sacks, deli packaging, shredded cheese bags and anything else you can squeeze your food into without harming it.
Reusable plastic containers abound in retail outlets and on the internet. At my store we have an entire aisle devoted to food storage containers and lunch box solutions. Many of our customers buy these with the intention of storing leftovers and keeping food fresh in the pantry, but don't consider them an alternative to sandwich baggies because of their size or imagined limits to their functionality.
When I first brought home this sandwich container we use in our daughter's lunchbox (the white thing in the top right part of the photo above), my husband balked. But it has become one of the most used items in our house and today he beams when he expounds on how many bags we've saved, and how much money we've kept in our account by not buying disposables again.
Completely off plastic? Many suggest aluminum foil, or even covering your sandwich with a cloth. The web abounds with sites offering stainless steel containers, although this totally nixes use of the microwave. Reuse of glass containers to hold your meal on the go isn't as popular but is highly functional.
Today alternatives exist that not only save space in the landfill, but also support small businesses. The Wrap-N-Map
is a cloth placemat lined with BPA-free plastic that folds around your sandwich and is sealed with Velcro. Come time to eat, you simply unfold it and your food is not only well kept, but you have a clean eating surface to boot. Reuseit.com
offers cloth snack and sandwich bags, reusable containers, as well as a good selection of green shopping bags. LunchSkins, found at www.3greenmoms.com
, are made from food-safe fabrics that can be cleaned in the dishwasher. Reusies
, made with cotton and nylon, seal with Velcro and come in a variety of fabrics suitable for any kid — or adult — to enjoy.
If you can't break the baggie habit, but still want to make a difference, take a look at Terracycle
. This company takes hard-to-recycle items and turns them into new products. They have an excellent relationship with schools and organizations wanting to raise money by collecting trash (Ziploc baggies being one item) and earning money for their efforts.