What to do when your beeswax wraps wear out

Beeswax wraps are the thing, no question. But what happens when they wear out? Don’t let it be landfill – it’s pretty simply to bring them back to like-new.


Whether you buy beeswax food covers or make your own, the coating will wear out over time. How quickly depends on how often you use and wash them. It’s reasonable to expect them to work well for a few months. A year is a proper stretch based on my own experience. Unused in a drawer maybe.

Sometimes they crease, sometimes they crack, and sometimes the coating flakes off. This is all easy to remedy, and wear out isn’t actually a terrible thing (I’ll explain more below). First let me tell you why tossing your beeswax wraps is no bueno.

Could cotton be worse than plastic?

Yes, if it’s treated as disposable. Cotton is a chemical laden crop that has no great end of life option. it follows that it’s best to keep textiles that have useful life in them in use.

  • Cotton = water + pesticide extravaganza. Cotton may be a renewable resource – it is a plant, after all – but a thirsty and pesticide-laden crop. Calling cotton a natural fibre is like calling a potato chip a vegetable. i.e. only partly true. And natural isn’t synonymous with harmless anyway (asbestos is a natural fibre). Natural also isn’t the same thing as sustainable. Witness the Aral sea before and after decades of irrigation for cotton production, if you need further convincing.
  • Textiles are not readily recyclable. There are technologies here and there, but for the most part, textile recycling is not a thing yet. We can compost some materials, but that’s more of a mitigation strategy than a boon to the soil microbiota.

Beeswax wraps are a better solution than plastic wrap, but only when they are kept and reused over a long period of time. We’re not just trying to break even by making these sorts of switches, but improve things.

Here’s what to do when your beeswax wraps wear out

Here’s how to revitalize beeswax wraps that have seen better days:

A quick hit in the oven: The simplest trick to refresh your beeswax wraps is to pop them into the oven on a baking sheet on low heat to remelt and distribute the wax. This will deal with any creasing and cracking. I reuse the same compostable parchment sheet from making the wraps to do this. If there’s a bit of wax still left on the parchment from making them the first time, all the better.

OR

Deep clean and re-wax: If you want to clean up grubbier looking wraps, take the opportunity to do a hot soapy wash of the fabric. This may cause some of the wax to come off, which we normally try to avoid, but once in a while it’s okay. Hang the fabric in the hot sun to lift any stubborn stains, then follow either this simple wax recipe, or the more involved pine rosin formula to add a bit of wax back to the fabric.

OR

Keep using it in its half worn out state: If the fabric is in an awkward stage between waxed and worn out, it can still be used as a handy (and lightly water resistant) cloth for buying food on the go.

With the occasional refresh, your beeswax wraps will last a long time

If you’re thinking, this is too obvious to write about, I beg to differ. Especially since many people will be receiving these as gifts, and won’t have the experience of discovering just how easy they are to make or remake at home. I also see sellers promoting them as lasting ‘up to a year’, which implies an expiry on the wrap rather than just the coating. Also, a personal experience – a friend tossed hers after they wore out and only told me afterwards. The truth is that these could and should last an incredibly long time and are nearly endlessly reusable.

How to upcycle ugly, wax-covered candle jars

I took in a pile of candle jars that someone had cast aside. Where others saw trash, I saw an upcycling opportunity.  


Saving old wax-covered candle jars from landfill

The first step in making these eyesores useable was to clean up the waxy goo, and de-uglify them. As you can see, there was plenty of wax remaining in each one.

I used an old razor blade from my safety razor spent pile to scrape away the exterior labelling from the smooth glass.

To get the wax off candle jars use heat or cold. One trick is to put the container in the freezer to encourage the wax to harden, contract, and pull away from the edge. It’ll make the wax easier to chip off. I think it depends what kind of wax you’re working with.

It didn’t work for me here, so instead I placed them on a tray in an oven on low heat. When the wax had softened, I scraped it out and then wiped with an old rag. As I’m not sure what kinds of chemicals were used for the candles, any chunks of wax remnants went in my landfill container. The last step was to wipe the jars with some homemade vinegar all purpose cleaner until each one had nice shiny glass.

