Say No to Single-use Dinnerware

Disposable dinnerware is a huge source of unnecessary waste. "But, oh, aren't paper plates recyclable?"

Well, basically no. Once paper plates or bowls get dirty, they become trash. Wet paper cannot be recycled, because its fibers are shorter and the integrity of the paper is lost. Grease is a big reason pizza boxes can't be recycled, so it has the same effect on disposable dinnerware.

Paper cups, whether the kind that come in a pack of 50 or your drive-thru coffee cup, are coated in a thin layer of wax, which helps with the water, temperature control and stability. And unfortunately, that layer of wax prevents the cup from being recyclable.

It's not hard to rise above the single-use temptation!

Alternative disposable dinnerware is recyclable, biodegradable and/or compostable, providing a better endgame than plain styrofoam or paper-like dinnerware that can only be thrown away and is not biodegradable, or plastic dinnerware that does not biodegrade.

Bamboo is a very renewable resource because it grows back quickly.

Susty Party's line of plates, cups and bowls (and tons of party supplies) are made from rapidly growing plants, trees harvested from sustainably managed forests, and recycled or salvaged plant material. Plus, they're safe for your home compost bin.

StalkMarket offers disposable cups, plates, boxes and cutlery made from rapidly renewable resources such as sugar cane, corn sugars, plant sugars and starches and FSC-certified wood pulp.

Being biodegradable has an advantage because it breaks down in a landfill instead of sitting there for hundreds of years. No matter what you choose, avoid the styrofoam. It will never break down, so your stack of styrofoam plates for an outdoor barbecue will still be somewhere on this earth 300 years from now. Throwing it away doesn't make it disappear!

You can find alternative dinnerware online, your local Whole Foods or larger health products store.

It's even better to focus on the "reduce" aspect of the 3 Rs. Don't use disposable dinnerware at all! Using regular plates, cutlery, glasses and cloth napkins has the bigger impact. You'll reduce your trash accumulation and have dishes you can reuse.

Melamine plates, bowls and cups are a popular reusable option because they are unbreakable and durable for outdoor settings. There is concern that melamine can leach into food and have negative effects on your body, according to a January 2013 study in JAMA Internal Medicine. To minimize that concern, don't put melamine products in the microwave, oven or dishwasher. Don't reheat your food on them and wash them by hand. When you're done with the plates, you'll have to throw them away, as melamine isn't recyclable.

You can also look for BPA-free plastic dinnerware for a reusable option that won't leach chemicals into your food. Vine Market carries the Preserve line, which are BPA and melamine free and made of recycled plastic.

So as you gear up for weekend barbecues and Memorial Day gatherings, research beforehand and choose a more sustainable option for your dinnerware. Go reusable with BPA-free plastic. If you go disposable, choose a renewable or sustainable material.

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