Considering Plastic Wrap

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 11:59 AM

Considering Plastic Wrap

We focus a lot of attention on plastic packaging and whether or not it is recycled or disregarded (aka ends up in a landfill). When someone eats a sandwich, though, and discards that plastic wrapper, we seem to believe this is refuse that can’t be avoided. This is, unfortunately, somewhat true. The use of plastic wrap as a means to keep foods fresh is completely unnecessary, and the evidence that an alternative is necessary is overwhelmingly disturbing.

In a poll taken by Statista.com, the results for use of plastic wrap in the U.S. are appalling. As a nation, we are using a shocking 389 million boxes of cling wrap every six months. And, since most people don’t realize it’s recyclable (as a #2 or a #4) or don’t want to bother with the mess after its use, this material enters the landfill in unfathomable amounts. Since the average box of plastic wrap contains 100 feet of plastic, the math becomes more staggering when the total amount of plastic potentially entering landfills is considered at 38,900,000,000 feet x 1 foot in width.
The Plastic Wrap Game (left). A roll of wrap is used to hold several items together in a ball. The player attempts to unravel his/her ball quicker than his/her opponent. At right, tomatoes are wrapped for convenience that could be purchased in open bulk.

Here’s what’s worse: according to Earth911.com, plastic film wrap that is soiled with food and oil residue cannot be recycled, since the debris interferes with the recycling process. This leaves only one question: what is a viable alternative to using plastic wrap as a means to keeping food fresh?

Wrapeat (http://www.wrapeat.me/) makes a tortilla-inspired cloth wrapper for sandwiches and other portable meal foods. The wrapper is washable/reusable, and folds over the food item like a burrito, and holds with a velcro closure. A pack of 3 wrappers is currently $9.99, and appears to last indefinitely. Their product is available on amazon. https://www.amazon.com/WRAPEAT-REUSABLE-JUMBO-PACK-X3-MULTIPACK/dp/B010MX7YX0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496426092&sr=8-1&keywords=eco+friendly+sandwich+wrap+bags
Ecohip Designs (http://www.ecohipcustomdesigns.com/) makes a similar product: velcro-closing “pouches” that can hold sandwiches and snacks. This is another wash-and-reuse product that is available at amazon, and seems cost-effective at $6 per unit. A box of plastic wrap isn’t much cheaper than either of these options, and it eventually runs out.

The issue with aluminum (rolls of foil and aluminum food storage containers) the same as with plastic wrap. It is as recyclable as a tin can, but if it is contaminated with food, it cannot be processed. The Aluminum Association states that more than 7 billion aluminum containers are produced each year worldwide (or 220 containers per second), a good deal of which will end up in landfills. At least some of its uses can be duplicated with the same eco-friendly products that replace plastic wrap. At this time, though, America uses so many aluminum products that to number them is not possible. The world has a long way to go before we can feasibly phase out this product. (http://www.aluminum.org/product-markets/foil-packaging)


Citations

“U.S. Population: How Many Rolls/Boxes of Plastic Wrap Have You Used in the Last 6 Months?” Statista: the Statistics Portal. Accessed 27 May 2017. Statista.com/statistics/275956/us-households-quantity-of-rolls-of-plastic-wrap-used-within-6-months/


“Foil and Packaging: Quick Read.” The Aluminum Association. Accessed 31 May 2017. http://www.aluminum.org/product-markets/foil-packaging

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