Ways to upcycle old candle jars

And now for the fun part. There are plenty of uses for clean, de-waxed old candle jars, aside from the obvious possibility of reusing to make your own candles. Here are a few things I did and you could too:

Use as a planter for succulents

There is no drainage, so water minimally, or add some rocks to the bottom before you add soil to keep roots from suffocating. Succulents and cacti are a great choice because they barely need watering.

Use as a container for rags

These rags are made from a worn out tee shirt, cut up into small pieces. I use these plus a small bit of coconut oil to remove eye makeup at the end of the day.

Store looseleaf tea

This candle jar can with an airtight lid, so I use it for storing looseleaf tea. You could store anything in it though.

Your turn, what would you do with old candle jars?

I tried starting seeds in eggshells and it totally worked

I finally tried the old start seeds in eggshells trick and it worked a charm. Reassuring too, since I encouraged you to do this very thing earlier this month. 


Hope and ruin in the kitchen garden

What I lack in skill, I make up for in enthusiasm. The seeds I plant don’t always sprout, the seeds I sprout don’t always flourish, and other times I’ve gotten everything right only to have rats eat my carrots while they were still in ground.

Perpetual optimism and dreams of homegrown herbs and veg propel me to keep trying. There remains some magic in that first glimpse of a seedling pushing through the soil wearing its jaunty seed shell beret.

And so I am always looking for ways to improve the ecological odds.

How to start seeds in eggshells

I’d found this simple seed starting idea somewhere on the internet and decided to give it a go. It uses two waste materials from the kitchen: eggs and the egg cartons. This means you don’t need to buy special containers or use plastic – making it frugal, permaculture friendly and Zero Waste.

Step 1: Save your eggshells

They don’t need to be a perfect half shape, and it’s not an issue if there is additional cracking. In fact, with those that didn’t have any cracking across the dome, I made a small hole in the bottom to let excess water drain out. Seeds like to be uniformly moist, not necessarily sopping wet.

seeds in eggshells - poke a hole

Step 2: Fill each eggshell with seed starting mix

Fill the half eggshells with a good nutritious soil mix and put them back into the carton. Moisten the soil.

seeds in eggshells

Step 3: Plant the seeds at their recommended depth

The larger the seed, the deeper it’s meant to be planted, but half an eggshell is plenty deep for most anything, including the black zucchini you see here. For more specific info, look for instructions on the back of the seed packet, or it’ll be google-able if you’re using seeds you collected (go you!).

Since seeds don’t usually need the sun until they sprout up, you can even close the lid of the carton until they’ve germinated. Useful if you want to keep them cozy while starting them indoors in early spring (when Australian homes remain stubbornly chilly).

seeds in eggshells sprouting

Step 4: Plant out your seedlings

When my seedlings emerged, I planted them out into a larger container, still in their eggshells. I made sure to crack each shell a bit more to allow the roots to grow through, but I figure the extra moisture retention from the egg ‘cup’ will be a boon to these little sprouts through the hot weather. See also: enthusiasm> skill.

I marked the pot with an upcycled bamboo fork noting the date they went in and composted the egg carton.

So far, the eggshell method has been successful for starting cucamelon, radishes, eggplant and this black zucchini.

seeds in eggshells being planted out

seeds in eggshells planted

And now the waiting begins to find out if these little seedlings will bear fruit.

Anyone else tried this Zero Waste seed starting method?

 

12 landfill alternatives for old clothing

I’ve had these shorts for a while….

Based on the brand alone I’d say they pre-date university.

All cotton, no stretch, meant they would quickly bag out in the butt and knees. A terrible quality for pants, the holy grail for cutoffs. And so they became shorts.

They made the cut to come with me to Australia, and they’ve since endured much wear with our endless summers and all (okay I’m lying, Australian winter is real). I’ve repaired them, they’ve ripped again. The back of one leg is now so short it’s almost in pocketland. They’ve disintegrated to reveal rather too much cheek for this thirty-something.

