I'll never use plastic bags again after trying Bee's Wrap
Is beeswax a viable solution to plastic containers?
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Here are some of my new decade resolutions: save money, eat mindfully, be environmentally conscious. Your basic be-a-better-person starter kit. I’m the exact type of person liable to go out and get a bunch of beeswax wrap, and, if it’s any good, to go a step further and start insisting that everyone in my life should get some, too.
A few months ago, hanging out with a friend, I mentioned that I was thinking about going all-in on Bee’s Wrap. “Oh,” she said. “I feel like that stuff must suck.” As the wide-eyed, mason-jar-using, environmentally-conscious-wannabe that I am, her skepticism surprised me. But maybe it shouldn’t have. A little bit of skepticism toward new (or new-to-us) products feels natural. But is the skepticism justified? Or is Bee’s Wrap worth the investment? I spent a month trying it out.
What is Bee’s Wrap?
Bee’s Wrap is one brand of beeswax wrap, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a food wrap made from cloth covered in a thin, even layer of beeswax. The waxiness allows the cloth to stick to itself, so, like saran wrap, it can be used to cover bowls or encase sandwiches. Unlike saran wrap, beeswax wrap is reusable. When you bend the wrap in your hands, your body heat causes the wax to soften, making the wrap very pliable. If you leave it somewhere cool (like a refrigerator, or your midwinter Bostonian kitchen counter), it will stiffen again.
Since the wrap is affected by heat, you’ll want to wash it gently in soap and cool water, and keep it out of the oven or microwave. If you take care of it, the Bee’s Wrap website says, one piece of should last about a year. Once the wrap loses its stickiness, it’s even compostable. Just don’t do what I did and slice bread while it’s still sitting on Bee’s Wrap, because you will slice right through the wrap (shocker, I know).
How can you use it?
You can use Bee’s Wrap for almost anything. Keyword “almost”: the Bee’s Wrap website does discourage using the product with raw meat. By that same token, I would avoid using it with anything that makes you worried about cross-contamination, or about growing gross bacteria—remember, you’re can’t scrub it in boiling water! Baked goods, veggies, cheese, and the tops of bowls are all safe bets.
My very favorite way to use Bee’s Wrap was to cover leftovers that could remain in the safety of my own kitchen. It was great for the ends of veggies and for loaves of bread (i.e., my two main food groups). My second favorite use was for carrying not-too-messy snacks, like nuts, cheese, crackers, and baby carrots.
How I tested
I tried out the Bee’s Wrap Variety Pack, which includes two small, two medium, two large, and one bread-sized pieces of beeswax wrap. For a month, I used the wrap on everything I could. It covered my bowls, kept my leftover veggies safe, packed my lunches, and carried my snacks. To add a splash of danger, I sometimes intentionally used the wrap in ways that struck me as risky, like to contain a messy tuna sandwich tossed in my well-jostled backpack.
Why Bee’s Wrap?
Bee’s Wrap was the brainchild of Sarah Kaeck, who we actually had a chance to interview a few years ago. She started making Bee’s Wrap at home in Vermont, then realized there was a market for people who wanted sustainable food storage solutions. Eight years since the company’s inception, the wrap is still manufactured in Vermont. I liked the idea of supporting a small, woman-owned business that was semi-local to me. Apparently, other businesses agree: Bee’s Wrap has been the most common brand of beeswax wrap that I’ve seen for sale in shops, online retailers, and museum gift stores.
I’ve used a few beeswax wraps before, created by small makers and local shops. Bee’s Wrap’s basic material is pretty comparable to what I’ve seen before. It was perhaps a tad heavier than some of the wrap I’ve used in the past, which I liked. This could have been psychological, but I had a sense it would hold up a little bit better.
What I loved about Bee’s Wrap
The concept is amazing
This one’s obvious. When I was a college barista, I was trained to mix drinks in paper cups, and I spent years generating a truly horrifying amount of paper and plastic waste. Since that stint, I’d become self-conscious of my own kitchen waste. From plastic bags for bulk items, to battered take-out containers, I found myself succumbing to single-use plastic over and over again. It’s tough to beat the convenience of a plastic sandwich bag—but with its reusability, flexibility, and simple upkeep, Bee’s Wrap manages to do it.
It’s absolutely gorgeous
This is utterly subjective, but I’ve browsed plenty of beeswax wrap I did not find attractive. Bee’s Wrap designs are simple and pretty. Basically, I can pull them out in public and feel like a chic young woman, instead of a preschooler with an excessively cutesy lunchbox. If you’re not shallow, please ignore this point.
The sensory experience is great
I love how Bee’s Wrap feels in my hands. Out of the box, it’s stiff and cool, and on a chilly morning it requires a few moments of working to become completely pliant. But more than that, I love the way it smells.
