Can You Cook a Plastic-free Meal?

Posted Tue, 08/28/2018 - 09:07


Cooking a plastic-free meal may seem easy at first, but think about what you ate today. Did you have breakfast? A simple meal like cereal and milk means plastic waste from the cereal bag and the plastic milk jug. A handful of fresh berries can make your breakfast healthier, but those come in plastic clamshell packaging too. Even if you skipped breakfast and just had a cup of coffee, those coffee grounds are probably kept fresh in a plastic bag, not to mention your plastic container of creamer. So much of our food is covered in plastic, having a meal with only ingredients not found in plastic packaging can be a real challenge, but it's not impossible.  Challenge yourself to make your own plastic-free meal.


Olive oil being poured on a salad.
Can you find all of these ingredients in plastic-free containers? (Photo Credit: Jessica Lewis via Unsplash)

Food packaging is a huge source of marine debris. Food wrappers are consistently one of the top items found during the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. The more plastic-free meals you can challenge yourself to prepare, the less plastic waste you produce, and the less plastic food packaging that may end up in the ocean and Great Lakes.  

Since it can be difficult, here are some tips to cooking your first, delicious, plastic-free meal:

1. Instead of buying plastic-wrapped meats from the case, go to the butcher counter or an actual butcher shop. You can ask the butcher to wrap you meat in butcher paper instead of plastic.

2. Bring your own produce bags so that you can keep your produce together, but not use any plastic.

Bell peppers in a produce bag.
Produce bags keep your produce fresh and plastic-free! (Photo Credit: NOAA)

3. Visit a grocery store or co-op where you can buy in bulk using your own container. There are many stores where you can fill up your own container with a variety of dry goods like cereal, dried fruit, nuts, beans, and more. If you use that container over and over again, think of how much waste you’ve saved!

Bulk bins in a grocery store.
Re-use your containers over and over by using bulk bins. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

4. Make your own. Can’t find granola bars that aren’t wrapped in plastic? Use the bulk ingredients you bought at the co-op to make the granola bars yourself.  

Challenge yourself to make at least one plastic-free meal a week and see how you do. If you get really good at it, you can cook a plastic-free meal every day! Share your plastic-free tips (and meals) with your friends and family. Food brings people together and it’s only together that we can solve the problem of marine debris.  

Can You Cook a Plastic-free Meal?

Posted Tue, 08/28/2018 - 09:07

For citation purposes, unless otherwise noted, this article was authored by the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

The Marine Debris Blog is no longer accepting comments but continues to display past contributions.

Elizabeth Bett…

Tue, 08/28/2018 - 11:36

Plastic bag free and plastic-free are two different conditions, aren't they. We read these days about microplastics in plants and animals on land and in the sea.
But certainly reducing the use of plastic bags will reduce microplastics. Reducing the production of plastic bags at the same time sounds wise too.


Tue, 08/28/2018 - 23:50

What a wonderful article. I try my best to go plastic free, but it is a challenge.

food packaging

Fri, 08/02/2019 - 06:56

Any evaluation of <a href="">Food Packaging</a> effect on the earth must consider the positive advantages of diminished food squander all through the inventory network. Critical food wastage has been accounted for in numerous nations, extending from 25% for food grain to half for products of the soil

I wonder just how much plastic the Earth and living things can tolerate.