Keeping your plate green

When it comes to Sunday football parties, birthdays or that final BBQ of the summer, the temptation is to use paper plates and disposable cutlery. But these time-savers are one of the worst environmental offenders. Sweet alternative Traditional paper plates are made from virgin tree pulp and often coated in petroleum based wax, making them impossible to recycle or compost. The new kind of eco-plates and cutlery can go straight into the compost once the party is over. Bagasse plates are made from the leftovers created from sugar processing. When sugar cane is first turned into a liquid, 30 percent of the material left over is a woody pulp, perfect for turning into paper plates. Branch Home sells a line of unbleached bagasse plates that are elegant and sturdy. Comparable to the expensive Chinet brand paper plates, these sugar plates are microwavable, freezer safe, oil resistant, and capable of handling hot foods and beverages. Off the cob These days corn is being used for everything from bio-plastics to ethanol, but one of the more useful products are the corn-polymer plates. TrellisEarth™ has developed a bioplastic plate that can be taken straight from the fridge to the microwave and is 100 percent biodegradable. The Biodegradable Store sells a line of forks, knives and spoons made from corn that are strong and durable, perfect for cold or warm food. You can find cutlery made from potato starch that is lightweight and flexible as well as biodegradable. Too beautiful to throw away Think Natural Products sells the gorgeous and super green Reborn® Disposable plates made from the leaf of the Areca tree. Areca is a genus of trees found in Malaysia to the Solomon Islands. The most common variety is Betel Nut tree but there are more than 300 varieties. Ranging in hues from pearls to light beiges to iridescent copper, these plates are soak-proof, devoid of wax coating and are 100 percent biodegradable. They can easily handle hot or cold food. They can also be hand-washed and re-used just in case you decide they are too beautiful to throw away. Companies like Bambu are now making reusable disposable plates from bamboo. Tougher than your average disposable plates, you have the option of washing them to re-use them or tossing them into the compost bin. They take a little longer to decompose than a corn or potato based plate, but given the option to toss or keep, you are really keeping your options open with a plate like this. Whether its bamboo, corn, leaves, starches, or sugars, you really do have a full plate of options.