Posts tagged "food packaging"

How can I reuse or recycle little pudding pots?

We’ve had an email from Debbie:

Any ideas what we can do with individual microwave pudding pots from the supermarket? They’re plastic.

First up, as always, reduce if you can – I know those puddings are convenient but it doesn’t take that much longer to make your own with a microwave (for example, a syrup pudding only takes about five minutes from scratch and there are plenty of “chocolate pudding in a mug” recipes out there). Or, if there is more than one of you puddinging and you *have* to buy one, getting a bigger single pudding instead of lots of little ones – the overall amount of packaging will be slightly less, and the bigger pot will be more reusable.

Bringing us neatly onto reuses: any suggestions? I suspect there will be considerable overlap with yoghurt pots – but the ones I’ve seen are a little more shapely than those so that may allow other reuses.

The little ones are fine as seedling starter pots (make holes in the bottom for drainage), or as little paint pots. They’d make dome-shaped jelly moulds for individual jellies – or for making your own microwave puddings! You could also cross the plant pot/dessert mould ideas over and make dirt puddings ;) Any other ideas?

As for actual recycling, does anyone know what number plastic they are? From a bit of Googling around, I think they’ll be number 5, polypropylene – but I’ll check next time I’m at the supermarket.

What’s more important: less packaging or reusable packaging?

At one point during the cheese course thing at the weekend, the topic of conversation turned to packaging. For us hobbyist cheese makers, it’s not an issue but for the guy running the course and the woman hoping to set up a small scale cheese company, it’s an important thing to consider: balancing appearance with food safety/durability, cost and, of course, the environmental impact.

Both of them were considering the well-trodden route for pre-packed cheese packaging – vacuum packed in pretty plastic wrapping – because it seems lower waste than the current option (clear plastic wrap then paper/cardboard to make them more presentable). But because you invariably have to cut into such wrapping to open it, it can’t be reused (it’s seldom even good enough to continue using around the remainder of the half-eaten product) and while the plastic – typically polythene (LDPE, resin code 4) – can be recycled, it’s not kerbside recycled everywhere and crucially, it’s often not marked so people don’t know it can be recycled.

The cheese wrapping discussion got me thinking about packaging in general, and about something I’d been thinking about since my Graze box rant last week. Following the 3Rs, we should first REDUCE, before thinking about REUSING and RECYCLING – but sometimes, in some situations, it seems better to get a larger amount/weight of packaging that’s easier to reuse or recycle.

A few examples:

  • The supermarket near me sells luxury pâté in a vacuum sealed pack but the cheaper stuff in a little plastic tub. The plastic tub is heavier/sturdier so used more natural resources in its manufacture but now I can reuse it for storing small quantities of leftovers etc.
  • In the past, we’ve bought luxury ready-meal desserts in reusable dishes – souffles in glass ramekins and crème brulees in shallow glazed terracotta bowls. Both the ramekins & terracotta bowls have entered our crockery supply and been in circulation for years. Plastic tubs, even reused a few times, would probably have well gone by now.
  • I pick pickles & condiments in heavy glass jars rather than light, unbreakable plastic squeezy bottles because glass recycling is more efficient than plastic (and here, we can doorstep recycle glass but not plastic). I can also reuse the glass jars for preserving, saving me from having to buy new jars for that.

So what do you think? Would you prefer items to be packed in the least amount of packaging possible or prefer more packaging but something more reusable or easier to recycle? Would/do you pay more for items with reusable/recyclable packaging?

How can I reuse or recycle plastic coleslaw/potato salad tubs?

Between the good weather and the World Cup, every weekend recently has been barbeque-madness in the UK, which means the burger, salad and salad accompaniments shelves at the supermarket are stripped bare by 10am, just a solitary limp iceberg lettuce left behind to tell of the devastation.

Pre-packed prepared food like coleslaw, potato salad, bean salad or cous cous – and most salad bar tubs I’ve seen – come in plastic tubs with resealable lids, but the plastic tends to be a bit lightweight & flimsy – so not as ripe for reusing as they might be.

What do you use them for? They seem a little too flimsy to me to use as storage tubs in the kitchen – not rigid enough to clean properly.

Plant pots? Again, not the most stable plant pots in the world but a lot of starter modules/seedling pots tend to be a similar quality so they could be used for that.

Since they’re often mostly transparent, they’d also be useful for storing little items like screws or beads.

Any other reuse suggestions?

There is also obviously a potential “reduce” angle here too – it’s not hard to make these things. Unfortunately if you use mayonnaise or the like in the coleslaw/potato salad, it’s advice not to freeze it because the mayo is likely to separate on thawing — but if you think ahead, you could freeze ideal-portion-size amounts of the shredded vegetables mixed together, or cooked potatoes – so then it’s a doddle to made them when you need them: just defrost and add the mayo & any other seasonings. Or you can make special recipes for freezing – such as freezer slaw.

What are your favourite recipe ideas?