Healthy Aluminum Foil Alternatives To Help Reduce Waste

What do you usually use aluminum foil for?  Depending on the situation, we would like to offer you better, more sustainable Aluminum Foil Alternatives.  

Aluminum foil is unfortunately often used once for cooking or storing food. 

Namely, this means that it is seldom reused or recycled, and is therefore sent directly to landfills. 

Remember that Zero Waste starts with making better choices in our daily routine; let’s take a look at how.

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Is Aluminum Foil Recyclable?

Before digging into alternatives for aluminum foil, we would like to remind you of the impact it has on the environment. 

Aluminum is technically recyclable(Mostly aluminum cans). In the US, aluminum cans have the highest recycling rate; recycling is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to decrease your carbon footprint. 

In terms of sustainability, they are the most appropriate packaging for beverages. Indeed a can is, on average, made of 68% of recycled content. 

When it comes to foil, it should be the same, correct? The answer is a bit more complicated. 

Because the foil we use is often left with food scraps, certain recycling companies are not equipped to recycle it properly (just as the cans are) and therefore do not accept foil. 

Aluminum foil is recyclable and therefore should not be thrown away. The safest and easiest option is to replace it with eco-friendlier alternatives for your day to day use.

Firstly, check if your local waste management company accepts aluminum foil as a recyclable material. For example, this is the case with Citibin in the New York area. 

If your local waste management company accepts aluminum foil, then this is great news in case you occasionally use it in your kitchen. 

It not, we encourage you to have a look at how you can find better, more sustainable alternatives below.

Is Aluminum Foil Toxic When Heated?

Bread wrapped in Aluminum Foil
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Avoid Using Aluminum Foil!

There is a consensus among the latest research that says that aluminum, even though naturally present in our environment, is harmful to humans if ingested above safe limits. 

Indeed, because it has no physiological role in our organism, it can potentially be dangerous when ingested

It is a neurotoxin that can affect brain functions, and more generally, decrease the functions of the central nervous system. Also, it can contribute to osteoporosis.

Aluminum is not inert, which means that when heated, it can react and change. Food is often cooked on or with aluminum. 

However, research shows that there is a higher level of aluminum in food that is prepared with foil than food prepared without foil. 

It is recommended to switch aluminum foil for a non toxic material to avoid the risk of contamination when cooking food at home.

Considering the current rise of aluminum present in food and beverages, it is recommended to avoid it as much as possible(foil included) and go with aluminum foil alternatives. 

Indeed, whether in processed foods, or when used in purifying drinking water, there is an increasing use of aluminum in food and drink preparation.  

There is always a certain level that the body can successfully excrete to prevent any harm done to the human body. 

However, it is advisable to avoid such a scenario in favor of better alternatives.

What Can I Substitute Aluminum Foil For?

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When it comes to food:

  • If you have a container, but no lid: use beeswax wrap to cover food. It is quite simple to make your own! Have a look here.

  • Do you have washable containers such as Tupperware? Remember that one of  Zero Waste’s best practices is to reuse as much as possible. Even if we are not fans of plastic, we do encourage you to use what you have at home as long as possible. This means, do not throw away your handy Tupperware to buy glass jars for example. Even if this is a better choice at first, do not forget to follow the 5 Rs in order: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot (or Regulate, see our opinion on this here)

To replace aluminum foil to store & cook food use washable containers (Tupperware, or glass containers) & a silicone baking mat as excellent alternatives.

When it comes to cooking:

  • Avoid single-use parchment paper, as they cannot be reused and therefore end up in your home trash. Even though you often hear from them in cookbooks as an easy and versatile solution, it is not really possible to wash them. Moreover, they are not simply made of paper but treated with sulfuric acid, which makes it unfit for composting.

  • If you need to cook food in the oven, for example, fish, replace the aluminum foil with a glass container, Pyrex style, as they allow uniform cooking. Spread a bit of olive oil equally, then add your food and seasoning. By doing so, the food will be just as tasty and will not stick to the bottom of your container.

  • If you want to avoid oil, or when it comes to baking, we recommend that you use a silicone baking mat. They are a better eco-friendly replacement as you can easily wash and therefore reuse them. They come especially handy if the metal surface you want to place the food on is not totally clean. 

Silicone is not the perfect sustainable material, however, it is a better alternative than plastic. Would you like more information? 

Would you like more information? Have a look at this great article from Earth Hero that will provide you with a pretty in-depth guide.

You might wonder why we recommend silicone? Isn’t it just as bad as plastic? Not exactly. In a nutshell:

  1. They are more resistant than plastic: it will not melt as easily and withstand higher temperature differences. This comes handy when cooking with spatulas, for example: choose silicone over plastic ones to avoid that it partially melts in your food! Moreover, kitchen utensils made of silicone will last longer before becoming totally unusable.
  2. The way silicone is made (and extracted) is more sustainable in terms of resource extraction, even though it is not biodegradable. However, just like plastic, it does not decompose and is not always easy to recycle.
  3. Remember that most plastics break into microplastic pieces that are extremely harmful to marine life, silicone does not disintegrate as much, which means it is far more unlikely to be ingested by wildlife.

Final Thoughts

Aluminum Foil Alternatives is the way to go. Aluminum foil is the past! You can easily switch it for better options either when cooking or storing food.

We hope this article helped you and convinced you to change your old habit into an easy Zero Waste Swap. If you still have any doubts, we would love to hear from you.

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