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jca's avatar

Do you use disposable plastic or paper plates when you eat at home, or only "real" plates?

Asked by jca (35893points) August 5th, 2014

I just bought a big thing of paper plates for home use. If I am eating something like toast, or I give my daughter an ice cream pop, I use the paper plate. I am wondering if other people do the same. It seems not very practical to use a real plate and then have to put it in the dishwasher just for something simple.

Do you use paper plates at home? .

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76 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

Glass all the time. Paper plates – don’t have them at all. I have a set of plastic (dishwasher safe) for picnics as well.

I see paper plates as environmentally unfriendly.

stanleybmanly's avatar

ceramic plates are the norm. paper plates are usually restricted to parties or cookouts for big groups. In our house putting a plate in the dishwasher requires no more effort than tossing the paper plate in the composting can.

ragingloli's avatar

I only use normal plates.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Never. They are wasteful. Also, there is no rule that you have to put every plate in your dishwasher. If you’ve used a plate for a popsicle (though this in itself seems weird to me), why not simply rinse it and put it away?

Haven’t you asked this question several times now?

jonsblond's avatar

We use our normal plates from the kitchen. Small saucers are used for pieces of toast or the occasional popsicle that needs to be set down for a moment.

I’m the dishwasher. I rinse barely used plates and leave them in the dish rack to dry.

rojo's avatar

We use regular dinnerware the majority of the time. The only time we use paper plates is if we have a large group over that will overload the dishwasher. I usually just put a used plate in the sink and the dishwasher fairy comes by later and loads it for me

canidmajor's avatar

I use disposable stuff so rarely as to be noted, I can’t abide the waste. I have plastic, washable plates if I am concerned about weight or breakage. Like @jonsblond and @dappled_leaves I rinse the barely used ones.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Paper plates have been used twice in the past 5 years. Once for a party when guests were walking about and eating off of a buffet and the second was when the family gathered at Mom’s house for her funeral. Otherwise, regular dishes are used.

Brian1946's avatar

Cleanliness is not a concern for me, so I only use a tectonic plate. ;-)

Dutchess_III's avatar

I use real plates, sometimes just paper towels for toast and stuff. I only use paper plates for camping.

livelaughlove21's avatar

We use paper plates unless we don’t have paper plates to use. If we have someone over, we’ll probably still use paper plates (we don’t know people that would think anything of it, to be quite honest – pretty down-to-earth people, our friends and families). We use regular glass bowls if we have soup or chili or need to mix something for a recipe, of course, but I’m not even sure why we own glass plates at this point.

zenvelo's avatar

I only use “real” plates at home, never disposable. Disposable plates are a waste of resources, especially water, and just adds to garbage disposal.

JLeslie's avatar

Real. Paper plates are expensive if you use them all the time and create more trash. I realize many of them can be recycled. It’s still more “trash” in the system. I guess if water is very scarce maybe paper would make sense, but otherwise I can’t see using paper all the time. Paper is easier and less time.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@JLeslie If paper plates are clean enough to be recycled, then they are clean enough to be reused. This raises the question, then why not use a real plate?

If paper plates have food on them, they need to be composted, not recycled.

Pachy's avatar

I live alone with only cat to please, so I’ve taken to using paper plates for my food and paper bowls for his. I much prefer throwing out dishes to washing them. I do use real plates from time to time for microwaving or for meals too heavy or messy for paper—but I love paper plates, bowels and glasses and buy them in bulk at Costco.

jca's avatar

@dappled_leaves: When I say I use a plate for a popsicle, it’s because I have a small child and if she eats popsicles, there’s a guarantee the ice cream will drip.

As far as did I ask this question several times now, I asked it once, that I can find, almost a year ago.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@dappled_leaves recycling is a process. The original plate is shredded, or whatever, then re-processed. It isn’t the same as reusing a single plate that has food on it. You can’t wash them.

JLeslie's avatar

@dappled_leaves I honestly didn’t realize you can’t throw a used paper plate in for recycle.

