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Not using tin foil and plastic wrap

I read chowhound regularly, it's one of my browser favorites and I just clicked on Chow tips to see the video on how to use the wok as a smoker. Cool idea.

But...I have a huuuge problem with the amount of aluminum foil that was used in the demo. This made me think about my own use of foil and plastic wrap. While I keep these items in my kitchen drawer, I find I rarely use them. For leftovers and even when we are out to a restaurant where there might be a doggiebag, I'll use a glass/plastic container. As consumers, I find we use too much packaging materials that just go straight to the landfill and if I can do something to mitigate this, I will try.

Am I the only one who's such a miser?

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  1. Thank you for bringing this up. No, you are not a miser and not only one that see it as a problem. It is not to say don't use foil or plastic wrap but just be more conscience on how much we waste and discard.

    1. I have had the same roll of tin foil for the last 4 years - it is a catering size one but I rarely use it preferring tupperware or similar. I refuse to buy plastic wrap. I frequently just put the pan and lid in my fridge if I know I am going to reheat something the next day such as a soup or stew. With plated items I will just use a supermarket bag and wrap the plate in the bag if it will be reused the next day such as lasagne left overs.

      I abhor waste but grew up in the 60s and 70s so it was kinda drummed into me by environmentalists even then!

      1. I think the amount of packaging in goods sold at retail is a HUGE problem. I think using a piece of plastic wrap or aluminum foil a few times a week isn't much of a problem at all.

        I am especially annoyed with the plastic packaging (I don't know the name of the plastic) where you have to get a scissors or a knife and risk a serious wound just to get the item out of the plastic. You know the material I'm talking about, where the edges are crimped. The problem with getting the manufacturers to stop using it is because it is so easy for them to use and it is effective in protecting the merchandise.

        5 Replies
        1. re: John E.

          The rigid blister/bubble packaging you are thinking about is PETG, the same stuff that is used to make pop bottles (I'm in Canada.) If I ever buy anything in this stuff, I always toss the packaging in the recyclables bin, hoping that is will be converted correctly. But yeah, I often see how the final product is dwarfed by the protective casing it can come in.

          On the topic of buying stuff I remember getting a set of cutlery and noted the excessive packaging. It was a 40-piece set with a glossy cardboard box containing four or five pieces each in a polybag, which was either rubber-banded or taped; then the display set was twist-tied to the front. Lots of little bits went into the garbage at the end. I emailed one of the store owners expressing my concern and his response was that he couldn't do anything about it, that this was how it comes from his supplier. Very disappointing.

          1. re: neighborguy

            I'm the accountant for a saddle shop (yep, I bet that is the 1st time that phrase has ever been on CH !!! :) ) Most of the hardware we use is made here in the US, but the little amount of stuff that we buy from a US suppler that is manufactured in China is all individually plastic wrapped. We specifically asked our supplier that it NOT be wrapped, but according to our supplier it would cost more. Our supplier doesn't like it either. Incidentally, the really high end hardware we purchase most is hand made here in the US and sent to us in VERY "recycled" cardboard boxes in obviously "recycled" WalMart bags. Gotta love the packaging!!!!!

            I use the tiniest amounts of plastic wrap for wrapping veggies. I bought the "industrial size" package from Costco at least 6 years ago. I think I'm finally running out. The rolls of foil from Costco were too wide so I get mine from 99 cents only. I most often use foil to cover resting meat off the grill, but I then reuse the foil to wrap the leftovers.

          2. re: John E.

            You need to get yourself one of those Spyderco knives with the jagged edges. They go through that stiff plastic packaging like it was semi-soft cheese!

            1. re: Pipenta

              I've been using a box cutter lately.

              1. re: Pipenta

                I have a knife like that. My brother is a cop and carries one on duty to cut through seatbelts if he has to. Several years ago I accidently had it in my carryon bag when I flew to Arizona. I didn't discover it until a few days after I got there and I found it in my luggage.

            2. i haven't watched the video, but i imagine there are ways to do it that don't generate so much waste. as PBSF said, you're not alone...and you're not a "miser." it's a sad state of affairs - and a testament to our culture's appetite for all manner of excessive consumption - when one categorizes a simple conscientious desire to limit their wastefulness as a negative attribute.

              this topic has come up for discussion on occasion, and many of us do what we can to cut back on wasteful practices - bring our own containers to restaurants for leftovers, reuse foil, reuse bags or containers for bulk and deli items at the supermarket (if our stores allow it), re-purpose cooking oil and water, and perhaps the most obvious one, shop with canvas grocery bags...

