Disposable plates have long been a means for enjoying a meal without having to do the dishes. They’re great for quick pick-up meals, kids snacks during the day, and almost essential if you plan to do any camping or picnicking. There is an extraordinary variety of disposable plates on the market, each type with its own merits.
Simple disposable plates are typically made of strong paper, which may or may not be coated with plastic to keep foods from leaking off or through the plate. These may be good for light foods, but if the paper is fairly thin, you may have to use several plates, and filling up such a plate can result in the plate bending, spilling all your food on the ground. You might want to consider these types for very light food use only. Though they are often the least expensive of disposable plates, having to use several at a time can negate any savings.
More durable disposable plates made of paper can be coated with wax or plastic that gives them more structure, prevents leakage, and helps the plate hold slightly heavier food. You can often find these in colors, and in different sizes, such as dinner plates, cake plates and even platter sizes. They can also be decorated and may be the perfect choice for themed birthdays, graduation parties or bridal and baby showers. Couples wishing to save a little money on weddings might consider disposable plates in their wedding colors instead of the more expensive rental china.
Another type of disposable plate has less flexibility and is made from paper about the thickness of cardboard. You’ll often find this called disposable china, with companies like Chinet® known for making this type. These tend to be stronger than thinner paper plates, but since they tend to lack any type of protective coating, they may not hold up well under liquid sauces for long periods of time. However, they do tend to survive the length of a meal.
An alternative to disposable paper plates is to use Styrofoam or plastic plates. Both will resist leakage, and are usually of sturdier construction than paper plates. Styrofoam may be a little harder to eat on if you plan to cut meats on the plate. You can easily cut into Styrofoam with a knife, even a plastic knife.
For those people who abhor wasting paper and who don’t want to use materials that can’t be recycled, there are a variety of new disposable plates on the market that are biodegradable. Such plates can be made from interesting ingredients. Some are made from hardtack, an exceptionally hard cracker that will easily break down in a compost heap. Others are still made from paper, but are made from almost all recycled paper, helping to reduce environmental debt. Another type resembles Styrofoam and can be made from sugar cane fibers. While you may pay a little more for this type, they may quickly replace the less green variants of disposable plates on the market.