Aluminium foil is quite a usual thing in the kitchen. It’s easy to use, protects our food from outside effects and it’s very practical for wrapping food for work or travelling. But we are unaware of hidden effects of this popular item.
Aluminium is highly reactive metal and it reacts with the food processed in aluminium utensils or wrapped in aluminium foil. When we wrap food in aluminium foil it leaches out and makes it harmful for our health. More the food is heated more will be the leaching. It is more reactive to the acidic and spicier food. When aluminium enters in our body together with food our digestive system is unable to digest it. It accumulates in our body in our liver, kidneys, bones and our brain tissues. A significant amount of aluminium can affects our nervous system and cause diseases like Alzheimer, depression, memory lost and anxiety.
However, it is safer to wrap cold food like bread or sandwiches. Still, we have to be careful not to wrap acidic food, for example vegetables like tomatoes.
But there is another question. Usually we use aluminium foil to conserve leftover food so that it stays fresh and we can eat it later. It is a disposable item and rarely reused. Then, is aluminium foil better for environment comparing to the plastic wrapping? I personally believe that both are unnecessary items of our disposable society.
I checked COMPASS -Sustainable Packaging Coalition (http://www.sustainablepackaging.org/) a software tool that allows you to compare the environmental impacts of different packaging materials from manufacture to disposal. Aluminium foil was quite a loser in all different measurements, like fossil fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, human health impacts, aquatic toxicity, and potential for eutrophication. Eutrophication is water pollution, an excessive richness of nutrients in a lake or other body of water, frequently due to run-off from the land, which causes a dense growth of plant life. That can lead to the deficit of oxide in the water which deadly effects fish and other water animals. (https://www.design-compass.org/resources/pdf/LIFE_CYCLE_METRICS.pdf). Most importantly, aluminium has a heavy manufacturing footprint.
There are two most straightforward options. Don’t use aluminium foil if it is not really necessary. If you are using it, then at least wash it and reuse it again! And hey, don’t you think your food will stay perfectly fine, if you save it in a steal lunch box? Also, be aware and use recycled aluminium!
Aluminium foil takes such a small, non remarkable part of our lives and it is just unbelievable to think that it can have such huge effects. For a long time, I have never consider it as harmful or un-eco friendly. Now I believe it does have a remarkable foot print to our Environment and Health. It could be a reminder of all the small items in our lives that first seems to be so innocent but the truth is much more unpleasant. Would our lives really become more difficult and less comfortable if we just say NO to them?
Katja Polc, Member of Vatavaran team