zero waste bread

Bread making at home? How can you reduce waste and do bread making without yeast?

Do you do bread making at home? Have you ever wondered how you can do it while avoiding plastic and throwing as little in the bin as possible?

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I regularly make bread and bread products at home! When I do, I prefer to create as little waste as possible in the process. I would love to make entirely plastic free and zero waste bread, but it is difficult to avoid it altogether. However by making a few simple tweaks you can reduce it.

Plastic free and zero waste (ish) ingredients for bread making at home

The key ingredients in this typical bread recipe are salt, yeast, oil, flour and water (personally I think 1 teaspoon of salt is enough).

You may be able to find you can get a lot of these things packaging free from a local zero waste shop (but you would need to check on how they do things now in the light of the virus). If you are shopping in other shops then,

  • Water from the tap is obviously plastic free. If you prefer filtered water, you could try bamboo charcoal
  • Salt – we bought sea salt in bulk from a French salt marsh that we visited when we did a house swap holiday, which has lasted us years! If you don’t want to buy in bulk, look out for salt that comes in a cardboard box. Recycle the cardboard when you are done.
  • Oil – we have saved money and packaging on olive oil by buying giant bulk bottles of it and decanting into smaller glass bottles when needed. Not entirely plastic free, but reduces plastic. You could just skip the giant bottle and buy only glass if you prefer. (Tip – if a recipe calls for butter, you can substitute it for the same weight of oil to make it vegan/ dairy free)
  • Flour – usually comes in paper bags which are easily recycled.
  • Yeast – I normally buy yeast in small tins, which I think is less waste overall than small sachets, but does have plastic lids.

What if you want to do bread making without yeast?

If you can’t get hold of yeast or want to avoid the packaging it comes in, then you could make sourdough instead. It uses a sourdough starter, which can you make at home from just flour and water. It is a bit fiddly and will take a few days to make. So you won’t be able to make your bread straight away when you start.

Reduced waste bread making methods

Clingfilm alternatives for bread making at home

First proof

Most recipes for making dough include the instruction to put some clingfilm over the dough when it is rising. However, there is absolutely no need to use this wasteful product. Even if it is biodegradable, it is still intended to be used once and then chucked. Plus biodegradable does not necessarily mean it will break down quickly on your home compost heap.

I gave up clingfilm years ago after discovering there were so many alternatives to clingfilm. When making bread the zero waste way, there are lots of options!

  1. Make the dough in a breadmaker – no clingfilm needed in there. You could also put dough in a slow cooker to rise.
  2. Leave the dough to rise in a bowl with a tea towel loosely draped over
  3. Put the dough in a bowl and then put it in an insulated bag, like a freezer bag or Wonderbag *ad* in a warm room.
  4. Heat an oven for 5 minutes, then let it cool for 15 minutes. Then put the dough in an ovenproof dish in the warm oven to rise.

Dough likes warm conditions, so in the summer I just put the dough in a bowl with a cloth over it and in the winter I am more likely to use the freezer bag or oven trick. Otherwise you need to leave the dough out much longer to rise in cooler conditions.

Second proof

After I have let my dough rise I shape it either for bread, rolls or for pizza. I put pizza and rolls on a pizza stone. I put bread dough in a stoneware loaf pan. If you don’t have stoneware, put it on the tray/ pan you are going to bake it in.

Sometime I don’t bother at all with a second proof if I have left the dough to rise for a long time beforehand, or if I run out of time. However if I do want to let it rise some more, I find the ideal thing to use this time round, instead of a tea towel is a mesh food umbrella*. It stays off the dough as it is rising and does the job well. Using a freezer bag, Wonderbag, a breadmaker or an oven in the same way as before will work well too.

Baking paper alternatives

When it is time to cook the bread, you can either do it in a bread maker, which wouldn’t use any baking paper, or an oven. I love baking on stoneware in the oven, it is the ideal material to bake on. Plus once seasoned, stoneware is naturally non-stick. Meaning there is no need for baking paper, which reduces waste.

Energy efficient bread making at home

For one loaf of bread a bread maker is an energy efficient option. However, if you don’t have a bread maker the best way to save energy would be to cook it at the same time as using the oven to cook other things.

Bread can also be baked in a slow cooker which again would be low energy (I haven’t tried this, so can’t say if it works well or not though).

Storing bread without disposable packaging

Once the bread is made I store it in a reusable bread bag. Homemade bread doesn’t stay fresh for long, so sometimes I freeze it.

The best way to freeze bread is in a plastic bag (you can keep reusing a bag from a shop bought loaf of bread). I did try using tea towels once to freeze pizza bases. Now I freeze spare pizza dough in tupperware containers instead of making it into bases to freeze.

Make sure you eat it all up!

If you ever have leftovers and aren’t sure what to do with them, these are my top ways to use up bread.

bread making at home, zero waste bread


  1. I've always used a damp teatowel to cover my dough. Afterwards it goes in the pile to be washed when the other kitchen towels and tablecloths are done.

  2. I sometimes make a bread pudding with bread leftovers. In this heat I've had to put some in the bin :-/ A vegetable crumble with a breadcrumb topping is an option too. Anyway, what I really wanted to say was thank you for recommending freecycle. I joined a few days ago and have just sent a message to someone offering our old camping stove. It's nice to know it's going to a good home, and there's none of the faffing about that comes with selling stuff on eBay.

  3. Zoe

    That's great about freecycle – I can't remember what life was like before I knew about it!

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