Compostable plates can be just the thing for parties, picnics or other occasions.
There are many times when disposable plates are a useful alternative to ceramic plates. This includes large parties where it may be impractical to use ceramic plates or outdoor occasions such as barbecues and picnics. Many people prefer to use plastic or disposable plates during these occasions as they do not smash or shatter if they are dropped on the floor.
While disposable plates definitely have positive and useful features, they are not always environmentally friendly. Not all disposable plates, for instance, are made from recyclable materials or contain recycled materials. This means that while disposable plates have many undoubted benefits, they can also have a long term negative impact on the environment. Some forms of plastic disposable plates, for instance, are not suitable for recycling and also do not decompose. Therefore when they are discarded, they are sent to landfills where they will use valuable space.
What Are Compostable Plates?
An interesting compromise for people considering disposable plates, yet also wanting to be kind to the environment, is compostable plates. These are plates that are made from materials that will degrade quickly and are suitable for composting. They will make a rich garden compost that can be used to add nutrients to flowers and vegetables. Compostable plates are ideal for people looking for a green solution when catering for parties, barbecues or picnics.
Most compostable plates are made from bagasse. This is a by-product of sugar cane production. The fiber that remains after the sugar cane has been processed to extract the juice can be used for many things, including plates and other items. These will compost after use.
Using Compostable Plates
Compostable plates can simply be placed into the compost bin after use. They will gradually break down and become compost that can be used in the garden. Too many plates added to a compost bin or pile could destroy the sensitive balance of a compost pile, so it is important not to add too many at one time. It might also be useful to break the plates up before adding them to the compost pile. This will help to speed up the composting process and ensure that there are no uncomposted pieces of matter left.
One of the simplest ways to use compostable plates is to make sure that there is a bin or container that is clearly marked, where people can place their plates after they have been used. It is important, however, to make sure that no items are left on the plates that are unsuitable for composting. This includes meat or fish, some cooked foods or other items such as metal knives and forks.
It should be noted that compostable plates can start to decompose if they get wet. Therefore it is important to keep plates and other items that can be composted in an air tight container or dry place before they are used.
Alternatives to Compostable Containers and Plates
Compostable items such as containers and plates are extremely kind to the environment and are becoming increasingly popular and more widely available. There are alternatives, however, to these plates which have less of a harmful effect on the environment than items made from plastics. These include:
- Paper products - many paper products contain a high proportion of recycled paper. This means that instead of chopping down trees and destroying forests, the wood pulp that is used has come from discarded paper items which have been recycled. Paper plates will decompose or bio-degrade, although it is important to use plates that have not been treated with a plastic coating which may prohibit the decomposition process.
- Ceramic plates - while ceramic plates may not be a practical alternative to disposable plates, there are times when they can be used. When they are washed clean with an environmentally friendly detergent they are very kind to the environment. This is also a good way to recycle plates and keep them out of the waste chain. Old plates can be bought cheaply from garage sales and thrift stores and keeping a supply of ceramic plates, if space allows, for parties can be a useful way to help cater in an earth-friendly manner. When buying old plates, make sure that the glaze is not cracked as these can contain germs.
- Edible 'plates' - a fun alternative to disposable plates is to provide food in edible containers. Lettuce or other leaf vegetables make great wraps for food and can reduce the need for plates.
With a little planning, it is possible to experience the convenience of paper plates without harming the environment.