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What Kinds of Disposable Plates Can I Recycle?

By Recyclebank |

Disposable plates and cups are often contaminated with food or made of mixed materials, making them difficult to recycle.

Dear Recyclebank,

What is the best type of disposable plates/cups to buy in order to be able to recycle them after use?

- Lori M.

Many types of disposable dinnerware that are made with otherwise recyclable material end up not being recyclable in practice, due to food contamination. For instance, paper plates absorb grease and residue that could degrade the quality of a whole batch of paper recycling. You’ll also want to avoid items made with multiple materials (such as paper cups lined with a thin layer of plastic or wax). That’s because the different materials would need to be separated before recycling, but it’s virtually impossible to do so.

With that in mind, here are some options you might want to look at if you’re in a situation where reusable plates and cups aren’t a viable choice.

  • Consider composting! There are many biodegradable products now on the market that can be disposed of in a home compost pile. Tapioca plates made by companies like Bamblu or Susty Party are especially versatile, since they can be composted or included with your paper recycling (again, make sure they’re clean first). Bamblu’s bagasse, or sugarcane, products and palm leaf tableware like Leafware are also suitable additions to the compost heap. Check out more alternatives in compostable dinnerware.
  • Preserve makes dinnerware from #5 plastic and offers a program called Gimme 5 that enables consumers to drop off or mail in this type of plastic if their local recycling program doesn’t process it.
  • As a last resort, much disposable dinnerware is made from #6 plastic. Unfortunately, many recycling programs don’t accept #6, but in the event that your local facility does, this may work for you. If nothing else, you can generally wash and reuse plastic plates and cups several times, lessening their impact somewhat.

Earth 911
Mother Nature Network
Earth 911

When you use disposable plates and cups, how do you keep it sustainable? Share your experiences in the comments.

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