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Are plastic packaging and containers really the safest option for lunchboxes?

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Icon pin6010, AU


It makes a regular appearance in lunchboxes, fridges and homes around the world but are plastic packaging and containers really the safest option?

Many of us dread the daily school lunchbox routine and the ongoing quest to ensure we are providing our kids with healthy, sustaining food to fuel them through the day.

Add to that the pressure to reduce or eliminate plastics and potentially toxic chemicals from lunchboxes, drink bottles, food wraps and storage materials, and you have the perfect storm for a guilt induced, mid morning nervous break down!

For many of us, reaching for the cling wrap or snap lock bag in the morning is as natural as reaching for that kick-start coffee.

However as convenient and omnipresent as they have become, their reappearance in landfill across the globe and the inclusion of potentially harmful chemicals such as BPAs, Phthalates and PVCs, has many of us pausing to consider other options for our own children and for our future.

When added up day upon day, year in year out, the consumption figures are literally staggering.

Even a single child family, wrapping a sandwich, snack and piece of fruit a day will go through an estimated 60m of cling wrap per year.

For a family of four, that blows out to an estimated 240m a year, with a small school of just 350 children contributing an average of more than 21,000m of cling wrap to landfill each and every calendar year.

Snap lock sandwich bags are another culprit with conservative estimates adding up to 200 little bags per year per child ending up in rubbish bins across the nation.

Although daily costs for plastic products may seem minimal, on a year in year out basis, the impact on budgets and the environment is significant.

The plastics debate continues to be hotly contested with many of us still confused about our BPAs and PVCs.

Researching this article it is clear there is a plethora of information and opinion regarding the safety or otherwise of plastic packaging out there, not all of it correct or unbiased.

Choice Magazine recently identified Polycarbonates and PVC as plastics that we should be particularly concerned about.

Polycarbonate is often used in the manufacture of plastic food containers and bottles and can release small amounts of Bisphenol A, which has been linked to serious health problems.

PVC, commonly used in the manufacture of many cling wraps, often has Phthalates or DEHA added to it as a softener, again with research raising serious concerns about the safety of these compounds when ingested inadvertently.

Although strictly regulated in Australia, with the use of BPA in baby bottles now banned, many consumers are making a conscious decision to ban all BPA containing products from their shelves and pantries.

So what are some of the other options out there?

Recycled glass jars are now de rigeur in every café and bar with even a hint of hip, and although cost and user friendly in the home, sending them off in your children’s lunchboxes is not generally recommended in safety terms.

A series of plastic containers, free from BPAs and other nasties, can be a good option for lunchbox items with health and whole food shops a great place to start for advice on the best, chemical free products available.

The labelling isn’t compulsory or always accurate or clear so do your research and ask questions before purchasing.

Paper bags are a popular alternative to plastics, however make sure you opt for the more environmentally friendly recycled bags as the production of paper is water intensive and pollution producing.

Thumb sandwich bags lunchskins sandwich size green treesjpg copyPopular websites like My Green Lunchbox and promote the use of reusable, non-toxic, washable sandwich, snack wraps and food cozies and pockets using everything from recycled fabrics, to beeswax and hemp.

Priced from between $10 and $20 for a pair made in a variety of cute fabrics, they are a popular option for health conscious mums and seem like a sensible long-term option.

Ensuring they come home at the end of the day, however, is an entirely different matter.

Tell us what you use in your lunchboxes.

Written by:    Georgia Sweeting

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