When it comes to reducing your environmental impact, going zero-waste is one of the most effective things you can do. And when it comes to cheese, that's no exception! Cheese is a high-impact food product with all the attendant problems: high food miles, wastefulness in production and packaging, and so on. But with a few simple changes in your shopping habits, you can get all the cheesy goodness you need without creating any waste.
This article will examine the disadvantages of buying cheese in plastic. Most of all, we will explore ways to purchase waste-free cheese around you.
Reasons not to buy cheese in plastic food packaging
The primary problem with buying cheese stored in plastic containers is plastic pollution. Plastic pollution is a never-ending problem we keep facing as a society. Our lands and oceans are full of plastic waste. Studies show that a high percentage of plastic pollution is from packaging materials. For instance, 100 billion plastic packing items end up in landfills in the United Kingdom annually1.
Because plastics take hundreds of years to decompose, they break down into microplastics and enter our food chain and water sources. Also, discarded plastics leak harmful chemicals, causing harm to us and our environment.
Another reason you should avoid cheese stored in plastic materials is contamination. These materials can change the composition and taste of cheese. Researchers experimented on Sudanese white cheese. They kept samples in both plastic and metal containers for over 80 days. The study showed that plastic lid packages cause high levels of microbial contamination. The research concluded that storing cheese in non-plastic containers is safer2.
How to buy cheese zero waste without plastic packaging
Supermarkets and grocery shops mainly sell cheese in plastic wraps or plastic tubs. However, the zero-waste movement advocates for a plastic-free environment. To make this possible for you, here are some tips for zero-waste grocery shopping for plastic-free cheese:
Beeswax wrap is an all-natural, environmentally friendly alternative to plastic wrap for wrapping cheese and other food items. The wax is a renewable resource from honeybees, so there's no need to worry about using non-renewable resources. Beeswax wrap also provides a superior barrier between the cheese and its environment.
Some stores sell cheese in paraffin wraps, so be sure what type is used before buying. This wax is from paraffin, a petroleum product, and therefore not a sustainable option. Ask the store what type of wax wrap they use. You can encourage your local store to switch to beeswax wraps if they haven’t done so yet.
Another way to buy waste-free cheese is to find cheese stores that sell soft cheeses in glass containers. Buying cheese in glass jars is an eco-friendly option that provides numerous benefits. Not only does it eliminate the need for so much plastic, which can take centuries to degrade, but it also reduces the number of waste materials used in the process.
Additionally, glass is reusable, allowing you to purchase cheese without having to buy a new container each time. Glass jars are also much easier to sanitize and keep clean, which helps reduce the risk of food contamination.
Glass bottles and containers also provide an airtight seal that keeps cheese fresh for longer than plastic wrapping materials. Overall, buying cheese in glass is a great way to be more sustainable and help protect the environment.
A glass container is the best place to store your Roquefort, Blue, Gorgonzola, Brie, and Mozzarella cheese. And for zero waste storage, don’t pop it in a plastic bag - use a reusable alternative to Ziploc bags instead.
Find a store that allows you to purchase cheese in your own container
The best way to buy cheese is to find a bulk zero-waste store or a farmer's market. An advantage of buying it from these places is the freshness- the cheese you purchase is fresh from a farm. Bulk stores will cut you a block of cheese if you don't want to buy a full wheel. You just have to be around when they get new batches of cheese.
These stores or farmers' markets will allow you to buy it in your designated reusable food container. Also, some grocery stores might allow you to refill your plastic-free cheese containers if you ask them.
Buy in bulk with a group of friends
If you don't have stores selling cheese cuts around you, you can buy them in bulk with your friends. Everyone can contribute to buying a whole wheel of cheese and share it among yourselves. You're getting fresh cheese cuts and reducing plastic pollution.
Make your cheese
If you are up to it, you can make your own cheese from scratch instead of buying from stores. You can take some culinary classes to learn how to make cheese. Also, there are multiple resources online that can help you understand the making of homemade cheese. However, be sure to shop sustainably when buying materials to produce cheese, for example, plastic-free milk.
How to Keep Your Waste-Free Cheese Fresh
- Don’t store cheese near foods with highly aromatic flavors because the cheese will absorb the flavors.
- Apply olive oil on your cheese cuts to avoid molding.
- Don’t wrap your cheese too tightly. You should leave some room for it to breathe.
- Freeze shredded, crumpled, or cut cheese.
- Only purchase small quantities of cheese to avoid wastage
- You can also add a small amount of vinegar to the cheesecloth because it helps to kill mold.
- Last, store cheese in the vegetable section of your fridge.
And should you have any leftover cheese that has gone bad, our article answering can you compost cheese provides all you need to do so safely (mainly to avoid pests!). Plus, check out some of the best zero-waste cookbooks for recipe and meal plans for going zero-waste and sustainable living.
Cheese can be tricky to buy without plastic because it comes in many varieties and sizes. However, if you plan ahead and have the right supplies, buying cheese without creating any waste is possible. We hope the tips shared in this article help you reduce your environmental impact and enjoy delicious cheese without generating any trash!
Ian Tiseo, (August 22, 2022). Number of household plastic packaging waste items thrown away in the UK 2022.
Y.M. Ahmed Idris and I.H. Alhassan, 2010. Effect of Packaging Material on Microbiological Properties of Sudanese White Cheese. International Journal of Dairy Science, 5: 128-134.