No plastic here – eco-friendly outdoor tableware

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 tableware, corn, rhubarb (just kidding on that last one). Here’s what we’ve come up with for green outdoor eating.

Zuperzozial bamboo tableware

Zuperzozial’s huge range of bamboo and corn crockery includes everything you could dream of and in lovely colours. There are bowls, snack plates, boxes and more. Plain and the pretty patterned options too. 

We tried several Zuperzozial pieces and liked them a lot. The flat plates are great. 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 is one the best options for bamboo crockery if you want the choice from a wide range of tableware. Here are some of our favourites.

 Zuperzozial Dawn plates in two colourways. Around £20 for six.

 Dawn bowls in a set of different sizes

A pretty (and big) botanic bamboo bowl

 Deep plates in lovely colours. Around £7

 

Four DNA dessert plates cost around £20.

Creative Tops

Wild bowls, plates and more. Lovely and affordable too. From £12 for the tray.

Magu 

A range of rather nice and very interesting  bamboo, corn and wood fibre plates, bowls, trays and more in cream, rose, yellow or grey. And…from just £2 upwards.

Love Mae

More expensive, but very lovely. Mostly for children, but who wouldn’t like to look at Foxy! Woodland creatures, dinosaurs and more. From around £20. 

Vango bamboo sets

We really like Vango’s bamboo dinner sets, but they also do lots of plainer designs too. The one above is around £35, bottom one for two people around £22.

Bobo and Boo

No longer just for kids. Bobo and Boo do pretty bamboo sets for children in pastel colours, but also adult-size plates. Not dear either.

 

And here’s the environmental lowdown

Plastic

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.

Palm leaves

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?)

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 and 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. Better than the petrochemical version, though.



Cambridge bamboo tableware

Quite a few designs from this maker. We like the nautical Plymouth design that come in four- or eight-person settings, plus serving dishes and more.

Bambootique

Some quirky designs in plates, mugs, trays and kids’ sets. You have to love the ‘Home is where you park it’ plates. Super cheap, but no bowls, sadly.

 

Angela Harding

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.

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Olpro husk camping tableware

Not terribly pretty, but affordable and practical and made from rice grain husks. Around £10 for a set of four large dinner plates. Plus bowls. Don’t bother withe the containers from the range as they’re not airtight.

Outwell bamboo camping sets 

Outwell do a range of dishwasher-safe, biodegradable bamboo, including plates, mugs and bowls. A four-person set is around £40-50 and includes mugs, bowls and plates. Highlander do a version, but these are a ‘don’t buy’. They tend to crack.

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And disposable?

If you must use disposable, then there are biodegradable alternatives to plastic. There’s sugarcane for white plates and bowls. And palm leaf for a really wide range of ‘crockery’ that’s nice-looking (our preferred option). Palm leaf can actually be used in ovens and microwaves (but not over flames!). And there are also disposable bamboo plates and cutlery.

Not much of a range in bamboo and you usually need to buy a bulk pack. Sturdy, though.

Loads to choose from in palm tableware. Some nice designs too.

White bagasse sugarcane if you must.

Camping gear must-haves – our 60 best finds

When we find a new piece of camping or outdoor equipment that we love and that really works, it’s here. Everything you see – from barbecues to mosquito repellent – has been tried and tested by a member of the Campfire team and is now one of their actual camping essentials …
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Do have a look at our articles on:

Bamboo travel set

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. Around £12 for two.

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2 Comments

  1. Nice to see an article promoting sustainable products, but why no mention of Etsy UK” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>turned (or carved) wooden bowls? They are more expensive than some of these products, but are easily the most sustainable as the wood can usually be found locally and the energy in creating them is virtually zero especially if done using green woodworking techniques (pole lathe etc). Wood also has the advantage of keeping your food hotter for longer and the only real disadvantages are that it can’t be used in a dishwasher or microwave, and that doesn’t hold much relevance for camping?! I know of plenty of makers in the UK if you want more info? ED: Thanks so much, Geoff. That’s a really good point. Wooden bowls are really gorgeous and I love the idea of travelling around popping in at workshops to buy from local craftspeople. I think many people will imagine that wood is hard to clean and keep nice if it’s being used for chillis, stews and so on. Perhaps we just need to get a bit more in tune with natural materials. Etsy UK” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>Etsy is a fantastic place to look for handcrafted and unusual plastic-free items too.

  2. Plastic is only considered unsuitable because of the current disposal issue. But this is easily solved by incineration linked to powder production – an environmental win. Current technology is clean an it could be used to dispose of the old bamboo/corn plates as well.

    I have a mix of bamboo, plastic and melamine cups, so far it looks like those bamboo mugs will end up in the dump long before the plastic/melamine.

    If they do not last as long they are not environmentally friendly. ED: Thanks for the interesting viewpoint, Frank. Realistically, as things stand at the moment, we don’t have the recycling or repurposing/processing facilities needed to cut plastic waste. Let’s hope we do in the near future. For now, though, the only thing to do is to cut plastic use. It’s not only a litter and landfill issue, but is also about the enormous use of petrochemicals. The fact that plastic lasts in your mugs is, in fact, exactly the problem. As you can see from the diagram at the top of the article, plastic is with us forever! While we’re not naive enough to think bamboo and corn ‘plastics’ are perfect (they still need to be manufactured and still need to be disposed of with care), they will disappear eventually. We would never used melamine – “The FDA has concluded from its own assessment that the safety risk is low and within acceptable levels, but they do caution the use of melamine dishes…Never use melamine in the microwave, unless it is clearly marked ‘microwave safe’. Acidic foods also increase the risk, especially when heated.”

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