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The Search for Improved Food Storage: Beyond Plastic Cling?

Leon Kaye | Monday August 23rd, 2010 | 2 Comments

Estimates suggest that about half of the world’s food supply goes to waste. At first that appears to be a garrish overestimate, but then again, it is not so hard to believe. Visit an American buffet restaurant, a Thai food stand, or a Sunday asado in Argentina, and watch heaps of food end up in the garbage. With that wasted food follows the wasted water that was used in all stages of those skewers of chorizo or trays of potato gratin that were never eaten.

Part of the puzzle involves food storage. Spoilage is always an issue as those crates of meat and veggies move from farm to store to table. So what do you pull out of the cabinet as you clean the kitchen after you have had everyone over for that Saturday night dinner? Well, the easiest default is plastic cling wrap. While our Silver Lake household is weaning ourselves away from plastic containers (the news over BPA and other chemicals is just a bit too creepy) and adopting our grandmothers’ storage method, glass jars, that roll of cling wrap will not go away. Tear a square off, and presto, you have a lid for that ceramic bowl or baking dish—and the debate over the safety of that form of plastic comes into play as well. Well, we have almost eliminated plastic bags from the house and favor the tea towel over the paper towel, so when it comes to that roll of cling wrap, we should be given a pass. Or should we?

And how do many of us improvise when you need that instant sandwich bag for lunch? That magic cling wrap can do the trick, but is there a better alternative. The Argentine torta and empanada shops we had visited simply used butcher paper to pack our goodies, but some would argue paper is not the best alternative, and last I checked I did not see handy rolls of it in the supermarket aisle. 4MyEarth offers a cloth alternative that tucks you sandwich into a display of fabric origami, but those nifty pockets still need to be washed―and depending on how often one does laundry, some consumers may sniff at that option. Then again, here is some food for thought: this Australian company estimates that each child uses about 115 yards of plastic wrap for a year’s worth of lunches, or about the amount of wrap Claire on Modern Family used to wrap her son Luke in the season finale of Modern Family.

The jury is out on what is the best alternative to that pesky cling film. A biodegradable alternative does exist, but it is not available for consumer use yet―but if you want enough to wrap your house, AliBaba has some available for order.

Like other riddles related to food and energy waste, the first step can begin at home. Many of us never really learned how to store food, especially those precious farmers market finds, correctly. Berkeley Farmers’ Markets has a concise list of how to store everything from apples to zucchini. Our food hero, Lynne Rossetto Kasper, introduced us to Russ Parson’s work, How to Pick a Peach. That book lies next to the fridge for consultation at a moment’s notice.

But with water, energy, and food supply pressues, the onus is on the food producers to mitigate this waste. How can they begin?


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  • Shearl Ray

    When in doubt I always go back to what Grams did… aluminium foil-washed and reused forever(or so I thought as a kid)

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  • http://www.tomorrowsharvest.com/ Food Storage Guy

    Just reading the last post here really mad me laugh I have never heard of someone reusing or washing tin foil thats crazy! But even more crazy is how much waste the world produces, I don’t understand why there isn’t more biodegradable storage for sandwiches, water bottles, or food containers. We have the technology to make most of these items biodegradable but they aren’t. To me it seems like the washable reusable sandwich container is the best alternative that we have right now.

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