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In 1953, Saran Wrap appeared in stores as the first and only material for storing food that could keep food fresh, block odors, and withstand extreme temperature changes. It was also an extremely sticky film, often green in color, that kitchens across America would come to know and love. If you grew up during that time, you probably remember peeking at Christmas cookies veiled beneath a film of green plastic, veggie trays trapped in gauzy wrapping, and leftovers mummified in clear casing. But did you notice that the Saran Wrap we have today is not the same?
Since 2004, Saran Wrap has been clear, far less sticky, and a little less effective-it can’t withstand high heat levels or repel harsh smells-compared to the original product. People still buy it, but we’ve heard grumbles. The new wrap just isn’t as good as the old wrap. We had to wonder: Why bother making this change in the first place?
The answer didn’t arrive until 2015, over 10 years after the Saran Wrap formula was updated. SC Johnson, the company that has owned Saran Wrap since 1998, shared the story in a Harvard Business Review article. Once we heard the real story, we were immediately behind it. (Spoiler alert: The Saran Wrap of today might be slightly less sticky, but it’s a thousand times better for the planet.)
CEO Fisk Johnson wrote that Saran Wrap’s original formula contained polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC), which may have released toxic chemicals when consumers threw it in the trash and sent it to incinerators for disposal. On its own, the company decided to change the formula to remove the chemical-knowing that sales would suffer. “Once we learned about the possible toxic chemicals PVDC emitted from landfills, we never really considered retaining the original formulation,” Johnson told a local newspaper. “Doing the right thing for customers is always the right thing for us.”
This wasn’t the first time the company did something like that, either. In 2007, SC Johnson traded its Windex bottle for a version that weighed less, saving 1 million pounds of waste per year. In 2011, it switched Pledge to an aerosol that worked with compressed air instead of chemicals, eliminating 6 million pounds of toxic compounds from the atmosphere annually. All these changes have sprouted from a 2001 promise to improve sustainability.
So what if today’s Saran Wrap isn’t as sticky? We don’t care. In fact, we think it’s pretty cool that SC Johnson decided to make a change for the good of the planet. And the new formula works just fine for keeping our leftovers safe and fresh.