Plastic plates are practical for camping and picnics…and horrible. So, we’ve been looking at alternatives. Metal tends to be the backpacking option, but there are some innovative materials for more environmentally-friendly dinnerware. Bamboo dinner sets, corn, rhubarb (just kidding on that last one). Here’s what we’ve come up with for green outdoor eating.
Do have a look at our article on the best options for takeaway coffee cups that mean you need never use a throwaway cup again!
The special options
Zuperzozial’s huge range of bamboo and corn crockery includes everything you could dream of and in lovely colours. There are jugs, snack plates, boxes and more. There are plain and the pretty DNA patterned options too. They’ve even made a lampshade out of their crockery. Four DNA dessert plates cost around £25.
We tried several Zuperzozial pieces and liked them a lot. The flat plates are great. Despite the fact that there are some gorgeous bright colours, it was the muted stone grey we liked best. The black is not such a great choice as it seems to mark easily. Note that the lidded boxes are not airtight, by the way. This was the best option for bamboo crockery if you want the choice from a full range of tableware.
Biobu’s range is very smart (and a bit more expensive). There are items for children (like the set pictured) and for adults, including some nice large bowls and serving plates. Around £20 for a large salad bowl.
Bambootique make some quirky designs in plates, mugs, trays and kids’ sets. You have to love the ‘Home is where you park it’ range. Super cheap, but no bowls, sadly.
Magu has a range of rather nice and very interesting square and leaf-shaped bamboo, corn and wood fibre plates in cream, yellow or grey, plus bowls, trays, cups and cutlery. And…from just £3 upwards.
For something beautiful and very special, artist Angela Harding’s bamboo plates are fabulous. She’s a fine artist based in Rutland (the smallest county in the UK). They’re around £10 each, which is amazing considering the price of the mass-produced ones. They’re dishwasher safe but not for microwaving.
For children, the Love Mae space-themed set is gorgeous. Five pieces for around £30.
Plenty of other children’s sets too, but this one is just that little bit different.
The camping tableware basics
Outwell do a range of dishwasher-safe, biodegradable bamboo, including plates, mugs and bowls in turquoise, avocado green and white. The four-person set is around £40 and includes mugs, bowls and plates. You can also buy items individually. Highlander do a version, but these are a ‘don’t buy’. They tend to crack.
A cheap option (around £21) is the Bamboo Fox simple off-white set.
Epicurean Europe have nice oatmeal plates and bowls. Around £3 for a plate. Lovely kids’ sets too.
If you must use disposable, then there are biodegradable alternatives to plastic. There’s sugarcane for white plates and bowls. And palm leaf for ‘crockery’ that’s nicely rustic-looking. Palm leaf can actually be used in ovens and microwaves (but not over flames!). And there are also disposable bamboo plates and cutlery.
And here’s the environmental low-down
Plastic is bad because it’s made from petrochemicals and because, at the end of its life, it’s just un-get-riddable-of litter (it messes up the sea, the beaches, the woodlands and almost every UK roadside…perhaps not the plates, but you see what we mean.) France is banning plastic plates and cups. Hooray!
Palm leaves from the areca palm make sturdy plates with very little processing. Some companies gather fallen palm fronds, sanitise them and press them into plates, no glue or glazes. Palm leaf plates are compostable. They do have to be imported, though (but doesn’t much of our plastic come from overseas?)
Bamboo grows very fast so it’s very renewable. Again, though, it does have to be shipped in. Disposable bamboo plates can be composted, though they take a few months to break down. If you’ve got a choice, go for minimally processed, organic plates.
Tapioca starch made from cassava roots creates a Styrofoam-like material that’s biodegradable and compostable.
Sugarcane plates are made from the fibre left over after the sugar sap is pressed out. They’re naturally brown, so white ones will have been bleached. The material is also called bagasse, by the way.
Corn starch ‘plastic’ might seem like a better choice than petrochemical-derived plastic, but it doesn’t compost or break down. It has to be sent to a commercial composting facility – and there aren’t many of those around.