Out with plastic, in with ‘green’ wrap

Janice Hodgson makes re- usable food wraps using bees and soya wax from her home in Charlo
Janice Hodgson makes re- usable food wraps using bees and soya wax from her home in Charlo

An environmentally minded Port Elizabeth mum was so exasperated by all the pesky plastics in her kitchen that she began looking for greener options.

When she couldn’t find one for clingwrap for her children’s sarmies, Janice Hodgson didn’t give up – she began experimenting until she came up with a sustainable alternative.

Hodgson’s initiative has led to a thriving home business for her and several staff. Her re-usable food wraps – non-toxic, eco-friendly cloth wraps infused with locally sourced beeswax and coconut oil – are made under the label Janice’s Kitchen, and sold wholesale to stores and online across SA.

Hodgson, who previously worked in the baking industry, says she can’t claim to have invented the wraps since, historically, beeswax was used for preserving by the Egyptians.

“Then, in the 1900s, beeswax-infused cloth was used for food storage over jars and containers,” she says.

She took this concept and gave it a modern twist.

The wraps now take the place of all plastic wrap, zip-lock bags, foil and waxed paper in her home – and have the added benefit of making lunch boxes look pretty.

“Plastic wrap is nasty stuff and one of the worst things on the planet for the environment,” she says.

Her beeswax-and-cotton wraps work well for sandwiches, and for storing products like cheese and veggies, even cut avocado, in the fridge, where they are effective in inhibiting mould and discoloration. They are not suitable for meat as contamination can occur.

Using them is easy: “You simply wash them in cold water then let them dry naturally.”

They come in different sizes and won’t melt if you forget your lunch box in the sun as the wax has been baked into the fabric in Hodgson’s oven!

Even when the wraps have eventually seen better days they continue to be useful: “They make the most amazing fire-lighters,” she says.

Hodgson now makes a vegan and 100% biodegradable option using fabric made from hemp – “a highly sustainable, low-impact crop” – impregnated with soya wax and coconut oil.

The mission to lead a more sustainable life began with her family: “As a mother of two young kids I was frustrated that they learnt about recycling and saving the planet at school, but then went to a restaurant and were still given plastic straws.”

The family made a committed effort to reduce as much plastic as possible, to the point of using bamboo toothbrushes and old-fashioned straight razors.

“The kids [Tayla, 13, and Amber, 11] make eco-bricks, and we compost, make use of [recycling company] Greencycle and just try to re-use as much as possible.” Hodgson began researching alternatives to single-use plastic straws, and now stocks and sells stainless steel and collapsible silicone straws; brushes with which to clean these; bamboo straws from Mozambique and even sugar straws.

Her newest discovery is pasta straws from Italy, though she would have preferred to source these locally.

“I contacted all the big pasta makers in SA and none had the machinery to make these.”

This straw is basically one long, straight macaroni that’s surprisingly robust.

“They work well for most beverages except fizzy soft drinks like Coke which, given the high sugar content, dissolves them too quickly,” she says.

Hodgson’s products are available at Cupboard Love and Foodies in Port Elizabeth, at the shop at Sanccob, as well as online at the likes of Faithful to Nature and Merrypak.

For more information contact Janice Hodgson on 072-557-2579, e-mail admin@janiceskitchen.co.za or visit www.janiceskitchen.co.za