End of the (clothes)line

I knew a little about the dirty business of fashion, i.e. that it’s only less polluting than big oil, from exposure to Eco Fashion Week in Vancouver, founded by a friend of mine. In fact, I credit Myriam’s fashionable ways – all vintage, all fabulous- for inspiring my own foray into secondhand threads.

More recently, I zipped through book Wardrobe Crisis: How We Went From Sunday Best to Fast Fashion by Clare Press. It tracks the history, supply chains, and impacts of clothing manufacturing. Including denim.

wardrobe crisis book

Based on what I’ve learned, I’ll assume my shorts weren’t made under the best of conditions. So the moral pressure is on to dispose of them in the most responsible way possible.

What are my options?

12 landfill alternatives for old clothes

  1. Repair // If it’s just a hole or a rip, try mending to get tired clothing back into rotation. A pin and some thread is all you’ll need. Tailors are helpful for trickier jobs. Example, I get the straps of my bras shortened when they’ve stretched out but all else is still in good shape. I repaired a down vest that I badly melted by sitting too close to the fireplace way before Patagonia started their Worn Wear program.
  2. Consign // If you have a piece with miles left in it or something expensive, try consigning to get a bit of coin back. It can be hit and miss and consignment shops will usually only take clothing for the season ahead or be choosy about what they will take. Best to visit a shop and see.
  3. Swap // I swap with friends or my sisters all the time, but if you don’t have conveniently sized people in your life (hello size 11 feet…), there are lots of swap groups on Facebook where you can either give away for free or sell your pre-loved (or hated) clothing and accessories.
  4. Donate // Clothing in good condition and freshly cleaned can be dropped at charity op shops. They usually have drop chutes even outside of opening hours, but don’t leave piles outside – it’s not kind to volunteers, and it costs money for the shop if they have to dispose of excess. And furthermore, there’s the volume issue, which is to say, even forest fire evacuees don’t want your old clothes.
  5. Upcycle // Consider the possibilities! Shirts can become grocery bags, shoes can become planters, and so on. To Pinterest!
  6. Make rags // The small cloths I use to remove eye makeup used to be an old singlet. Snip snip.
  7. Textiles recycling // H&M will collect old clothing, from any brand, in store for reuse or recycling.
  8. Give to a gardener // Old clothing can be used as weed matting. Natural fibres only.
  9. Use as batting // Making a pillow, bolster or a pouf? You’ll need stuffing materials.
  10. Make a rag rug // I’m dying to make one! It involves making fabric ‘yarn’ (just strips) and weaving them.
  11. Compost // Clothes made from 100% natural fibres (wool, cotton, linen, silk, etc.) are okay for composting, but I would make the strips quite small before adding to your organics.
  12. Contemplate // Finally, try to avoid throwing out your old clothing in a fit of shame or guilt or decluttering madness. Experience mottainai. Don’t wait until you have to move house to deal with the proper stewardship of materials. Really considering our trash is the best way to internalize that more stuff is just more stuff to manage. They were useful, I will honour them. Clutter isn’t ideal, but neither is creating a vacuum that only more things will fill.
cutoff shorts
Dear shorts, you remind me of summer, of warmer weather, and my youth. Thanks for being awesome.

“The problem is the solution.”

My shorts are in dire shape. Definitely not suitable for resale, repair or donation, nor for weed matting.

Luckily, they’re 100% cotton and okay for recycling back into the soil. I’ll might eventually shred them into small pieces and distribute them over time into my compost. I will trim and save the pockets. I have a vague idea of a DIY for a safety razor travel bag. We’ll see.

I’m relishing the challenge of finding something useful in something that at first glance really appears to be useless. I adore the permaculture design principle that says ‘the problem is the solution’.

In the meantime, I am enjoying the cleverness of others. Some of my favourites are a plant pot coveranother, a tote bag, and this whale.