Life in the Green Lane

Environmental journalist Candice Batista shares video clips and eco-savvy advice from her TV show, A Greener Toronto.

Picking the right wrap remains a conundrum.When it comes to wrapping your food, what's the better option, paper or plastic?, the answer may surprise you. Picking the right wrap remains a conundrum. Plastic bags don't biodegrade and the chemicals found in them have been known to leach into the food. However according to plastic bag manufacturers are so efficient that the energy used to produce them is low. On the other hand, wax paper doesn't pose a health risk, is made from a renewable resource but the manufacturing is less efficient and it's hard to ensure that the pulp isn't coming from old-growth forests. Waxed paper bags are coated with moisture-resistant wax that is usually made from petroleum based paraffin. The raw materials used comes from trees and petroleum and at an estimated 3.2 kilowatt-hours per pound, paper requires more energy than plastic to make. In addition, the European Union and World Health Organization say the amount of wax leaching into food is within the daily acceptable intake. Wax paper that is not soiled can be recycled in some cities but the petroleum based coating makes it un-recyclable in most. The production of wax paper can contribute to habitat loss as it's hard to determine if the paper came from a well-managed forest or an endangered one. Now when it comes to plastic bags, here's what you need to know. The type of plastic used in any given bag differs according to the manufacturer. Always look for the number 4 it's the safest. Some companies do use # 3 or PVC, polyvinyl chloride which has been linked to health problems. Now although plastic bags are not biodegradable, they can be cleaned and reused over and over again. The environmental impact from plastic is enormous. It doesn't break down, it kills animals at alarming rates and it posses a possible health threat to us. The bottom line is both paper and plastic are poor choices. The greenest solution is to pack that yummy sandwich in a reusable container like the Greentainer.