This is how much I like the smell of Bee’s Wrap: a week into using it, I spent a lazy morning scouring the internet for beeswax-scented perfume (even in this golden era of perfume, my findings were limited, so if any entrepreneurial young olfactorists are reading this please feel free to run with this idea and then shoot me an email). When I lean over the wrap, I feel the same gentle joy that I get from lighting a nice candle. It’s just extremely pleasant.
Sure, saran wrap works perfectly well without providing sensory pleasure. That’s not the point of the product. But I’d argue this is a real benefit of Bee’s Wrap. So many of our products are designed to be neutral: to allow us to move as quickly as possible, by making sure we have nothing to notice. Bee’s Wrap isn’t like that. It was nice to feel a connection to the object I was using, and even helped me feel a connection to my food.
It comes in different sizes
This sounds simple, but it was a relief to my biggest frustration with beeswax wrap. In the past, I had purchased beeswax wrap that looked big enough (meant to cover a “small sandwich”), but I found these pieces frustratingly inadequate to handle my Dagwood-style lunch creations. By the end of the month, there wasn’t a single size of Bee’s Wrap I wasn’t routinely using, although I favored the large.
I was grateful to have the variety box: if someone came to me asking where to start with Bee’s Wrap, this sampler is what I’d suggest. I appreciated being able to pull out different pieces depending on my needs, and to figure out which pieces I tended to use.
You can use it for nearly anything
It’s flexible both in terms of the multiple ways Bee’s Wrap can be used, and the literal flexibility of the material. If you asked me a year ago to describe my biggest obstacle to swearing off single-use plastic, it would be this: I hate carrying around empty containers. I’m on the go a lot, and carting around a backpack full of empty jars and tupperware is annoying. By comparison, I loved being able to crumple up and toss an irrevocably roughed-up sandwich bag or a piece of saran wrap. While there are some great space-saving tupperware options on the market right now, I loved how easily I could fold Bee’s Wrap into a satisfyingly tiny and weightless bundle. Knowing I could later use this same product to cover entire loaves of bread was even better.
It does what it’s supposed to do
Mostly importantly: Bee’s Wrap works. Honestly, it works better than I expected. When it came to lunches, baked goods, and refrigerated veggies, I saw no noticeable difference in freshness between food covered in Bee’s Wrap and food covered with plastic wrap—if anything, Bee’s Wrap might have preserved freshness better. After days in the fridge, my Bee’s Wrapped onion half was perfectly crisp.
I’ve only been using Bee’s Wrap for about a month, so I’ll have to get back to you about how long it holds up, but over the past month I haven’t noticed any deterioration beyond a little staining. During my trial, Bee’s Wrap met my expectations in every way.
What I didn’t love about Bee’s Wrap
It’s not the best for warm environments
Bee’s Wrap knows what it wants: warm hands, cool kitchen. It definitely works on the go (it held my tuna sandwich admirably), but when I carried a snack around all day in a warm environment, the wax would start to unfurl. This never led to disaster—it was more of a minor annoyance. I would be cautious about repeating the tuna sandwich test on a hot summer day.
You have to wait for it to dry
I found the process of cleaning Bee’s Wrap really easy. A few swipes with a soapy sponge, and you’re done. It was drying it that got on my nerves. If I was a slightly more charming person, I would have tacked up a mini clothesline and hung up the pieces to dry that way. As it is, I just draped it in the dish drainer, trying to keep the pieces from sticking to each other, and quickly discovered that I am really lacking sanitary cat-proof spots for various pieces of food wrap to dry.
It’s flexible, but not totally flexible
As much as I wish it would, Bee’s Wrap is not going to replace all the plastic in my kitchen. Call me when you figure out an equally convenient and sustainable way to transport soup.
It’s not cheap
This is the only downside that I could see stopping me from buying Bee’s Wrap again. The variety pack retails for $42. If I was to purchase just the pieces I wanted, I would probably get two large wraps, one bread wrap, and one sandwich wrap (this isn’t included in the variety pack, but it features a piece of string you can use to tie up your sandwich, which it very cute). Altogether, that comes to $40.40 for a year’s worth of food wrap. That’s not too extreme of an annual investment, but I still suspect I could get a better deal from a local maker.
So, should you buy Bee’s Wrap?
I’m a convert. I don’t think Bee’s Wrap will kick plastic food storage out of my home (I still need something to cover meat, and containers that are safe in every temperature), but it will definitely reduce it. For now, I’m completely content with my Bee’s Wrap set and a few well-chosen pieces of reusable plasticware.
If you’re looking for an all-around great sustainable plastic wrap alternative, or for a thoughtful gift, I would definitely recommend checking out the Bee’s Wrap variety pack.