Plastics Help Prevent Kitchen Waste: Guest Post by Duff Goldman

Duff's Kitchen

By chef and television personality Duff Goldman

If you love food as much as I do, I bet you hate to see it go to waste. I knew food waste was a big problem, but just not how big until I recently learned this shocking statistic—experts estimate that about 42 percent of the U.S. food supply is lost or wasted every year. That’s nearly half!

How does it happen? Think about the expired container of yogurt or the uneaten leftovers we throw away, plus all the food that never even makes it from farm to table. It may not seem to amount to much, but the fact is it really adds up. And when we waste food, we also waste the water, fuel, and other resources used to produce and transport it. So when you think about it, it’s easy to see why food waste is a big problem.

That’s why I’ve started thinking about ways to reduce food waste in my kitchen—and what I’ve found is that a little bit of plastics can prevent wasted food. Lightweight plastic packaging helps protect food from oxygen, light, moisture, temperature changes, dirt, germs, and other conditions that can lead to food waste.

My stir-fry recipe is a great example. I use a variety of vegetables, including fresh cucumber. A cucumber wrapped in lightweight plastic shrink film might seem silly, but the truth is that a wrapped cucumber can last up to two weeks, whereas an unprotected cucumber may only last a couple days. I also look for green beans, peppers, snow peas, and other fresh veggies in … wait for it … “modified atmosphere packaging.” What it does is as cool as it sounds: it’s typically plastic packaging such as a bag that helps control the amount of oxygen near the food to keep it fresher longer.

If I end up with extra veggies, I like to use plastic zipper bags because they allow me to squeeze almost all the air out of the bag so food lasts longer in the fridge. And today there are all sorts of lightweight, reusable plastic storage containers—I even have one that’s specially designed for fresh vegetables such as produce. It has a vent that allows produce to breathe, as well as a tray that separates it from moisture, so my veggies stay crisp. That’s pretty cool.

When I make stir-fry, I like to add a little bit of fruit, like dried cranberries, to balance out the savory flavors with some sweetness. You now can find dried fruit, nuts, and many other foods in lightweight, flexible pouches made with plastics. These pouches protect food with very little material, and they’re often re-sealable so you can use only the amount of food you need, then save the rest for later.

Those are just a few examples, but the fact is many of the ingredients I use for my stir-fry and other recipes are protected by just a little bit of lightweight plastics. And it’s for good reason: plastic packaging basically is an investment in our food and all the resources we use to produce it. Why? Because up to 10 times more resources are used to make and distribute food than to make the packaging that protects it. And that’s good news for any chef’s bottom line—not to mention the environment.

Now that you know a bit about how to prevent food waste by using plastics in the kitchen, here’s one of my favorite stir-fry recipes for you to try at home. Also check out my new video for more information on reducing food waste in the kitchen.