From leftovers to packing lunch, plastic ziploc bags are ubiquitous in kitchens across the world.
Plastic bags are a relatively new invention, gaining in popularity in the 80s up till now. Why not, after all? They're cheap, convenient, and do a great job at keeping food sealed. Too bad they're also really good at doing some serious damage to the environment.
How are plastic bags bad for the environment
They take forever to break down
Plastic storage bags are made of either low-density polyethylene (or LDPE) or high-density polyethylene (or HDPE) that fall under the category of plastic film. This type of plastic is not biodegradable which means it will sit in landful for many, many years to come.
In fact, plastic bags (from sandwich bags to large gallon-sized ones and everywhere in between) are difficult to recycle and take upwards of 300 years to break down. When they do break down they do so into microplastics and toxic particles, harming the environment in the process.
This problem is only getting worse, too.
According to the EPA, 4.2 million tons of plastic bags and films were generated in 2018 and 3.04 millions tons ended up in a landfill.
They are dangerous to sea life
Plastic bags are among the top 12 items most often found at beaches. This is due in part to lazy beach goers littering, but also due to them making their way into waterways from landfills where they are exponentially accruing. Animals (especially sea turtles) mistake the plastic bags for food and either choke/drown on the bags or ingest them where the plastic clogs up their digestive systems.
They contribute to green house gases
Remember those fun, fancy names for the plastic that goes into plastic bags? Not only do they mean the bags are not biodegradable but they also manufactured in a process that requires crude oil which creates a ton of greenhouse gases in the process.
So not only are plastic bags polluting the environment and harming sea life, but they are actively contributing to the growing problem of climate change.
What are alternatives to plastic bags?
It's pretty clear that plastic bags are terrible for the environment, but fortunately there are plenty of alternatives for you to swap in for them. Depending on what you want to store, you could use a bag made from:
- food-safe silicone
- a glass/metal/plastic container
Check out our favorite eco-friendly alternatives to plastic and ziploc bags below!
Best eco-friendly ziploc alternatives
1) Juniper Seed Mercantile Sandwich bags
Materials: Made from compostable and organic, unbleached cotton canvas
Brand ethics: Juniper Seed Mercantile is a small business based in Colorado, while they primarily serve their local communities they have an online store shipping around the country. They create all their products locally and are committed to finding sustainable alternatives to common single-use products.
These high quality reusable bags will empower you to reduce waste, while displaying your respect for our community, environment, and the Earth. Made with organic, unbleached cotton canvas – chemical free and GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified – these snack bags will take anything you throw at them. Try them for anything! Be aware these are not waterproof, so care should be used when packing.
2) Stasher Silicone Bags
Price: $12.99 per bag
Stasher bags make for an excellent alternative to the plastic baggies we see far too often. Whether you’re meal prepping or packing your lunch Stasher's bags are an excellent reusable and eco-friendly alternative. These silicone bags are leak free with a patented Pinch-Loc® seal and made with incredibly durable, food-grade platinum silicone. Plus, they come in a ton of colors.
3) Eco lunchbox solo cube
Skip the plastic and go for stainless steel! The ECOlunchbox Solo Cube is the perfect plastic-free option to box sandwiches or snacks. This stainless steel square lunch box, which holds 2.5 cups of food and measures 5 1/4 inches square by 2 inches deep, is a sturdy, squish-proof, reusable food container perfect for sandwiches, pasta salads, cut fruits and leftovers.
The lid of the ECOlunchbox Solo Cube does not have gaskets, so it's not appropriate for saucy foods since it may leak if tipped over.
4) Nordic by Nature Dual Layer Lunch Baggies
Price: $18.99 for a 5-pack
Similar to the Stasher bags, these reusable baggies by Nordic by Nature are a great eco-friendly replacement for plastic ziploc bags. Unlike paper or disposable plastic, these snack bag can be washed and reused over and over again, benefiting our environment while saving your wallet and keeping your food fresh. Just rinse them out or toss them into the dishwasher to keep them fresh.