I didn’t really think about how much plastic was in my baking until I started paying attention. There were the sandwich bags I stuffed with leftover brownies. The disposable pastry bags I used to pipe swirls of buttercream. And the plastic wrap ... so much plastic wrap. To cover my proofing bread dough, store my leftover cake, wrap my frozen cookies, and plenty more.  

I’ve been thinking deeply about how I can incorporate more environmentally friendly practices into my baking, and one thing has become clear: Decreasing my consumption of single-use plastic is a necessary place to start. 

As with most topics related to environmental sustainability, there are no clear-cut, easy answers to the problem of plastic. But after a little bit of searching, I found a lot of ways to leave the plastic wrap on the roll. How you bake in your own kitchen depends on your individual circumstances, and what’s right for me may not be the best choice for you. But if you’re tired of buying plastic baggies only to throw them away a week later, read on.  

Covered bowl half full of bread dough Mark Weinberg
Plastic wrap is great for covering bread doughs, but there are other options out there. 

First, let’s define “single-use plastic” 

The meaning of single-use plastic is right there in the name: It’s meant to be used one time, then discarded. In baking, the most common example is plastic wrap, used for countless important tasks — everything from storing leftover baked goods to preventing doughs from drying out.   

Of course, there are ways to reuse plastic products intended for a single use, like washing a plastic sandwich bag. That said, such products will eventually wear down, and in time they’ll have to be discarded and replaced.  

Why we should be cutting back on our plastic use  

According to a report by the Center for International Environmental Law, “plastic proliferation threatens our planet and the climate at a global scale.” That threat is for a variety of reasons. For one, making plastic products is resource-intensive; the more we use plastic, the more resources are required to make more of it. According to that same report, “Nearly every piece of plastic begins as a fossil fuel, and greenhouse gases are emitted at each stage of the plastic lifecycle.” 

Then, once disposed of, plastic can wind up in oceans and lead to waterway pollution, something the United Nations has deemed “a planetary crisis.” It can also end up in landfills, where it takes a long time to degrade, if at all. That discarded plastic leads to microplastics that leach into the soil, where it can have a damaging effect on soil health. What’s more, discarded plastic that ends up in landfills and incinerators can release greenhouse gasses that contribute to global climate change; according to this report by the EPA, in 2016 more than half the emissions from the incineration of waste in the U.S. was attributable to the combustion of plastics. 

It’s clear plastic consumption is a huge issue for our planet. And sure, it can be hard to grasp how one less sheet of plastic wrap really makes a difference. But personally, I’m trying to do all I can to minimize my negative impact on our planet. This is something we can all seek to address in every part of our lives, but as bakers, here are some ways we can eliminate use specifically in our kitchens.  

(Heads up: At King Arthur, we only recommend the products that we, as bakers, truly love. When you buy through external links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.)  

Dough bucket with rising dough PJ Hamel
Fellow blogger PJ puts her dough-rising bucket to use for proofing doughs. 

Covering bowls  

This is one area in which I use the most plastic. Instead of automatically reaching for that roll of plastic wrap, try using something else to keep doughs from drying out:   

  • Bee’s Wrap: You may be familiar with this product, a washable, reusable, and fully biodegradable wrap that clings, sticks, and seals like plastic. It’s great for covering bowls and pans, plus wrapping pie dough while it chills (and plenty of other uses — this won’t be the last time it’s recommended). 

  • Plates, pans, and lids: As long as a plate, pan, or saucepan lid is big enough to cover a bowl opening and flat enough to be fully flush to the rim, it makes a nice DIY reusable bowl cover. 

  • Reusable bowl covers or storage bowls with a reusable lid: Of course, if you bake a lot you might want to upgrade to a real reusable bowl cover. These are big favorites for many King Arthur bakers. You can also find sheet pans with reusable covers for bakes like cinnamon rolls or bagels.  

  • Dough-rising buckets: Basically a storage bowl with a lid, but made specifically for bread! 

  • Old produce or grocery bags: If you do have plastic bags lying around (though it’s best to avoid this additional instance of single-use plastic!), they can be used as bowl covers. Ditto for plastic shower caps — they can be reused for a very long time. 

  • An upside-down bowl: Really! As fellow baker Kye demonstrates in the video below (skip ahead to the 12:40 mark), you can just turn your work bowl upside down over rising dough. (This doesn’t work well for super-wet or sloppy doughs.)  


Decorating cakes and other baked goods 

I’m not going to lie: It’s convenient to use disposable pastry bags because you can simply toss them in the trash instead of painstakingly washing clean. And there is a sustainability trade-off: The hot water needed to wash canvas bags gives them an environmental footprint. But since I’m trying to be better about avoiding single-use plastic specifically, I’m using …  

  • Reusable pastry and piping bags: OK, cleaning them really isn’t that bad. A thorough rinse under hot water gets rid of most of the frosting, and soon your bag is ready to pop back in the drawer. Which, admittedly, feels a lot better than dumping in the garbage. (Also, fellow blogger PJ Hamel throws hers in the dishwasher, an easy cleaning solution!)

Storing baked goods  

I have a nasty habit of storing leftover baked goods in large plastic zip-top bags, but it’s something I’m trying to address! Here are some great alternatives: 

  • Reusable food bags: A straightforward switch from disposable plastic bags to ones you can use again and again, without worrying about them wearing down.  

  • Old cookie tins: I love packing up my holiday cookies in festive tins, and it took me too long to realize that this doesn’t have to be a December-only practice. Lidded tins will store your baked goods airtight — and if you use one of those blue Royal Dansk tins, you’ll get a hit of nostalgia every time you open it. (This tip works well for treats you’re gifting; more on that in a second.) 

Two packets wrapped with Bee's Wrap John Sherman
Wonderful, versatile Bee’s Wrap.

Gifting or donating baked goods  

Another instance in which plastic zip-top bags are all too convenient. Instead, try some of these other options:  

  • Glass jars and containers: Jars are usually available at thrift stores on the cheap, a great way to find reused materials. Dress them up with bows or twine for a prettier presentation. 

  • Bee’s Wrap (again, I know!): You guessed it: This is another great place to use Bee’s Wrap. It’s like a little bonus gift for your loved one — not only do they get a delicious treat, but also a handy addition to their kitchen. 

  • Old takeout containers: Turn that single-use takeout container into a reusable solution by packing it with giveaway treats.

  • Your baking pan or a pretty plate: If you’re gifting to a friend or loved one that you see frequently, why not share your baked goods directly in the pan (easier for you!) or on a nice decorative plate — both of which they can return to you when you see them again.* 

*In the South, where I’m from, there’s an old unspoken rule that you never return an empty dish  there should always be something in it. Maybe use this as inspiration to start an ongoing baked good swap with a friend!   

Of course, these are just a few suggestions for materials to use in your kitchen. You can get creative with all sorts of options: As reported by the New York Times last fall, people turn to everything from old Cool Whip containers to empty gelato pints for home storage, and sometimes, those containers pack as much of an emotional punch as the treats they store.   

Do you have any go-to tips or materials to reduce single-use plastic in your kitchen? I’d love to hear them! Please share in the comments below.    

Cover photo by Mark Weinberg.

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Rossi Anastopoulo
The Author

About Rossi Anastopoulo

Rossi Anastopoulo grew up in Charleston, SC, which is how she fell in love with biscuits. She geeks out over pie history and loves to bake anything that requires whipping egg whites.  

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