What Are Beeswax Wraps and How Do You Use Them?
Beeswax wraps are one of the practical solutions that allow us to live more sustainable lives. Two of the biggest problems in our modern society are plastic polluting our environments, and food waste. Beeswax wraps offer a solution which helps us to tackle both of these problems.
What Are Beeswax Wraps?
Beeswax wraps are cotton fabric, impregnated with beeswax and jojoba oil (which have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties).
Where Do Beeswax Wraps Come From and Why Use Them?
People have been waxing cloth since the times of Ancient Egypt and have been using beeswax to store food in various different ways for thousands of years. Since the invention of cling film and other plastic wrappings, however, people have lost touch with these ancient techniques. By returning to these simple means of storing and preserving food, we can reduce our reliance on polluting and damaging materials and withdraw our support for destructive systems in the modern day.
In the 19th Century, as scientific endeavor moved on and a more consumerist society emerged in the industrial age, waxed cloth wrappings were largely replaced by wax paper. Paper impregnated with purified beeswax was widely used throughout the 19th Century to retain or exclude moisture and to wrap strong-smelling products. In 1876, however, Herman Frasch developed ways of purifying paraffin and using it to coat paper, and natural beeswax was largely replaced by paraffin for use in wax paper. Unfortunately, petroleum-based wax paper comes at huge environmental cost.
Cling film or other plastic wrap for food was initially created in the mid 20th Century and used polyvinyl chloride (PVC). A common, cheaper alternative to PVC is low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and polyvinylidene chloride (PvdC) is also sometimes used. Each of these materials allowed consumers to store food for longer at peak freshness, but with these plastics, freshness comes at too high an environmental cost. Plastic food packaging also brings with it risks to human health.
Both modern waxed paper and plastics take vast amounts of energy to produce and are derived from fossil fuels – a finite resource and one that is difficult to incorporate in a truly sustainable way of life. Even if we are to disregard the costs to our planet of continuing to use such materials, the fact of the matter is that we cannot continue to use fossil fuels to maintain our way of life – at some point, fossil fuels will run out. Beeswax wraps are just one part of the solution that allows us to transition to a post peak oil society and to create a more sustainable way of life.
Over the last couple of decades, there has been a growing understanding about these problems with plastics, and a growing appreciation for other methods that can be used to keep food fresh and prevent food waste. Beeswax wraps are increasingly being recognised as a solution – a lesson we can re-learn from our ancestors to help us going forward.
How To Use and Care For Beeswax Wraps
Beeswax wraps can be folded and used to wrap sandwiches or other lunches or snacks. They can also be placed over the top of bowls or other containers to keep leftovers etc. fresher for longer.
Simply rinse your beeswax wrap with cold water and a mild, natural soap to keep it clean. It should last for at least a year if you wash it gently in this way.
Eventually, after a long time, the beeswax and jojoba oil coating will begin to break down. The good news is that when this happens, you do not immediately have to resort to placing it in the compost heap. You can refresh them and redistribute the wax by placing them in the oven for a brief period. You can also entirely refresh your beeswax wrap by applying more beeswax and oil.
Beeswax wraps really are something that no zero waste kitchen should be without. Click here to shop the Net Zero Reusable Beeswax Wraps.