Recently I had a wonderful discussion with a family member who told me they had bought reusable stretch wrap to cover their bowls so they would no longer need to use cling film. Although a non-plastic solution such as beeswax or vegan wraps, or using containers with lids would be better, this was definitely a step in the right direction and I was really pleased to hear that the message about the damage caused by plastic was leading them to make changes in their life.
I was relating this conversation to a friend and was then surprised to see that they had a roll of cling film in their kitchen. I was rendered momentarily speechless. It struck me then that there is a type of ‘plastic blindness’ which occurs when people are so used to using a material that they no longer ‘see’ it. This is what is so dangerous about plastic pollution. People don’t see it. Or they don’t see it as something which applies to them. But plastic is a daily part of all our lives, whether we want it or not. Every piece of plastic which reaches landfill contributes to the damage being suffered by our planet. This is something I am trying to train myself to accept…that every time I put something in the black bin I am contributing to this harm. It is a bitter pill to swallow because we still send waste to landfill. Not much and much less than we used to but we still do. There are things we have not managed to cut out, some of them we will probably never be able to avoid (e.g. medical waste which can’t be recycled) but we have made the easy changes, and cling film is one of them.
After my experience I wanted to do a short post about the harm cling film (and other single use, thin plastic wraps) cause, and why we should all never buy it again. Please gently mention this to anyone you know who has cling film in their kitchen. It is such a horrible material and, in the kitchen at least, can be easily replaced with much more environmentally friendly alternatives.
Cling film is, of course, a plastic. There are so many reasons why cling film is bad for the environment but some of the worst are:
It is single use – I don’t know anyone who reuses cling film and even if they do I don’t think you would get many uses out of it. That means all the resources required to make cling film create a product with an incredibly short amount of useful time, which is wasteful any way you look at it.
It is not recyclable – Not only can this material not be reused, it also can not be recycled. Cling film is destined for landfill, incinerators, or the natural environment. Even dedicated sites such as RecycleNow which specialise in recycling plastic film can not recycle cling film. One reason for this is that plastic films like cling film accumulate in mechanical processing machinery and become entangled in equipment causing blockages and machinery downtime at recycling plants
It does not degrade – As with all plastics, cling film never fully breaks down. It just breaks up, very slowly over hundreds of years into smaller and smaller pieces until it becomes microplastics. All the while it is leaching its chemicals into the environment. I find it horrifying to think that all the pieces of cling film I have ever used over my lifetime are still around on this planet. I can’t even imagine how much of this stuff is being discarded on a day to day basis and how much already lies in our landfill sites.
There are also questions about whether harmful chemicals from cling film can leach into hot food but there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus on this. But if the environmental arguments aren’t enough for you, perhaps the potential health risks could be?
Never buy cling film. And urge all your friends and acquaintances not to buy it. Instead, invest in reusable alternatives, preferably ones which can be reused infinitely or, if not, can at least be recycled fully. My top tips for alternatives to cling film include:
Get good quality containers with lids. Instead of putting cling film over your bowl of salad, put the salad into a container with a lid. Instead of wrapping sandwiches in cling film, put them in a lunch box.
Invest in beeswax or vegan wraps. These can be used to wrap sandwiches but can also be used to cover bowls to keep food fresh (although probably not as airtight as a container and lid).
I realised I needed to give up cling film some time ago and I now have a dilemma….I still have a half a roll of the stuff sat in the drawer in the kitchen. I suspect it may remain there until a suitable recycling opportunity arises.
I hope this post has been useful for you and, if you have any thoughts on cling film, please post in the comments section