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.
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.
Traditional camping enamelware
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
Palm leaf gives you a really wide range of ‘crockery’ that’s nice-looking (our preferred option). Palm leaf can be reused and can even be used in ovens and microwaves (but not over flames!).
And there are also bamboo plates and cutlery that are made of the bamboo itself rather than ground-up and reformed.