              1. nope, i use my reusable containers whenever possible. the only time we use foil is when DH is grilling, and even then I'll remind him that it's not necessary. sometimes he beats me to the punch, but I'm trying to break his foil habit, lol.
                i've had the same roll of plastic wrap for years - actually didn't buy it, the MIL gave it to DH when he was still single! (we've been married 12 years and ended up with about 8 rolls of plastic wrap when we combined our pantries - weird MIL lol)

                1. I am glad you posted this. I don't use a lot of tin foil or plastic wrap. The tin foil gets washed and used by the cat. My question is: is there an eco-friendly, affordable container to send leftovers home with folks after a party? I get the feeling my more eco-conscious friends don't approve of stuff like gladware as they always insist on returning it to me even when I tell them it's ok to keep it. BTW once I've used the gladware a few times they get used for office supplies, hair bands and clips and other non food organization.

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                    "is there an eco-friendly, affordable container to send leftovers home with folks after a party?"
                    if they're going to insist on returning it anyway, you could use glass. the problem with the compostable/biodegradable takeout containers is the price - they're appreciably more expensive than conventional ones, and the only way to save $ on them is to buy absurdly large bulk packages (e.g. 500-count).

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      ... or just do a dual dinner and tupperware party at the same time. Leftovers get taken home with the tupperware. Problem solved!

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        ha! :) do people still have Tupperware parties?

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          In terms of waste, I actually don't have a problem with the use of tinfoil ... as long as you recycle it.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            unfortunately i think the majority of people don't recycle it. i remember the first time my mother saw me smoothing & folding used/torn TF so i could put it in the recycle bin - she looked at me like i had sprouted a second head.

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              My mother would clean & fold tinfoil and put it in a drawer to reuse, along with the folded plastic bags. I do the same but not as neatly! She would also take the cotton from new vitamin bottles (remember when they did that?) and add them to her cotton jar in the bathroom. Her cotton jar smelled like vitamins.

                              It drives me nuts how so many people throw away plastic shopping bags then buy boxes of new trash bags. I use canvas grocery bags as often as I can but still end up with enough plastic ones to use for trash.

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                We can't recycle things that have food on them. But I fold and reuse regularly.

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  Somebody posted here that they don't wish you to recycle aluminum foil. If they see it, they remove it because in the smelters it slames up and turns to ash like Christmas wrapping paper in a fireplace. It clogs things up and doesn't add anything to the aluminum that is being melted down. Skip it.

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    That's one of the only things we can't recycle in my town :(

                                  2. re: ipsedixit

                                    I have serviced an aluminum recycling plant. Recycling plants would prefer you NOT recycle aluminum foil. In the remelt furnace it acts just like Christmas wrapping paper in a fire...as soon as it gets hot enough to melt it floats up with the hot gasses into the exhaust duct, where it can ruin the filters or cause a duct fire. Many recycling sorting facilities will remove aluminum foil from the stream and toss it into the "regular" trash.

                            2. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                              I keep those take out/delivery/deli containers with the lids and wash them by hand. They're not meant for multiple use but I think once is fine and I have a good assortment. People don't feel the need to return those. It's still plastic and disposable but it's reusing what you have around the house. My mom, the ultimate saver, keeps the foam bottoms that meat comes in and reuses them. There is still plastic wrap that goes over it but it's less and you have a sturdy base.

                              1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                I get the feeling tho we're not up there with the hardcore granola tree-huggers (yet...) we're still in the minority amongst those who think nothing of the consequences of rampant consumption. It is ridiculous how much plastic films and wrapping ends up in the garbage every week and it's mostly from food, some of which can be done better, or with less.

                                (Gimme a sec to step off the soapbox.)

                                Yes, the "good quality" take-out containers I keep and re-use. When I have leftovers to send home with people, these have come in handy.

                                Not sure if tin foil can be re-cycled by the majority of municipalities.

                                I've got a posting on here somewhere about bringing my own containers to a restaurant for doggie-bagging. The looks I got the first few times I did that from my family and some other diners were priceless! I remember now to bring them for that entertainment as much as thriftiness.

                                1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                  I inherited a bunch of gladware from various places and I use it like my other tupperware. Is there a reason you only use it a few times?

                                  1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                    The glad ware/ziploc containers cost next to nothing, I never mind losing one of those.

                                  2. I use reusable containers with lids as much as possible. But for smoking on the bbq smoker, I use a lot of aluminum foil and occasionally an aluminum pan or two. I think of it as a necessary evil of smoking meat. And I reuse the aluminum to wrap the meat up, so I hardly think of it as wasteful at all. So my response is that it depends on what you are using it for.......

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: jeanmarieok

                                      You think like I think.....When I use foil to rest a meat, the leftovers will be wrapped in it.

