Cling film has been a staple feature of just about every kitchen for years. It’s so quick, so convenient, so useful, so effective. What would we do without it? A hundred years ago in my great grandma’s kitchen they had never heard of it and it would be years before it arrived to make life in the kitchen easier. My great grandma managed just fine without it so why can’t I? Challenged by this fact I finally abandoned cling film (Glad Wrap) in my kitchen about a year ago. There are so many alternatives, that replacing it was surprisingly easy. Most recently I tried and liked some beeswax wraps, so I decided to try making my own. So here is one way to replace cling film and all you need to know to make your own beeswax wraps.
I researched the history of cling film and was startled to discover it was invented back in the 1930’s. But I don’t think it arrived in household kitchens till the 1950’s. Sadly our concern about it is a much more recent thing. As a result the environment and the animals we share this planet with are drowning in an accumulation of forgotten plastic, including cling film.
Cling film is one of those things you use, throw away and never think about again. What happens when it’s finished with? It is often seen blowing around school playgrounds. I’ve fished it out of the Hutt River and I picked up shreds of it on a beach in the Coromandel this year. Last time I visited the rubbish dump I saw it caught in the bushes lining the road to the dump. I’ve read about how it has been found in the stomach contents of dead albatross chicks and how sea turtles think it is jelly fish. Adult sea birds often mistake floating plastic for fish and they feed it to their chicks not realising that it isn’t fish. A tummy full of fish helps a chick to grow, but a tummy full of plastic is a death warrant. We are hearing much more these days about the problems associated with single use plastic and how devastating it is for our oceans. I read with increasing alarm and shame that we are heading for a future where there will be will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
There are many ways to replace single use plastics in your kitchen. I’ll be looking at this more in my next blog post.
Make your own beeswax wraps!
Beeswax wraps. These have become increasingly popular in the last few years, but according to good old google, people have been waxing fabric since ancient times. The benefit of beeswax wraps are that they are made from simple “good” ingredients. These nifty wraps mimic most of the properties of cling film and are compostable. Even better, an old beeswax wrap can be cut into strips and made into fire starters (you can even buy wrap off-cuts for this purpose).
Because I was trying to find alternatives to single use plastic, I was very curious to give them a whirl. Last October I decided to get a couple of small Munch beeswax wraps and see what I thought of them. I was pleasantly surprised. They smell wonderful, and they really do seem to work well. Unfortunately they are expensive (at least initially) and I wasn’t able to afford any larger ones. I had some difficulty getting them to stay properly on the cut end of a cucumber, but a rubber band sorted that out. They stay on most bowls alright. Sometimes they need to be pressed on again with warm hands after a day or so. I’ve had no problems washing them, and they make a packed lunch a visual treat!
I really wanted to get a couple of larger ones since we often need to cover larger containers but the expense put me off. Then I discovered Pure Nature.
This amazing company sells everything you need (except the fabric) to make your own. This is where I purchased the beeswax, pine rosin, and jojoba oil to make mine. It’s pretty good value since I will get another 4 batches of wraps out of the bag of pine rosin, and another two batches of wraps out of the bottle of jojoba oil. The 100gms of beeswax was used up on one batch of wraps. Making my own was a cheaper option for me than buying ready-made wraps. I ended up with 5 large (30x30cm), 2 medium (20x20cm), and 2 small (15x15cm) sized wraps. I love being creative so making my own was great fun, and really simple.
Here’s how to make your own.
You’ll need to get some cotton fabric or dig into your fabric stash if you have one. Natural fabrics (cotton or hemp) are best (but not wool). I pre-washed my fabric and then cut to size with pinking shears.
You’ll need an old pot and an old bowl (to use as a double boiler), tin foil, a paint brush (a thicker one so you can brush the mixture on quickly), and a set of scales.
Ingredients: 20g pine rosin, 3 tablespoons jojoba oil, and 100g beeswax. Jojoba oil is used for its anti-microbial properties. Pine rosin is used to achieve a slightly tacky texture and helps the wrap to more closely mimic the properties of cling film.
- Cut fabric to size.
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
- Use a mortar and pestle to crush the pine rosin.
- Put beeswax, crushed rosin and jojoba oil in the bowl.
- Melt together over double boiler. Stir to mix.
- Put a sheet of tin foil on a baking tray and lay a fabric square on it.
- Brush beeswax onto the fabric quickly, making sure to cover evenly and try to avoid pools. It will start to set very quickly.
- Place tray in oven for 3 minutes to allow the fabric to absorb the beeswax.
- Remove and check that there are no bare spots and that the wax is evenly distributed.
- Hang to dry.
- Start using.
Wash with cool soapy water and hang to dry. Avoid heat, and don’t use to wrap raw meats or fish.
Simple and fun.
The question I keep asking myself regarding single use plastic like cling film is whether I really need it. Is a moment of perceived convenience worth the cost to our environment and the animals that share it with us? We throw it away when we finish with it, but where is away? As David Attenborough says “There is no ‘away’ because plastic is so permanent and indestructible. When you cast it in the ocean…it does not go away”. It doesn’t go ‘away’ when it ends up in the landfill either. I feel the weight of that plastic like a burden. But each time I use one beeswax wrap I know I am making a small but significant difference, and it is worth it for my children’s future.