Story by Pia Amberger, USAG Ansbach Environmental Office
ANSBACH, Germany – Fruits, vegetables, bread, leftovers or sandwiches for lunch break – wrap it in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and everything is perfectly packaged for transport or storage in the refrigerator. At least that is what we thought. In reality aluminum foil can release carcinogenic aluminum into the food, which ultimately ends up in our bodies in small incremental amounts. Plastic wrap too, is no longer a good option in the face of the plastic flood that is sweeping over the planet. Once it has served its purpose, it immediately ends up in the garbage. As such, it is time to think about an alternative to these items, which is made out of natural materials – Beeswax wrapping paper (Bienenwachstücher)!
By no means is this a new invention. Food was already wrapped in oil and wax soaked fabric remnants before aluminum foil and other packaging material were ever invented to conserve the aroma of the wrapped items. Today, beeswax is no longer just used to make candles, it has also found its niche in the cosmetic industry due to its many positive proper-ties. Beeswax is antibacterial and antiseptic and is therefore also perfect for the usage in the food sector, as it can keep food hygienic fresh. For that reason, many zero waste/plastic stores or sustainable online shops now offer reusable and sustainable beeswax paper or bee wraps for little money as a natural alternative to foils and plastic wrap.
You could also make the beeswax paper yourself. All you need are cotton cloths (not too thick and no synthetics), beeswax (old beeswax candles or pastilles, which are more convenient) and coconut oil. First you cut the cotton cloth into the desired shapes and sizes. Smaller ones for sandwiches and larger sizes to cover bowls and dishes. Put the prepared towels on a baking tray with baking paper and smooth out the wrinkles. Measure 50 grams/1.7 oz of beeswax into a bowl. The quality of the bees-wax plays a big factor in terms of the properties of the wax (e.g. antibacterial properties). Melt coconut oil (at maximum only 10 percent of the used wax amount) in a pot and mix it with the beeswax afterwards. Roughly spread the wax mixture over the cotton cloth pieces and let it melt in the oven at 80˚C/176˚F. If necessary, spread it more evenly with a brush when the wax has melted. Immediately after taking the wax sheets out of the oven, dab the excess wax of the still hot sheets with another cotton cloth. That way nothing is lost. Then you hang up the cloths with a clothespin until they have dried evenly. If a few areas are still without wax reheat the sheets. This can also be repeated if the wax covering is ever damaged.
All food types except for raw meat or fish can be wrapped in a beeswax paper. In addition, the beeswax becomes pliable and flexible by the touch of your hands for easy shaping. Cleaning these reusable cloths is very simple: just wash them off with cold water occasionally or use a mild organic detergent and let it air dry. Do not use warm or hot water unless you want to melt the wax.