I read a great quote the other day. "We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly." This blog post is for the millions, to make swaps a little less difficult.
If you're a well seasoned eco-warrior, the thought of using silicone in place of single use plastics may not be all that appealing for you. And we totally get that. Let's get this out of the way from the start, silicone isn't easily recycled. There are natural material and biodegradable options for quite a few of these products, but they're not always convenient or liked by people who are just starting out on their journey.
Silicone reusables offer durability, long lasting and repeated use over many years if taken care of correctly. They can replace hundreds of single use pieces of plastic. For those who turn their nose up at a bamboo toothbrush (but they'll use a bio-plastic brush) or beeswax wraps (but they'll use silicone food covers), getting them to switch to a silicone reusable is a much easier option, and in many cases, more affordable.
Metal stainless steel straws have grown in popularity over the last couple of years. They have their drawbacks though. The biggest one being the safety of drinking from them when you're little or even on the run. Cheeki took a swing at this by putting safety tips on the end. Klean Kanteen went one step further and put silicone tips on their stainless steel straws. It's now possible to buy full silicone straws.
They bend and twist and are easy to carry around. They're impossible to destroy unless you start chewing on them. Twelve months ago when we tried to source them in Australia, we had trouble. Now they are quite common. We now have reusable straws made from metal, bamboo and silicone. They're available in packs and pairs from three different brands in store. They're also the perfect swap for smoothie cups that come with metal straws for younger kids.
From Left to Right - The MontiiCo and Little Mashies have been designed for kids in mind with their diameter. For adults drinking smoothies, the Ever Eco silicone straws are a 9.5mm diameter which is smoothie width.
FOR THE ECO WARRIOR WHO DOESN'T WANT TO USE SILICONE - many simply choose to go without a straw. Some people just like to drink from straws. For those with disabilities, it can be a necessity. You can choose stainless steel which is is easily recycled when you're done and will last a timetime. Bamboo grows like a weed with virtually no water or pesticides. They have a shorter life but are 100% biodegradable when you're done with them.
Silicone Food Covers
If there's one plastic product that people find hard to replace in the kitchen without losing the convenience, it's cling film. Not everyone likes beeswax wraps, and they do have their downsides (can't use on warm or hot food - over time they wear out and when the wax cracks and food gets in they're ruined) but there are a variety of silicone products that can cover and wrap food, from the sublimely simple to products that are effective, but can be a little fiddly to work with. From left to right:-
- Avanti Silicone Lid Cover - if you're just covering a bowl or a plate, zero fuss, just sits on top. Can also be used to cover frypans, saucepans and there's a version small enough for canned food leftovers in the fridge.
- Little Mashies Reusable Silicone Food Wraps 3 Pack - stretchy and clingy like cling film. These are super easy to handle and have re-inforced edges so they're pretty hard to tear
- Little Mashies Reusable Silicone Food Wraps 2 Large - at 25m square, you're still limited to what you can cover, but they have good stretch.
- Ever Eco Food Cover Set - they are not flat & versatile to wrap food like the Little Mashies, but they do one job better than anything else, covering plates and bowls with a really firm seal. These silicone covers are round (but stretch well for squares and rectangles and odd shapes) and they have sides that come down around 1.5cm (ish) and tabs to pull them in to place. They're so easy to use and they won't slip or fall off. They come in 6 different sizes in the one set from 6.5cm to 21cm in diameter,
FOR THE ECO WARRIOR WHO DOESN'T WANT TO USE SILICONE - fabric food covers that look like shower caps are made by 4myearth. They also do reusable bread bags, sandwich wraps and pockets in the same fabric. The sandwich wraps can be used to wrap leftovers as well.
Silicone Food Pouches
Let's face it, zip lock plastic bags are super handy, whether it's sending kids to school with a sandwich, marinading food, DIY piping bag, freezer storage and more. There's biodegradable versions available now too, but they're still a lot of resources for something that's usually only getting used once. You can wash them out a few times, but before long, they'll break and be useless.
Long term, a silicone reusable zip lock bag will last you for years and years. They're not completely indestructible, so be careful with sharp things around them, but you can use them for years and years. Wash and dry them well, and if they have a lingering smell from anything strong, rinse them in a white vinegar / water solution. That works a treat for plastic too. You can get garlic smell out of plastic with some white vinegar.
Stasher Bags were the first on the market to do this, with others copying and trying to improve. We're still very partial to the original Stashers here. Stasher as platinum grade silicone and be used to cook in the microwave and sous vide machines. There are plenty of inferior and cheaper products that look similar but you can't do this with.
- Half Gallon large pockets from Stasher come in Clear and Aqua and are 4x the volume of the sandwich bags
- Sandwich size Stasher
- Snack size Stasher
- Little Mashies larger pockets that stand up in 1 litre and 1.5 litre capacity
Stasher Bags have their own pinch seal closure like a zip lock bag. The Little Mashies is 'clamped' down in place with a plastic closure, so they're not plastic free.
FOR THE ECO WARRIOR WHO DOESN'T WANT TO USE SILICONE - fabric wraps and food pouches are made by 4myearth along with other options made from recycled pet water bottles that will machine wash and be strong enough to use for years. Beeswax wraps are quite often a suitable substitute depending on what you're doing with them.
Mmmmmmmm....... cup cakes. You can make healthy ones or just divine 'sometimes' food. Most non-stick cupcake pans have a coating on them that's impossible to find out what they're made from. They're easy to scratch and I have never felt comfortable using one without a cupcake paper. If you don't like the idea of throwing out cup cake papers after baking and using them just once, we have silicone versions in both a cupcake and a muffin size. Bake in them for years. You can also do a little bento lunch box hack by putting the silicone cup cake moulds in to a regular lunch box for little compartments.
- Avanti Cupcake Size
- Avanti Muffin Size
FOR THE ECO WARRIOR WHO DOESN'T WANT TO USE SILICONE - stick with the paper or source a good quality cupcake tray whose non-stick ingredient status you can verify.
Silicone Coffee Cups and Smoothie Cups
Trying to convince someone to carry around a refillable coffee cup or smoothie cup? The bulk of carrying around a cup anywhere between 350ml and 800ml is cumbersome for many, so they don't consider it to be an option. We have a collapsible coffee cup from Stojo, and they also make a 470ml size with a silicone straw that will hold most small and some medium sized juices and smoothies.
Not all collapsible silicone cups are created equal. We have had another brand in store that we had far too many issues with and removed from sale. Here's what we learnt from that experience and why Stojo is the cup we choose.
- Make sure that the lid of your collapsible coffee cup needs to screw on and not press on. Push down lids can start to collapse the cup, and when it's full of hot water, that's not ideal.
- Make sure the drinking hole isn't too small. The cafe caps don't have air holes in them so they can be relatively leafproof when the lid is closed, but if your drinking hole is too small, each time you sip, air can't get back in and it starts to collapse.
Stojo doesn't do either of these things. When collapsed down flat, they'are around 5cm tall and will slot in to your back pocket.