Increasingly more people are starting to realise the impact of single use plastics and look for viable alternatives, so we spoke to Kath Austin founder of BeeBee Wraps
When you started making Beebee Wraps 5 years ago, it was purely to reduce the plastic consumption you used as a family. What other steps did you take at the time to limit your single use plastic usage?
When the kids were born we just wanted to give them the best of everything, like every parent. Food was a massive part of that and we felt really strongly about giving them the freshest food from the best sources. This really helped to cut down plastic too.
We also decided to use reusable nappies, we tried to buy sustainably made toys with less packaging and homemade items too and we starting getting a veggie box. Saying all of that I do have to paint the right picture, we weren’t and are still not perfect, far from it. Awareness and effort is where we are and we have so much more to learn.
I love that in the early days you were creating a product that worked for you, without considering if it was marketable or if there was a need. It means BeeBee Wraps come from a place of real love and the quality is exceptional.
I often describe BeeBee Wraps as an accidental business. It did come from a place of love, it came from my pottering in the kitchen and my slow and steady experimenting for something better. Friends and family loved BeeBee Wraps and persuaded me to put them out there to test the market. I listed on Etsy and they flew out! Then we launched our own website and never looked back.
What has been the most rewarding moment with BeeBee so far?
The most rewarding part of BeeBee Wraps so far has been two-fold. The day the sales soared because The Guardian had published an article including BeeBee Wraps as a great way to cut plastic was just an awesome day. The second reason is the steady stream of feedback from customers. The ways BeeBee Wraps has enabled people to go plastic free has been inspiring!
Can you tell us a little about the history of wrapping food in cloth and beeswax?
The history of wrapping food in wax cotton or paper goes back a long way. I often have this explained to me when I meet an older person at one of our stalls. I started this to bring back old techniques which worked perfectly well but were discarded in favour of cheaper solutions. Cheese and bread were most commonly kept in waxed cotton and in places you can still find this. However, these days you do have to check it’s a compostable wax. Petroleum based waxed paper and cotton is not biodegradable and has nowhere near the amazing properties of beeswax.
Are there other traditional arts that we could revisit that would help us to slow down while having a positive impact on the environment?
Learn to grow food, learn to cook from scratch and learn to connect with the outside world.
Taking an interest in our food and where it comes from we would improve our diets, our health and fitness, the seasonality of food, the environmental impact of the food industry and the treatment of animals.
Learning to cook again, from scratch, and understanding flavours and how they work together would help form a better relationship with food. And passing this down the line to our kids is crucial.
Getting back a connection to nature has massive benefits to health, Japanese doctors recommend forest baths for holistic wellness, that’s not a tub in the treetops but just a walk in the woods. If we’re connected to devices we’re possibly less connected to the natural world and if we don’t value the natural world we won’t defend it from destruction.
Even the most eco conscious people are so used to using cling film and sandwich bags. What can you tell us about the effects of single use plastics on the oceans that would make people think enough to stop using these products?
Everyone has seen the devastating effect of plastic in the oceans from Blue Planet. Think on this…every piece of plastic ever made is still somewhere on the planet. Not just in the oceans but in landfill too. Wildlife is the immediate victim of plastic pollution with seabirds feeding it to their young, whales starving to death with a belly full of carrier bags and natural habitats being completely destroyed through the pollution having to end up somewhere. However, we don’t fully know the effects it will have on us, it’s pretty terrifying how we might be ingesting microplastics without our knowledge. And we can’t fully know the effects of this for some time yet.
BeeBee Wraps are evidently much better for the environment than single use food wrap products, but are they as effective?
The environmental benefits of BeeBee Wraps are pretty self-explanatory, however, I talk more about their amazing ability to keep food fresher for longer. Plastic suffocates food, BeeBee Wraps allow food to breathe. As food grows older it emits water vapour which condenses onto plastic packaging allowing bacteria to grow, this spoils food. BeeBee Wraps allow the water vapour to pass through the fabric meaning food stays fresher. Salad in a plastic bag has a pungent smell of rot after only two days but wrapped in a BeeBee Wrap it’s still fresh after a week! So we are not only helping to reduce plastic pollution but we also help reduce food waste, a massive issue in a country where 40 per cent of fresh supermarket food is wasted!
Do you have any tips for people looking to reduce their usage of single use plastics?
There are so many things you can do. The important thing to do is remember to choose one thing, make it a habit, enjoy the change, then choose something else. We will not be happy people if we make our lives miserable and then ultimately return to using plastic.
Buy loose veg, get a veg box, carry a reusable water bottle, refuse straws, get glass bottles of milk, carry a reusable bag and a reusable straw, knife, fork and spoon, plan your packed lunch the day before, bake your own bread or buy unpackaged, use a bar of soap, use refill stations for detergents, give up gum, buy from a bulk food co-op (or start one!), use matches not lighters, google the answers where you don’t know what to do and, of course, use BeeBee Wraps to buy your food without packaging, store at home, take out for packed lunches and eat snacks on the go.
What is next for BeeBee Wraps?
We have so many plans that I get really over-excited! We’ll work as fast as we can to get there. Much of what we do with BeeBee Wraps is a way to get people thinking about their decisions, they are a vehicle for getting people to just think. So I’d love to be really effecting change in behaviours in the long term. For us right now it about getting the word and about our great alternative to cling film and plastic. We are always asked if we do bags as our lovely customers want something to take their BeeBee Wraps home in so keep an eye out for them. They’ll be organic too!