In previous articles I’ve discussed the problems that aluminum foil presents and how to recycle your used foil. In this article I’ll highlight other options we have to reduce the problems this product causes.
Use less aluminum foil
This is easier said than done. Aluminum foil can be pretty handy at times. The trick is to use it only when nothing else will do the job. That can be a rare event when you use a little imagination and preparation.
Reusable plastic containers are cheap, effective, and can last a very long time if cared for. When their usefulness is over, these containers can usually be recycled (depending on the material used). From a sustainability standpoint, these are superior to foil for storing leftover food and other it items.
There is actually no reason to use aluminum foil for cooking. People were cooking food just fine before aluminum foil was invented. Our “need” to use foil for cooking is mostly driven by advertising. The main use of foil for cooking is to prevent steam from escaping. This can be accomplished with a tight fitting lid or even a plate. Be creative. The other use is to make cleaning up easier. Unfortunately, this convenience comes at a high price to both the environment and us.
Finally, think about the packaging of an item before buying it. Foil backed with paper or plastic is currently impossible to recycle. Think about how you will responsibly dispose of the packaging when you’re done with it.
Reuse aluminum foil
The next best option to not using foil is to reuse it multiple times. Aluminum foil is actually rather durable despite it’s extreme thinness and flexibility. All it takes is a little extra time and water to carefully clean it. Wash off any remaining food, let the foil dry, and then store it for it’s next use. The exception to this is if the foil has touched raw meat. Don’t take any chances, just wash it off and recycle it.
Reusing your aluminum foil not only helps the planet, it also helps your wallet. Foil isn’t free and every piece you use again instead of throwing away saves you money. This is especially true if you’re using the foil to do the same job each time. Why use a new sheet of foil when you’ve already got one that is the right size and/or shape to do the job?
Used aluminum foil can have a number of uses depending on how it was originally used and how creative you are. Obviously grease covered foil is less useful than clean foil. There are several websites that have ideas for craft projects and other innovative uses for used aluminum foil. Just remember to go to recycle it once you’re done with your work of art.
Use 100% recycled aluminum foil
Since aluminum foil is 100% recyclable there is absolutely no reason to not buy aluminum that has already been recycled. Buying recycled products is a critical and often overlooked step in the recycling loop. Recycling and metal processing businesses have a more difficult time if manufactures don’t buy their recycled materials. Manufacturers won’t buy recycled materials if we don’t buy their products made from those materials. This completes the cycle, allowing materials to transition from their raw state, to a finished product, and back to a raw state. The long-term goal is to reduce mining activities to a minimum and just keep recycling our aluminum indefinitely. Buying products made for recycled materials is no less important than recycling your waste packaging.
Be sure to check out my articles on the environmental and health issues with aluminum foil and how to recycle aluminum foil.