                                    2. First, before I get flamed here, we are the big recyclers on the block - and we compost. So we use foil from time to time, and we use gladware type products. But my question is this; which is a better use of resources - 1) foil, lightly rinsed and put in the recycle bin, or 2) plastic re-usable ware, washed out? I think both use resources - either water to wash the container to re-use it again, or recycling foil. I wonder...for us it really boils down to what we are putting way. Left over corn bread, goes in foil, and it gets thrown directly in the oven to re-warm without a cookie sheet so I don't have to wash it too. Left over asparagus - - plastic container and reheated in the microwave.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: vstock

                                        I think like goodhealthgourmet said up above, the use of tin foil is only really a problem when people do not recycle. When people recycle, I don't believe using tin foil is any more of an environmental scrouge than other earth-friendly choices (like your use of reusable plastic containers).

                                      2. I have both foil & plastic wrap in my kitchen, but I use them infrequently. I probably use more foil than plastic, because I use it for cooking (tent over the turkey, under garlic bread if I am short a cookie sheet, that sort of thing). For leftovers, I purchased a few inexpensive glass bowls (some with lids). I have been using these more and more. The gladware type plastic containers are good for school lunches (my kids take what they call Mom-ables which are homemade lunchable type combos) and for giving baked goods to friends/neighbors. I switched to the glass both for the "green" factor and the whole reheating plastic leaching into food thing.

                                        1. I tend to bring my lock 'n lock plastic containers with me whenever I go out to eat. The leftovers get placed into the container and I don't have to worry about leaks. In fact, I've pretty much weeded out uses of tin foil and plastic wrap, electing instead to place leftovers in glass or plastic containers.

                                          The amount of packaging that we as consumers use and get is insane. Most of it finds itself into a landfill.

                                          While not eco-friendly, I often package my leftovers in recyclable tofu containers. After my guests are done with them, they can throw them into the blue bin or re-use them for other things. It beats using a roll of tin foil to encase things in. I've also started giving cookies in large glass jars that I pick up for cheap.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: daeira

                                            I'm not sure where you live, but Dollar Tree and 99 Cent Only stores are great places to pick up glass jars for, well, a dollar or less!!!! Part of my "pantry" is a metal rack that is loaded with all of my bulk food items such as rice, pasta, dried herbs and spices, beans, grains.....you get the picture. I have containers of all shapes and sizes but I've never paid over a dollar for a single container!

                                            1. re: Barbara76137

                                              A side bonus to using glass jars is that they provide a barrier to many pantry pests of the arthropodal persuasion.

                                          2. Perhaps one could wash the aluminum foil, and reuse it. Of course, one would need to do so with very little water, and cold water at that.

                                            Plastic wrap is a bit more difficult to clean and reuse.


                                            1. I use very little plastic wrap. I use glass containers with their own covers to store good or cover lidless dishes with a plate. If something needs to be stored in plastic, I use a ziplock which I clean between uses.

                                              Aluminum foil gets wiped down with a wet cloth and re-used several times.

                                              1. I suppose most do what they can if they care about such things. I use foil when I need it. Ditto for plastic wrap. BUT I grow my own food (where the packaging is only the packet the seeds come in, grow fruit, raise chickens... I also do not overconsume. Meaning I do not go out and buy replacements of say - computers every year (in fact the one I am using (with some minor mods - is from... 1998). I try to buy used of things. No packaging. I mend or fix instead of toss and buy. That is a huge relief to landfill. If you have a baby - cloth diapers instead of plastic would probably equal all the foil and plastic you would ever use over your child and your lifetime.

                                                1. You are not a miser. Like you and many of the other CHs commenting here, I reuse my foil, ziplocs, grocery bags (I forget my canvas ones in the trunk about every 3rd trip to the store). My latest miserly campaign involves those little sauce/dressing containers that go into the styrofoam (groan) take-out boxes. I have friends and family saving them for me and I send them in my son's school lunch filled with ranch dip for his veggies (possibly the only reliable way to help ensure he'll eat the veg). If they don't come home in the lunch bag, it doesn't bum me out as much as losing my little Rubbermaid or similar-type containers.

                                                  A little bummed to hear that my efforts to make sure foil goes into the recycle bin may be for naught, but I've gotten some great new "re-use it" ideas from this thread, thanks for the post!

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: CapreseStacy

                                                    my town specifically sends out reminders asking people to please put foil in the recycle bin...don't know what their process is, but it's stamped by the recycle company, so I'm guessing they know what they're getting into. That doesn't mean I run amok with foil (I think I'm on my 3rd 150' rol

                                                    My town also has an incinerator run in conjunction with the power company...so what doesn't get composted or recycled does at least go to *some* purpose.

                                                    I have no choice on plastic wrap - I have two lunches a day to pack, and if I were to buy plastic sandwich containers to replace the ones that got lost/squashed/busted/stolen/thrown away by accident/left in the back of a locker until I'd need a hazmat suit to open it, I'd very quickly be too broke to send sandwiches...so plastic wrap it is.

