Reducing Disposable Stuff in the Kitchen

12 July 2018
There are lots of products in the kitchen that are disposable. That is, we use them once and toss them out. So many of them are ingrained in our cooking practices and even recipe books.

Over the past several years I've made a lot of small and steady changes to reduce the number of disposables we use. I've also tried to find ways to reuse any disposables so that they at least extend beyond single use items. In the spirit of Plastic Free July I thought I'd chat a little about what we do here.

Baking with a greased pan instead of baking paper

Before we dig in just a little disclaimer. I'm not perfect! I do the best I can with what I've got (time, money, energy) in any one moment with my own values in mind. This post is designed to run through what we do to show a different way of approaching disposables, give people some tips and hopefully start a conversation to share tips as well. This is what works for us in this stage of our life. It hasn't always been this way and it may well change. Also, it is in no way meant to be used to critique or judge anyone else's habits or choices.

With that out of the way, let's dig in shall we.

Paper towel

I use a variety of cotton rags to replace paper towel. These are either put in the wash to re-use or composted if they are too greasy or grimy.


I do have a roll of foil on hand for covering things in the oven if needed. This foil is then wiped down and kept for another use. I continue this until it's no longer reusable. Then it gets recycled - I ball it up and put it in the recycling bin once I have a minimum of a tennis ball size.

I also occasionally use foil to line a tray or pan for high risk sticking cooking or things that are hard to remove from a tray without damage such as a pavlova. This foil is reused & recycled as above.

Baking paper

This has been long gone from my kitchen for several years. I use butter, oil or flour to create a non-stick surface in  my baking. If you are worried about cakes sticking in a pan you can use a combination of butter with a light coating of flour for extra 'non-stick' insurance. Washing up is a bit more of a pain but hey, first world problems.

Greasing and flouring a cake tin for 'extra' non-stick.

Cling wrap

Another product that was quick to be phased out in our kitchen. Anything that needs to be covered is either decanted into a container or covered with a plate or some other suitable lid.

If you do use plastic wrap at home it can be recycled via the soft plastic recycling at supermarkets as long as it's free of food residue (nothing a quick wipe won't sort out). I do this with any cling wrap that gets brought to our place by others or that makes it here via a wrapped purchased product (not before reusing it a few times if I can!). Here is a link to a comprehensive list of stuff that can be put in the soft plastic recycling.

Zip lock bags

These are still in use here but I haven't actually purchased any zip lock bags for over 6 years when I started really making changes to kitchen disposables. Any zip lock bags we have are washed and reused. It's surprising how long these last really. Also, we have collected a few 'newer' ones when people bring over kids snacks or the like - I nab them and reuse them before they can get tossed.

Other zip lock bags we have are from food packaging that comes with the resealable zip - this is a more recent change. I actually didn't think of reusing these until about 6 months ago and I can't believe I've not been holding onto them as they are quite durable being made out of thicker plastic. Once the zip lock bags are past their prime they are put in the soft plastic recycling.

Produce bags

This is an area for improvement. When we lived in Adelaide I was buying so little produce due to our garden and food swaps that I gave away my reusable produce bags. Since relocating I've found the plastic kind sneaking back in. I must get onto making some more reusable ones.

Any plastic produce bags that do make it into the house are reused until they fall apart. I use them to freeze bulk meat or bread rolls, and to store fresh produce from the garden in the crisper. Once they are no longer reusable they get washed, thoroughly dried and put in the soft plastic recycling.

Produce bags - some work to be done here.

Bin Liners

I've never actually bought bin liners but I used to use plastic shopping bags. These days I just put the rubbish straight in the bin and wash it as needed. If something is particularly messy I'll just take it straight out to the outside garbage bin. In the past I've also used newspaper to line my inside bin.

I'd be really keen to hear from others the strategies they use to reduce disposable items in the kitchen. So, please share any tips in the comments. Also, if you have a particular area you are trying to work on but need more tips ask away in the comments and hopefully someone can share tips on what they do.

I'd be interested in hearing about what people use to freeze bulk meat and other products. Currently I use produce bags or plastic packaging from food (eg. pasta or rice packet) but as I continue to reduce these items I'm thinking about how I'll store things in the freezer. I'm guessing just containers but I'd love any tips or ideas if anyone has them to share.


  1. Great tips.I do all of that and also use Beeswax wraps, they will keep produce fresh for ages and replace cling wrap for sealing bowls etc. and will wrap sandwiches and other food taken away from the home.
    You can easily make them yourself (straight beeswax doesn't work) plenty of instructions online or Bee Eco wraps online offer free postage. ...used mine for 2 years so far

    1. I haven't tried the beeswax wraps as yet, although I've got a few online tutorials on how to make them bookmarked. Good to know they have substantial long jevity.

  2. Thank you for a great article on using less plastic. I have now printed out the Redcycle information to understand it more. Have also recently received vegetable bags off ebay, which I' ll share with my daughter. Baby steps I guess...but heading in a more sustainable direction hopefully.

    1. Baby steps are the best way to go I think Karen - tackling one thing at a time and building from there. Otherwise i find it just all gets too overwhelming.

  3. I use beeswax wraps too. I made mine just using beeswax and they work fine. They're useful for things like refrigerating biscuit dough when the instructions say to use clingfilm.

    At the moment our meat comes from the farm butcher in bags and goes straight in the freezer (we tend to buy a whole animal) and I'm working on the butcher putting sausages etc straight into bags and not Styrofoam trays first. They mostly remember to do it!
    Otherwise I use plastic containers, usually that I've acquired like ice cream tubs (I don't buy supermarket ice cream). I do have a couple of glass tubs from Ikea but they have plastic lids and they had to be bought new so they're not a perfect solution either.

    1. Good to know on the straight beeswax wraps work well too Hazel.
      Thanks for the info on the meat storage.


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