It takes me about 5 years to go through a bag of paper plates, unless I am counting having a party, but for parties I usually buy some sort of fancy “paper” plate if I am not using real plates, so I actually can separate those from the bag of paper plates and styro bowls I keep in my pantry. The bowls are used for travel. The paper plates also for travel, or the morning before travelling. So, they wind up in the regular trash. I actually plan on buying a bunch of white plates for parties so I don’t need paper plates anymore for those occassions. I’m off the topic, but I am all excited about it. I’ve wanted to do it for years.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Dutchess_III Of course recycling is a “process”. What does that have to do with what can be recycled? Paper with food on it is considered contaminated, and should not be put into your recycling. It must be composted.

JLeslie's avatar

They take pizza boxes for recycle. That has oil and sometimes some food particles left behind.

jca's avatar

Most regular paper plates (the kind I am talking about, not the better kind you’d use at a party) don’t support big, gloppy meals, and therefore the food that’s on them (mine) would not be significant. There may be some butter or some chocolate or ice cream smears, but nothing like gravy or tomato sauce.

Mimishu1995's avatar

Real plates, because I don’t want to just buy and buy plates for every meal I eat.

canidmajor's avatar

Even camping, I have used my washable plastic plates. Unless you are packing everything in and out, in which case I will use paper, as it can be burned and won’t use the water you are packing in for drinking.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@JLeslie In all honesty, if your recycling company is picking up pizza boxes, they are probably throwing them in the trash afterwards. You can’t recycle the oil, etc. with paper.

JLeslie's avatar

@dappled_leaves I’m at an apartment complex and they have huge bins for recycle. I’m going to check to see if the pizza box is separate from the rest of the paper, I don’t remember. I don’t recycle consistently. What you say makes sense though.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@JLeslie Just google “can you recycle pizza boxes”. I’m going to guess your city has not come up with a new science to address the issue.

If everyone throws their recycling into a chute, or into huge bins, you are missing the part of the process where actual people sort through the “recyclables”, to remove the things that aren’t actually recyclable. Putting non-recyclables in those bins is costing someone money. It’s in everyone’s best interest to find out what should go in and what shouldn’t.

JLeslie's avatar

I do know that it is sorted again later and lots of items are actually thrown out. I saw a show about it along time ago, so I try to only recycle what I am sure of. I just remember seeing pizza boxes listed on our bins, but my memory easily could be wrong.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Maybe the tops of the pizza boxes.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I asked this question.

El_Cadejo's avatar

There was a question less than a week ago regarding paper plates vs the real thing. Here’s my answer to that one. You may think it simply easier to throw it in the trash when done with it but environmentally, this this far worse than running your dishwasher.

The only time I’ll get paper plates is when hosting a big party since I don’t own enough dishes.

JLeslie's avatar

Just talking about trash and recycle I get so disgusted with how much packinging we use in America.

janbb's avatar

Never at home, even for barbecues.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I don’t even think I have any paper plates in the house. I’m not using something and tossing it.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca If you don’t mind me asking, how much do you think you send a month on paper plates?

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: This is a recent thing for me. I had a bunch of leftover plates from my daughter’s birthday party which was in May (two months ago). Then I recently bought a big thing which was probably $3 at the supermarket and I just started using it. I just bought that about two weeks ago. Our meals are eaten on regular plates, as they’re gloppy (soup, for example). It’s not like I eat everything on paper plates. That wouldn’t be practical. If I give her toast in the morning, I might use a paper plate (so that’s been about two weeks we’ve been doing it). Same with the ice cream pop – a paper plate to catch the spills.

At work, I have a supply (from the work supply, which is plentiful) but I don’t usually use them, as I try to just use a napkin if I am eating something dry, like a roll.

If I use plastic tableware at work, or paper cups I will try to re-use. I use a knife to mix the yogurt every day and I will keep the same knife for as long as possible. The cups I use (paper usually, I buy a big supply at Costco) I will re-use about 4–5 days until they look disgusting inside. I don’t tell people I do that as they may think it’s weird to reuse a paper cup. However, the paper cups that are made for hot things like coffee are usually thick and can be used again.

I mix and eat the yogurt with a plastic knife (I know it sounds gross but that’s what I do).

