Keeping food fresh doesn’t need to involve single use non-recyclable clingfilm. This stretchy plastic wrap was invented accidentally in the early 1900s and quickly became popular when reusable wraps were not. The majority of UK households have a roll or two of clingfilm in one of their kitchen drawers.

Although popular due to its convenience and ease of keeping food fresh, it is a hugely wasteful item. A true single use plastic that can’t be recycled and ends up in landfill and/or breaking down into our water ways.

Thankfully there are plenty of reusable alternatives now available. Lidded containers are a simple way to keep food fresh in the fridge, but for items you wish to cover in a wrap such as sandwiches, blocks of cheese or leftovers that don’t need big containers, reusable wraps are the perfect swap.

Reusable wraps are often made from thin fabric such as cotton, making them strong and flexible. To give them a layer of water resistance they are coated in wax such as beeswax or plant-based waxes and oils.

Beeswax vs plant-based wax

Beeswax food wraps are the best known and most widely available. For anyone not wanting to use beeswax, a range of plant-based alternatives can be found, using waxes such as Candelilia and Soy wax.

Beeswax wraps have the added benefit that (often) they come from locally produced waxes and small businesses, reducing transport miles and chemicals used in production.

Locally produced beeswax from hives kept throughout Telford by Alison Wakeman from Alison’s Bee Class

How to use them?

Just like clingfilm, wax wraps can be used to cover the tops of bowls such as casserole dishes or pyrex bowls. Just place them over the item and use the warmth of your hands for a few seconds. This softens the wax and within seconds it cools and seals.

Wraps can be used to wrap individual items such as cheeses, vegetables, bread, fruit and baked goods too. Just wrap them around the item and the wrap will stick to itself. Great for lunchboxes and out and about.

You can use these wraps in your fridge and lunchbox, and surprisingly even in the freezer!

Reusable wrap covering the top of an open bowl
Mold around the bowl and hold for a few second – once cooled the wax will form a tight but breathable seal
Reusable wraps keeping small fridge food items fresh
Perfect for completely wrapping smaller items
Reusable wrap around a sandwich being placed into a cotton bag
Ideal for sandwiches, removing the need to a full lunchbox

Reusable wrap care

When looked after, a good reusable wrap should last for up to a year and can be refreshed to use for even longer.

Most of the time a quick wipe over with a soft cold damp cloth will do. For when they are muckier, follow these steps:

  • Fill your sink with cold water and add some mild washing up soap/liquid
  • Pop the wraps in the sink and give them a good wipe or scrub with a sponge or soft brush
  • Rinse, then hang them up to dry

The best way to look after them is to not use hot water. Remember the wax softens with just the warmth of your hands. If you use warm water to clean them with the wax will soften and you will find cracks forming and gaps in the coverage of the cloth.

When dry, store them by hanging them or popping them in a drawer flat if possible. Alternatively roll them up and pop them in a jar. You can store them folded up, just be aware you are more likely to get cracks forming in the wax if left folded up in a drawer for a long time.

When wraps eventually get to the end of life, they can be re-waxed. You may be brave enough to try this yourself, or you can see if your local supplier can do this for you. Even if you do not reuse after a year, if they are made from organic natural materials, they will at least be compostable unlike all the single use plastic alternatives out there.

Unusual uses for reusable wraps

As well as covering leftover food in the fridge and wrapping your sandwiches for school or work, reusable wraps can be used for:

  • Making a piping bag
  • Wrapping your toothbrush or soap bar when travelling
  • Opening difficult jars
  • Making a pouch for small loose foods
  • Keeping an open bottle of wine fresh
  • Folding into a temporary bowl or box for nibbles!
Reusable wraps being used as a temporary snack bowl
Folded into temporary dishes – wax wraps are a versatile addition to any kitchen cupboard

Where to buy reusable wraps from

Most local Zero Waste and refill shops offer wax wraps for sale, often from local makers or stocking a range of plant-based wax wraps as alternatives to beeswax – check out the Directory for your nearest shop.

Alternatively you can buy directly from the maker. We know of a few local Bee Keepers around the County who make wraps from their own hives wax and sell directly – including wraps from Telford based Alison’s Bee Class, Bee Biotic near Cleobury Mortimer and Becks Crafty Bees in Shrewsbury.

Know of others? Let us know.

Range of colourful reusable wraps from Alison's Bee Class
Alison’s Bee Class
Bee Biotic
Becks Crafty Bees

Know of a Shropshire green organisations, businesses or events not listed in the Directory yet? Let us know! We would love to support them with a free listing.

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Caroline Talbot
Author: Caroline Talbot