Aluminum Foil or Wax Paper for an Eco Friendly School Lunch?

I love getting emails from readers and recently, after I posted about Eco-friendly school lunches, I got an email from a reader asking a very “Eco” good question. Her older children don’t like to use the new earth friendly lunch boxes and wrap mats because they aren’t cool and nobody else is using them (more should be using them, grrr). That’s an issue so what is a mom to do? Her big question is whether she should use aluminum foil or wax paper and which one is safer and more earth friendly.

I answered, aluminum foil because it can be recycled and you can buy recycled aluminum foil. The cost to make the aluminum foil is high and it is very resource intensive to make but it can be used and recycled, over and over. It’s the product that never ends, if we use it correctly and actually recycle it. Visit Frugal Living for some great uses for foil and ways to reuse the shiny stuff! My advice,  reward the kids to bring home the aluminum foil and wash it and let it dry and reuse it. If not, buy recycled aluminum foil. Aluminum foil does react with acidic and salty foods and yikes can leak into the food so I wouldn’t wrap a salted pretzel or sliced orange in the foil! There are some health concerns about aluminum foil and the best site I found to help answer some of these questions came from Health Canada.

The other reason I vote aluminum foil over wax paper is that most wax paper is produced using petroleum and aluminum foil is oil free. It might be cheaper to make wax paper but unless you are going to compost it, it cannot be recycled. If you do go with wax paper you should try to compost it and go with unbleached wax paper for a more environmentally friendly option. Green Feet sells unbleached wax paper baggies for sandwiches that could be convenient and better than plastic baggies. What are your thoughts? What would you use, wax paper or aluminum foil?

Other great reads worth checking out:

Grist on Recycling Aluminum Foil

Waste Free Lunches

Orignial Post for 5MFGG by, Sommer Poquette

Read more from Sommer at Green and Clean Mom where she writes about green living! Subscribe by clicking here so you don’t miss out on any giveaways for join the Mommy Go Green Blog Tour!

11 Responses to Aluminum Foil or Wax Paper for an Eco Friendly School Lunch?
  1. Sam
    September 19, 2008 | 4:54 pm

    I’ve been wondering about this! My kiddos like the wrap mats but my hubby isn’t interested in using one. I’ve been trying to decide which would be more ER (environmentaly responsible).

    Thanks again!

  2. Susan (5 Minutes for Mom)
    September 19, 2008 | 6:09 pm

    That’s a great tip… I’ll reach for aluminum foil more and try hard to reuse and recycle it.


  3. Laurin
    September 19, 2008 | 7:17 pm

    It’s tin foil where I’m from. Ha. I try to use tiny tupperware for my twin kindergarten-age kids, but I’ve been wanting to get the wrap mats. At this age, I’m hoping they’ll think they are cool.

  4. BFine
    September 19, 2008 | 9:06 pm


    I’ve been thinking about this too.
    thank you for bringing it up. Aluminum foil is not accepted here in Toronto Canada, only pie plates and the similar thicker aluminums, so I’m going to have to stand on the side of waxed paper. Since I can compost it or put it in my blue or green bin for recycling it is the only choice I can recycle in my neck of the urban woods.
    Ideally though I would like to know that it was made with recycled paper and natural waxes.

    I’ve been looking for a less chemical version of the sandwich wrap too which I can only find with a vinyl ‘oilskin’ coating of outer layer. Anyone seen ‘old school’ natural oilskin sandwich bags?! that would be soo cool.

    Love the Blog

  5. GreenMe
    September 20, 2008 | 6:00 pm

    Reusable containers should be decently cool…at least I’d like to think so! There are BPA free ones with nice red and or green lids at Target these days!

  6. Tiffany Bjorlie
    September 21, 2008 | 2:47 pm

    Since Aluminum is a known neurotoxin which we are uncontrollably exposed to everyday, I prefer to reduce possible exposure rather than add to it Additionally, the impact that aluminum’s manufacture has on the health of factory workers is horrible.

    Nothing is perfect, but soy wax paper, reusable organic cotton bags, food grade stainless steel, and to some extent reusable, recycled plastic bags and containers seem to be the greenest and healthiest options available. Plastic is basically oil and natural gas and while there are plastics without BPA and phthalates they are still composed of pertochemicals. In the case of PETE(#1), antimony (another toxic heavy metal) is often added as a catalyst. This is also good to remember when purchasing polyesther toys for infants as polyesther is essentially oil and natural gas with some antimony added — YUCK!

    Chefs Select Soy Wax paper is a petroleum-free wax paper and I imagine we will see more of its kind in the near future. However, with anything soy we must remember that if it is not organic soy lots of pesticides are used and the popularity of soy is leading to further destruction of rain forests.

    As we all become more aware and demand safer products and assurances that our products are created in a people and earth friendly manner we will become one step closer to a brighter tomorrow for our children and grandchildren.

  7. Lisa
    September 25, 2008 | 1:14 pm

    I put my husband’s sandwiches in wrap-n-mats. :)

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  9. BJan
    October 15, 2009 | 1:16 pm

    Just a comment to BFine, waxed paper actually can’t be recycled at all so by putting it in your blue/green box you’re causing more work for those of us at the recycling plants who have to remove non-acceptable items from GTA recylcing bins.

  10. Freezing Vegetables without Plastic
    May 4, 2010 | 3:35 am

    […] Aluminum Foil vs. Waxed Paper –  This article favors aluminum foil over waxed paper because it can be recycled, but also states that it reacts with acidic and salty foods. […]

  11. What can we do? | ngoctnguyen
    December 11, 2010 | 12:31 am

    […] Since the argument on waxed paper still goes on, we should opt for a product that we are sure about its environmental sustainability. Aluminum foil is probably the best replacement of waxed paper. At some of our retails, we also use it to wrap sandwiches. Aluminum foil is recyclable. The cost to make aluminum foil is high and it is also resource intensive but I can be recycled, over and over again! It’s the product that never ends, if we use and recycle it correctly. The only thing to watch out when using aluminum foil is that aluminum reacts with acidic and salty food, thus it can be leaked into food. So don’t use it for these kinds of food! [2] […]