When it comes to serving a large group of people, nothing beats using disposable dinnerware as opposed to reusable dishes. There is no doubt that disposable dinnerware is more convenient to use. You can simply discard the disposable plates once guests are done eating. That being said, there are different materials used to manufacture disposable dinnerware, some are kinder to the environment, others, not so much. To minimize unnecessary trash and pollution, it’s important to learn all about the many options that are available on the market.
There are four different types of materials used to make disposable dinnerware: plastic, foam plastic, paper, and wood. Which ones offer the most advantages and which products should you avoid? In this guide, let’s take a look at the different types of disposable serveware, what are their pros and cons, and most importantly, which ones are the best choice for you:
Disposable Serveware: Advantages and Disadvantages
Plastic Disposable Dinnerware
It wasn’t too long ago that all disposables were made from plastic material. Plastic is, without a doubt, the most common material used to make disposable dinnerware. Plastic is often used as a food packaging material because it is cheap, it is widely available, and it comes in a variety of colors to choose from.
Plastic is derived from petroleum-based materials that are leak-proof and sturdy. Unlike some disposable dinnerware materials, plastic does not absorb food odors nor turn soggy when exposed to liquids. The material is flexible, able to bend, which adds to the versatility of plastic. Because plastic is flexible, it can be molded into different shapes and sizes, adding to the profitability of using plastic as a food packaging material.
Unfortunately, using single-use plastic products is perhaps one of the worst things that you can do for the environment. Plastic is the reason why the world’s oceans are polluted with tons of trash. Marine animals are dying by the millions because of discarded plastic materials that made their way into the seas. When submerged in water, plastic looks like jellyfish or other preys, which marine predators mistake for food. Plastic is lightweight so it has the tendency to float in water, clogging waterways and littering the oceans in the process. Worse, plastic does not break down. The material lasts virtually forever and landfills are running out of spaces for plastic trash!
Foam Disposable Dinnerware
Foam plastic is similar to plastic material but the appearance and texture of the former are different from the latter. Foam plastic is derived from a plastic resin that’s processed into a spongy mass. Some of the most common plastics that are foamed include vinyls, polystyrene, polyethylene, phenolics, silicones, cellulose acetate, and urethanes. This type of plastic is often used for thermal insulation, construction panels, and cushioning material. Foam plastic is also used as food packaging and disposable dinnerware.
Compared to paper disposables, foam dinnerware disposables take less energy to manufacture. This material is also cheap and widely available. Its excellent insulating abilities keep hot foods warm for longer compared to disposables made from other material. Foam can be shaped into different forms so it can be used to make disposable plates, cups, bowls, and so much more. This material is lightweight, durable, and flexible.
Unfortunately, foam plastic is just as destructive to the environment as regular plastic. This material does not break down into the ground and it will remain intact for 500 years to “forever”. Foam plastic also clogs waterways and pollutes the waters. Making foam products also pollute the air and soil. Because it’s lightweight, foam plastic also kills marine animals.
Paper Disposable Dinnerware
Disposables made from paper material are deemed as more environmentally friendly than their plastic counterparts. These products are made from recycled paper and are completely microwave safe. Usually, paper-made plates are quite thin and will need a rigid backing underneath for added support when heavy food is added.
While disposables made from plastic are eco-friendlier compared to single-use plastic products, recycling the discarded disposables is difficult. Most types of disposable products made from paper are lined with plastic to reduce oil absorption so the recycling process becomes more complex. The process requires peeling the plastic off the paper material, an extra step that demands more energy. Only a few recycling facilities could handle this kind of recycling process. Also, some paper plates and serveware are treated with chemicals, such as bleach and dyes, which can be harmful to the health.
There are paper disposables that are compostable, however. If you are concerned over the environmental impact of such products, it’s best to use disposables that are backyard compostable.
Wood Disposable Dinnerware
Wood disposable dinnerware is made from fast-growing timber. The trees used to make disposable wood plates are renewable so these products are perfectly eco-friendly. Wood plates made from renewable timber come in many types. Some are made from bamboo; others are made from sugarcane byproduct. The materials are sourced from eco-conscious plantations and are minimally processed.
Of all disposable dinnerware materials, wood is the only material that’s naturally biodegradable and compostable. Some disposable wood plates are made from organic, gluten-free raw materials like ECOHomeware’s range of disposable wood plates. These plates are not just sturdy and naturally resistant to mold, they are also backyard compostable.
Because high-quality disposable wood plates are carefully processed, these products are pricier than your average paper plate. But if you are concerned about the world’s growing trash problem and you’d like to host a party without harming the environment, that’s a small price to pay.
Do note that some wood plates take more time to biodegrade than others. Disposable plates made from corn has to be broken down in a commercial composting facility. Wood plates that require commercial composting are not as eco-friendly as backyard compostable disposables because the process burns off more energy.
Which Product is Better for You?
Although plastic and foam-based disposables are more widely used, eco-friendly disposables are fast becoming the better alternative. The choice is up to you. If you want to host a party without generating a ton of trash, then opt for the more environmentally sound choices, which are paper and wood disposables. As long as you are willing to recycle the after-event trash then party on without the guilt.
Entertaining a crowd? Shop for premium disposable wood plates at ECO Homeware. These stylish disposable wood plates are the perfect substitute for plastic and Styrofoam flatware!