Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle

What do you use to pack lunch for yourself or for your children? I used to be like the thousands of people (millions?) who would answer that question with - plastic wrap, press seal bags, greaseproof paper, and foil.

Since an awareness for the impact I am making on the environment and my habits as a consumer in general has been growing upon me, I'm finding that using those disposable wrappings just doesn't feel right any more.

So I did some research, made many prototypes, and finally came up with a reusable sandwich wrap that I am happy with. No complaints from the children, unless it's that one of their siblings has already grabbed the wrap they were hoping to use that day!

Plastic bags have been around for 30 years now. It is estimated world wide that 1 trillion bags are used and discarded every year.
Australians use 3.92 billion plastic bags a year, that’s over 10 million new bags being used every day. An estimated 3.76 billion bags or 20,700 tonnes of plastic are disposed of in landfill sites throughout Australia every year. Australians dump 7,150 recyclable plastic bags into landfills every minute or 429,000 bags every hour.
Did you know that:
• plastics are made from non-renewable natural resources such as crude oil, gas and coal.
• just 8.7 plastic checkout bags contain enough embodied petroleum energy to drive a car 1 kilometre.
[Information above is from the Clean Up Australia website]

What can I do?
Recycle, repurpose and re-use.
Plastic bags, plastic wrap, foil, press seal bags, all add to land fill and thereby harm the environment. Press seal bags can be washed and reused, but it can be difficult to get them really clean and dry.

One alternative is the reusable sandwich wrap. It is easy to clean, just open out and wipe after each use. If the fabric backing becomes soiled, wash it in the sink with the dishes and leave to dry overnight or hang on the line - easy and hygenic.
Food stays nice and fresh all wrapped up in a neat little package, and the sandwich wrap also serves as a placemat while eating.

What kind of plastic should be used for sandwich wraps?
Only reuse plastic that is classed as food grade. Look for strong thick plastic that previously held food. The best plastic I have found is from the bags used to hold the food I buy in bulk from Honest To Goodness, through a local co-op.

What if I don’t want to use plastic to wrap my food?
Sandwich wraps are easy to make. Try making your own from two layers of octagonal shaped fabric, with water resistant interfacing sandwiched between them.

What kind of fabric should I choose?
Natural fibres are best, cotton is recommended. Always pre-wash your fabric, and try to choose a fabric that does not wrinkle easily - once the plastic is sewn on, ironing is not an option.

Where can I get a pattern for these wraps?
Make it yourself! Experiment with different shapes to see what works best for you. Try elongating the basic octogon to fit longer sandwiches like pitta bread wraps or subs.

What if I don't have any velcro?
Put a vertical buttonhole into the tab, and sew three buttons onto the wrap where the velcro would have been, to allow for different sized food.