                                                    My mom reuses plastic bags (she buys in bulk and repackages for she and my dad)-- I'm not much of a germophobe, but taking cut-up veggies out of a bag that still says "pork chops" from the last use turns my stomach. I'll re-use a ziploc for things like bread, cookies, or crackers, but after raw meat? ugh.

                                                    Most of my produce goes directly into my cloth grocery bags, but things like green beans just don't work like that...so *those* bags get used when walking the dog.

                                                  2. I've often wondered how feasible it would be to get businesses and their customers to get in the habit of using some standard-sized recyclable containers. It is a drag, when one has take out or casual restaurant fare, and you find yourself up to your ears in containers and packaging.

                                                    I have an old aluminum refrigerator storage box that I picked up at a tag sale. If it had a way to lock down the lid, it would be ideal to bring with me to take out places because it is sturdy, yet light weight, and easy to clean. I also think about the lunch pails of old.

                                                    I have a couple of nice metal water bottles that I am in the habit of using. I got sick and tired of buying water in plastic bottles. I am lucky, in that I have wonderful well water. There is nothing that comes in any bottle that can compare to what comes out of my tap. I've also gotten in the habit of adding a few drops of my homemade bitters to the water, which makes it especially nice on those hot days.

                                                    I also bring a reusable stainless steel travel mug out with me. I started out doing it for environmental reasons. I hate generating so much plastic trash and wasting paper. But there have been rewards! At many places, it gets me a discount on my beverages, which stay warmer or cooler longer. And a rigid cup is just much more easy to handle, especially in the car, than a paper or Styrofoam cup.

                                                    I do have reusable shopping bags, but I'm still in the process of training myself to use them. It takes a while. I bought that metal travel mug and those metal water bottles quite some time before I got in the habit of using them. There was a period during which, even after I had made the commitment to myself to use them, I kept forgetting them. I was in Homer Simpson "D'OH!" mode. But once in the habit, it bugs to have to hold or drink out of a disposable cup, especially for hot beverages. And most places will fill your travel mug to the top, even if you order a small.

                                                    What I would like is, a nice set of thin sturdy reusuable metal containers that I could bring with me to restaurants for take out and for leftovers. It would be neat if there were standard sizes of these sorts of things commonly available for this purpose, to make it easier for restaurants to use them easily.

                                                    Anyway, yeah. We generate WAY too much trash.

                                                    1. And now I see another ChowTip "Roasting Without a Rack" using rings of aluminum foil!!!

                                                      Again, while the creative part of me likes the idea and the inventiveness, it's still about using up disposables. I'd as soon go out and buy a good-quality genaric rack that will stay around for years of infrequent use.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: neighborguy

                                                        I remember an episode of Jacques Pepin "Fast Food My Way" where instead of using twine to tie up a stuffed tenderloin, he used strips of aluminum foil, which looked really strange when he was done, but I suppose he did it to demonstrate what to do if you run out of twine.

                                                      2. My very smart (and depression-raised) mother has taught me to re-use the plastic bags that hold cereal inside cereal boxes. They're clean and very sturdy, and I tie them shut with rubber bands or twisties. I feel so dump that I've been throwing them out for so many years!

                                                        1. Also, I was having trouble finding Reynolds Waxed Paper Sandwich Bags in my local stores, so I just ordered a bunch online from Reynolds directly. The price was pretty low and I now have a ton of waxed paper bags waiting for sandwiches. Plus the size of the bags was increased (super-sized?) so that they hold a sandwich more easily. We prefer them to plastic wrap, although sometimes a sandwich is just so messy that it needs to be tightly bound in plastic or else it will self-destruct.

                                                          1. At a holiday party for work last week, there was one of those goofy gift exchange games. I ended up with a gingerbread house kit when the game was over. The fellow sitting across from me was laughing and pouting because he had ended up with a set of expandable silicone bowl covers.

                                                            I remembered reading this thread. I thought about all the plastic wrap and plastic bags that I use, even if I try to reuse it as much as possible. I thought about the mid-ocean gyres awash in plastic. I thought of sea turtles choking on the stuff. I thought about how crappy the gingerbread house would taste compared to one I made myself.

                                                            I swapped.

                                                            The brand is Cuisine Magic and they are made by the WENTWORTH Corporation. They come in two sizes and are transparent. Transparent is key, for me. They have a jellylike wobble and look like something used to practice safe sex or, at least, safe leftovers.

                                                            Anyway, I'll field test these things and see how they wash up and how they hold up and then report back to y'all. If I get ambitious, I'll take a snapshot or two.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Pipenta

                                                              For times when I really need to stick a bowl or measuring cup in the fridge (say, full of something I'm in the process of preparing), I have these bowl covers in graduated sizes that look like shower caps: http://www.solutions.com/jump.jsp?ite...