Curbside recycling services rarely accept aluminum foil (or aluminium in other countries) for recycling because it is usually contaminated. Here are some uses for aluminum foil and the zero waste alternatives.
1. Food Cover
Aluminum Option: I’ve seen people use aluminum foil to cover plates and bowls.
Zero Waste Option 1: I use a container or even another plate or bowl to cover the bowl.
Zero Waste Option 2: Use beeswax wrap to wrap leftovers. I don’t use beeswax wrap because it has a life span and will need to be replaced at some point. I’ve managed to survive without beeswax wrap for now and hope to stay that way.
2. Lining Cookie Sheets to Reduce Mess
Aluminum Option: Cleaning up a cookie sheet can be a pain especially when it is covered with fats, oil or burnt residue. It’s common to line cookie sheets with aluminum foil to make the clean up easier.
Zero Waste Option 1: If I know that the cookie sheet is going to get messed up when I roast my vegetables or chicken, I use Pyrex baking dish. When you are done, soak the baking dish in some water and dish soap and the grime will come right off.
The downside to Pyrex is that it cannot be recycled because its composition is different from regular glass. However, it is indestructible and it lasts forever. Pyrex baking dish is easily available at thrift stores. I inherited all my Pyrex baking dish from my friends when they left the country. The benefit of using a Pyrex baking dish is that it can go from oven to table. You can also get a lid if you need to transport the item elsewhere.
Zero Waste Option 2: Another alternative is to use a silicone baking mat. Silicone is not really a zero waste option but at least it has a longer life span than aluminum foil.
3. Covering a Roasted Turkey
Aluminum Option: It’s common to use aluminum foil when roasting turkey or any bird for that matter to avoid it from getting dry or burnt.
Zero Waste Option: Here is the recipe that I use when roasting turkey for Thanksgiving. No aluminum required and the turkey was still moist and delicious thanks to tons of butter and bacon.
4. Roasting Beets
Aluminum Option: In order to roast beets, season and wrap beets (without the greens) in aluminum foil and stick it in the oven for about 40 minutes at 400F until it is soft.
Zero Waste Option: Put the seasoned beets in an ovenproof container with an ovenproof lid and stick it in the oven and follow the same instructions as above. A covered casserole would work too.
5. Baking / Steaming Fish
Aluminum Option: I use to bake / steam fish with aluminum. I would wrap the fish with herbs and condiments in aluminum foil and leave it in the oven for about 20 minutes at 350F until the fish is done.
Zero Waste Option 1: Now, I lay out the fish and the condiments in a Pyrex baking dish and bake as normal. Make sure there is sufficient liquid so that the fish does not dry out.
Zero Waste Option 2: You can also wrap the fish and condiments with banana leaf and the banana leaf will infuse added flavor to the dish.
Zero Waste Option 3: Steam your dish over the stove. Put a bowl in the stock pot with the bottom of the bowl facing up. Fill the stock pot with an inch of water. Put your dish over the bottom of the bowl and cover the stock pot. Water should not be touching the dish. Turn the stove on medium / low. When the water boils, it will release steam which will in turn steam the dish. The lid will trap the stream so it does not escape. The water should be boiling gently and not a rolling boil because water will then get into the dish.
6. Soften Brown Sugar
Aluminum Option: Wrap hardened brown sugar in foil and stick it in the oven at 300F for 5 to 10 minutes.
Zero Waste Option: Put a piece of bread or a slice of apple in the container with brown sugar and leave it overnight.
7. Prevent Edges of Pie from Burning
Aluminum Option: Wrap the sides of a pie to prevent it from burning.
Zero Waste Option: Use a metal pie crust shield. You can also get a silicone pie crust shield but silicone is not entirely a zero waste option because it cannot be recycled but at least it has a longer lifespan.
8. Sharpen Scissors
Aluminum Option: Use a dull pair of scissors and cut through 6 to 8 layers of aluminum.
Zero Waste Option: The aluminum option doesn’t make the scissors sharp so just take it to someone who sharpens knives and scissors. It’s not that expensive and your scissors will actually stay sharp for a while.
9. Clean the Barbecue Grill
Aluminum Option: Ball up some foil and use it to remove gunk from the barbecue.
Zero Waste Option: Get a barbecue grill brush. This one is made from wood and stainless steel.
10. Scrub Dishes
Aluminum Option: Ball up some foil and use it to clean cast iron pans.
Zero Waste Option: Check out the video below and use salt. Instead of using a kitchen towel, I would use a rag.
11. Makeshift Bowl
Aluminum Option: Pour the bacon fat into a make shift bowl made from aluminum. When the bacon fat hardens, wrap the bacon fat for disposal. You can also use the make shift bowl to grill vegetables on the barbecue.
Zero Waste Option 1: Do not throw away bacon fat. Save bacon fat and pour it into a glass container. Add a tablespoon of bacon fat when you cook and it takes your dish to the next level.
Zero Waste Option 2: Use a stainless steel barbecue grill tray to grill vegetables and meat. There is less risk that the tray will collapse because of the weight of the ingredients.
12. Gas Stove Protector
Aluminum Option: Cover the gas stove top with aluminum and replace it once in a while. It keeps the gas stove top clean but it can look tacky.
Zero Waste Option 1: Get a stainless steel drip pan. Buy the right size for your stove.
Zero Waste Option 2: Wipe down the gas stove every time you are done cooking and you don’t have to deal with a dirty gunky stove top at the end of the month.
13. Polish Silver
Aluminum Option: Leave foil at the bottom of the bowl. Add 2 teaspoon of salt and baking soda with hot water. Dip the silver in the bowl and leave it for 5 minutes before removing it from the bowl.
Zero Waste Option: Here are 13 ways to polish silver without aluminum foil. Use whatever you have. It could be vinegar and baking soda, ketchup and maybe even toothpaste.
Aluminum foil can get pretty expensive especially if you get the good quality ones. Imagine how much money you can save if you eliminate it from your home. It would also mean less aluminum foils headed to the landfill.
If you still have aluminum foil at home, you may want to save it for when you absolutely need it and reuse the aluminum foil as much as possible before disposing it. If you are lucky, your curbside recycling service may accept it for recycling because mine don’t.