I’m looking for longer lasting plastic free reusables – please help!!!

It was Zero Waste Week (sign up here for next year if you haven’t already) last week and although I really wanted to write about it during the week, I had a ridiculously busy week and just didn’t have time :(.

Sustainable gift wrap course
I had pledged to find some longer lasting reusables. In particular I wanted to find some alternatives to the reusable containers I am currently using.  At the moment I am relying on plastic sandwich boxes, plastic containers in my freezer and in between breakages plastic water bottles. I want to move away from plastic which generally ends up in the bin when it is finished with because we can only recycle plastic bottles in Brighton and Hove.

Water bottle problems:
I have tried various types of water bottles. I had a glass one I really liked for ages, but after several drops, the mouth of the bottle got chipped and eventually broke.  I tried again and bought a new one, but I put the bottle in a pocket of a rucksack and didn’t realise was that there was a stone in the pocket underneath the water bottle. I accidentally dropped the rucksack on the floor and the bottom of the water bottle smashed in the bag, which was a bit of a nightmare as I was out and about.
I didn’t want to risk giving the kids glass water bottles in case they broke, but thought metal might be ok. Within days of them having the metal water bottles, they dented them and then my younger son managed to completely break the sports cap bit to it.

I don’t like the plastic water bottles as although they may be BPA free, I don’t know what other substances are leaching into the water from them. They need replacing fairly frequently as the sports caps get chewed on and although I put them in the recycling, I’m not actually sure they can be recycled.

My next thought is to buy a metal water bottle that is protected in some way, or make a protective sleeve for it! I will also try to avoid having a plastic sports cap. Unless anyone has any better suggestions for me?

Freezer container problems:

I currently use rectangular take away style plastic boxes to store food in the freezer. They work really well because they fit neatly into the space, maximising the amount of food I can store in it. Plus when I want to use the food inside, I don’t need to worry about defrosting anything in advance. There is a bit of give in the plastic and the contents just pop out.
They break fairly regularly though and end up in the bin. I was taking them to family when I visited whose council does recycle plastic, but they were piling up and then I kept forgetting to take them. I decided that storing piles of broken plastic containers was a step too far for me and stopped doing it.
What is the alternative though? I know it is possible to freeze stuff in glass jars and I have frozen jam in jars before. You do have to be really careful taking them out the freezer though as sudden changes in temperature could cause them to crack. You also have to leave a gap in the jar to allow the jam to expand when frozen (same with the plastic containers as well).  They won’t make the best use of space in the freezer and I have to be organised and take things out to defrost in advance (I’m often not that organised). The other problem is that not everything will fit in glass jars.
There are other containers out there. The ones I have seen are metal ones, which can be quite expensive.  I usually have around 20 of the rectangular takeaway style plastic containers in my freezer and if I found a replacement container I liked it would be quite expensive to replace the plastic ones. I think there would be similar problems to the glass jars in that they would need to be defrosted in advance and they might not make the best use of space in my freezer. I don’t really want to keep using the plastic breakable ones though.

Lunch box issues:

Beth Terry of My Plastic Free Life has written a great blog post here on alternative sandwich containers. The problem for me is choosing between a wrap (which I can well imagine would contain a squished sandwich by lunchtime) or a tin, which knowing my kids would be dented and bashed out of shape within minutes.

I could give the wraps a go though for the kids – I could try putting them in a lunch bag and see what happens. I could also buy metal ones for the grown ups in my household.

Please help!

If you have some alternative ideas or advice for me over switching bottles and / or containers – particularly in the freezer department – please let me know – thanks!

One of the reasons I was so busy during Zero Waste Week was because I helped to put on an event to celebrate it and you can read more about that in my blog post tomorrow!

If you liked this post please click like on Facebook and follow on Twitter – thanks so much!


  1. Hello, I don't think I've ever commented here before, but I've visited a few times 😀

    For glass freezer storage, I use these boxes from IKEA, they're really good, and fairly cheap (cheaper than pyrex ones anyway!)

    I've spent the past couple of years replacing all my plastic storage boxes, I did it slowly so it didn't seem such an expense and because finding rectangular and square glass boxes with plastic lids was tricky!, I bought boxes from IKEA, a couple of pyrex ones off Ebay and Amazon (they were suuuuper expensive though!) and a couple from a local Asian supermarket type shop and found some in Home Bargains once too.

    I just bought steel lunchboxes from Ebay too, they were really cheap, but seem to be holding up ok so far!

    😀 x

  2. I have been wondering about this, too. We have stainless steel water bottles (although they do have plastic lids). I have reused old takeaway containers but have become concerned about the safety of doing this, especially over time, as well as the legacy of plastic. I use washable, seal-able plastic bags for some food storage but although they're reusable they're not the best solution. I will have a look at the suggestions from the previous commenter.

  3. I would highly recommend the Fifty/Fifty water bottles. They are vacuum insulated stainless steel, with plastic lids. I use mine non-stop, and it keeps water cold for 10-12 hours when sealed.

  4. Zoe

    Thanks for visiting and for your very helpful comment Susie! It sounds like a good idea to change containers gradually, so it isn't too expensive and I can work out which ones I like. I will look into the containers you have linked to.

  5. Hi Zoë!

    Great idea to move away from plastic to more long-lasting reusable tools.

    I really like my Klean Kanteen Reflect water bottle. It has a stainless steel cap. Works perfectly. I dropped it a few times, so it has some dents, but it's not too bad. I bought a bottle cover to protect it. The cover is made of wool.

    For food, I have a sandwich bag that I use for nuts, hard-boiled eggs, veggies like carrots or cucumbers, and occasionally for sandwiches. Of course you have to be careful that your sandwich does not get squeezed.

    In addition, I often use my Sanctus Mundo food containers. These are made of stainless steel and are leak proof. I even use them for soup and sauces. Hardly any dents in these containers, despite frequent usage over the past few years.

    I also have Klean Kanteen food canisters. Those I use if I bring along a warm meal and there is not microwave available.

    As to food in my freezer, I use gastronorm containers that are used in the professional catering industry. I bought them online and found them quite affordable.

    Please let me know if you have any questions. Good luck on your plastic-free journey!

  6. It would be ideal to find these products freely available everywhere wouldn't it – there's a real gap in the marketplace for someone to fill. I live in New Zealand; I use a stainless steel Ecotanka, stainless steel drink bottle with a tough platic lid, which I have had for years. I have just bought eco lunchboxes (stainless steel 3 piece) off Amazon – they were expensive, but should last forever. For freezing I double wrap meats in waxed paper (compostable) secured with sellotape (biodegrabale cellulose tape) and then freeze them in a recycled food plastic bag. It works well with little waste. I carefully use glass jars in the freezer too, with no disasters yet.

  7. Zoe

    Thanks for the suggestions! Where did you get the sandwich bag from?

  8. Zoe

    That's good to hear you haven't had any disasters with glass! I definitely agree it would be great to find these products everywhere.

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