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 also some innovative materials for more environmentally-friendly dinnerware and picnic tableware.
Enamel, wheatstraw, bamboo, corn, rhubarb (just kidding on that last one). Here’s what we’ve come up with for green outdoor eating.
Latest update: January 2022
All our reviews at Campfire Magazine are independent and honest.
In a hurry? If you don’t have much time using the links below to quickly find our favourite eco-friendly tableware for you on Amazon and beyond. You can be assured we only choose the best products…
Metal camping plates and enamelware
The best choice is metal for long-lasting, non-plastic camping dinnerware.
But if chalk on blackboards and tines on tin set your teeth on edge (I love to torture my sister this way), read further for wheatstraw, bamboo and other beautiful alternatives.
UPDATE: We tried Summit’s lovely-looking copper-coloured plates. They’re one to avoid as the colour comes off almost immediately.
Those white-with-blue-rim plates and bowls or the old-fashioned black-and-speckled enamelware have a lovely traditional camping look. They last well and the occasional chip on the edge is a badge of honour for many campers!
Stunning enamelware in a range of designs based on porcelain plates, wallpaper and museum pieces. Believe it or not, these are pretty inexpensive for what they look like. They’d make great presents. Talking of which, I’ll add them to our guide to good camping gifts and motorhome gifts!
Wooden plates and bowls
Thanks to a couple of readers for the reminder that wood is a rather lovely material for plates and bowls. Lightweight and almost unbreakable too.
Amy R. started using wooden plates as part of her live action role-playing, but even not so live-action campers could benefit from wood’s beauty! She allayed my fears about it being difficult to maintain too, saying it could be washed and even scrubbed with no problem.
Go for rustic or elegant…both are stunning. Etsy is a good place to look for handmade plates and bowls and for nice vintage teak plates.
I bought this pretty spoon from FishElkDog on Etsy, by the way. It’s a delight to use and one of my favourite kitchen and camping things
Kupilka – eco tableware from Finland
Made from a natural fibre composite and great, there are bowls, cups, cutlery and more in this range.
They’re light, won’t get hot enough to burn your fingers and can even be put in a dishwasher after your camping trip.
A choice of colours and prices from around £5. Plus everything is made from the company’s own biomaterial with EKOenergy for a zero carbon footprint.
A good range at Outdoor Gear.
Camping is a great way to spend time with family and friends, but it can be difficult to find the right dishes. Bamboo plates are an eco-friendly alternative that will make your camping experience more enjoyable.
These plates are durable, lightweight, and biodegradable so you don't have to worry about them breaking or adding too much weight in your backpack. You'll love these bamboo plates for camping because they're easy to clean and dishwasher safe! They also come in various sizes so you can use them as bowls or platters for serving food at your next outdoor party.
Bamboo Dinnerware Set - Blue Reef
This gorgeous set was designed by Emilie O'Connor and it not only pleasing to the eye is also eco-friendly and made from 50% bamboo, 25% corn starch, 25% melamine resin. This set comes with 4 plates, 4 cups and a large salad bowl with chopping board lid and servers. You can buy the pieces individually if you want but this set is just lovely, if you do use them at home they are also dishwasher safe too. There are other designs available but this was our favourite.
Coral Reef Design
Green Turtle Design
Available in a range of colours and as a plate or bowl these 100% bamboo, vegan and natural tableware are lovingly made in the UK. You can buy them as separates to get the number you need. The Lacquered Paint gives them almost a shiny exterior.
We love the design on this bamboo tableware and the various sizes you can choose from, you can even get a matching serving tray if you wanted and the jug looks very handy too.
Made from non toxic, Eco friendly wheat straw this reusable dinner set comes with just about everything you need.
These plates come in a range of colours and shapes, we really like how they have a lip at the side to keep any crumbs from falling off the edges and can be used for things like past and other things that may spill off the edges without the lip. You can buy them in a set of 5 or 10 and they come in a really handy space saving plate holder too as pictured. They are microwave and dishwasher safe too.
We’ve just come across this neat little travel kit. It’d be a great present, wouldn’t it? Cutlery, chopsticks, straws and cleaning brush in a folding pouch – all made from bamboo.
These are amazing. Gorgeous washable paper bags in a range of colours and sizes, made of natural material (cellulose and latex). Tear-resistant, ironable, sewable, printable, embossable and washable up to 40°C.
Store your bread in them, your toys, make them into flowerpots…well, leave us a comment below of how you’d use them and we might just send you one!
Palm leaf and natural bamboo are actually reusable for quite a while before you need to replace them. They’re a good biodegradable alternative to plastic.
And there are also bamboo plates and cutlery that are made of the bamboo itself rather than ground-up and reformed.
Loads to choose from in palm tableware. Some nice designs too.
And here’s the environmental lowdown
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! Melamine is a nasty blend of chemicals.
From the areca palm and makes 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?)
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.
Made from cassava roots and creates a Styrofoam-like material that’s biodegradable and compostable.
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. Better than the petrochemical version, though.
Do have a look at our articles on:
- Recommendations for BPA-free camping water containers.
- Making your own quick and easy wet wipes, including an Oscar-worthy video!
- Our BIG green guide to being environmentally friendly when camping.
- The best takeaway coffee cups so you need never use a throwaway cup again!
How long do bamboo plates last?
Bamboo dishes should last about 18months to 2 years before the moisture starts to weaken bamboo. An easy way to extend their life is to hand wash and dry the plates straight away.
Are bamboo plates reusable?
Bamboo plates are a great choice for your next camping trip. They're made from natural materials, so you know they won't leach harmful chemicals into the food. The best thing about these plates is that they can be reused again and again!
Do bamboo dishes stain?
Bamboo is a natural material that is porous and can be stained by anything from wine to coffee to tomato sauce. If you want your new bamboo dishware set for the kitchen or dining room table to last as long as possible, it's best not to use it with sauces or other liquids that might damage the surface of the wood like alcohol or vinegar (although many people swear by using vinegar on their bamboo cutting boards).
In general though, if you take care of your bamboo dishes properly after each use and avoid foods that will leave stains behind (particularly acidic ones), then your plates should stay