I resisted buying a Keurig for a long time because I didn’t like that the plastic cups get thrown away, typically.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@jca One of the things I don’t understand about this is that if you’re already rinsing out a paper product, why doesn’t it seem sensible to you to rinse a durable thing that doesn’t need replacing periodically? That’s basically why ceramics and cutlery exist.

jca's avatar

@dappled_leaves: Good question. When I think about my time home in the evenings, after being out over 10 hours at work and commuting, and then dealing with getting the kid into the shower, supervising her in the shower, out of the shower, clothes on, getting myself ready for bed, cooking dinner, feeding the cats, serving the dinner, plates in the sink, serving the dessert, drink, etc., and then preparing for bed, a paper plate under an ice cream pop is such a minor part of that. When I do the above routine day after day, the dishes don’t get washed and they usually don’t even go into the dishwasher except maybe twice a week, and I will have (as I have right now) a dish full of dishes.

I assume that’s what you were referring to.

If you were referring to the work coffee cup, I don’t rinse it (I know, it’s gross).

JLeslie's avatar

@jca So, basically it is such minimal use it isn’t really a big deal. For convenience I can understand it. It’s probably less expensive then what I am doing, which is buying two dishwashers for my new home so I always have a place for a dirty dish.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: Yes, it’s so minimal.

What I think of as not minimal is how when we order food at lunch and it comes in plastic containers, and some people don’t recycle those containers. They throw them out. I take them home and try to put them in dishwasher and keep them or reuse them.

Also, plastic and styrofoam in fast food restaurants. Ever see the huge cups for soda that are made out of plastic? All goes in the garbage. Cups for coffee made of styrofoam with plastic lids? All goes in the garbage. For me, one or two regular paper plates is so minimal, and such a low expense, compared to my hectic lifestyle.

JLeslie's avatar

I reuse some of the plastic things, but I kind of believe some of the paranoia about plastics. I store most food in glass. As far as drinks, I rarely get hot drinks so most of my drinks from restaurants are in paper, or coated paper. It’s easy for me to say all that right now, because I am not working and am not eating out much. When I worked I ate lunch out at least three times a week.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: Food from take out used to come in tin pans with paper covers, now it’s all these black round plastic containers with clear lids. So much plastic into the garbage. Probably minimal amounts get recycled.

Where I live, they use private carting companies. There was something recently on the news about how the private companies don’t recycle. I am very big on my plastic not going into the garbage. I took all my recycling into my car but I don’t know where to take it. I will probably take it out of the car this week and put it in the recycling for the carting company. I hope they recycle it but I doubt it.

flutherother's avatar

I use normal plates like @ragingloli (I would never have imagined you use any other kind)

JLeslie's avatar

@jca Yeah, When I was in NY my leftovers were in the aluminum with the paper top. It stood out to me, because I had not seen that in a while. I do see paper Chinese take out “boxes” even in restaurants that aren’t Chinese, but mostly I see the black plastic with clear tops. I recently bought more supermarket insulated bags, because I got so disgusted with the plastic, and even had paper bags piling up. Now, I have enough insulated fabric bags for everything and the people who bag the groceries don’t have to worry about sorting the bags for frozen and not frozen. In FL it just makes sense anyway since it is hot almost all year. I love them, I wish I had done it years ago. The Publix grocery bags are rectangular so the bottom sits flat on the counter like a paper bag, they zip up at the top, and have a handle.

When I learned several years ago about the mass of plastic floating in the Pacific the size of Texas I got more serious about plastic, but still could do more. It’s just awful.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: It would be nice if everyone were so into it. When I see water bottles in the garbage or like I said, the plastic restaurant containers in the garbage, it bothers me. Plus hospitals and hotels and fast food with their styrofoam, all these restaurants using plastic utensils, it’s nuts.

JLeslie's avatar

At least the paper decays in the land fills. I guess the plastic can be cleaned and recycled? Maybe @dappled_leaves knows more about that.

My guess is America has way more leftovers taken away from restaurants, because of the portion sizes. That adds to the problem.

My girlfriend just went through the water problem in Toldeo, OH and now she is thinking of getting a service that delivers water. I asked her if she usually drinks bottled water. She hasn’t answered back. I think that is such a waste, plus as I said above I worry about the plastic leaching. I guess maybe those big bottles delivered by the service get recycled. I hope so.

jca's avatar

My mom took my daughter out recently to a little breakfast spot near the doctor. She told me how the lady cooked them a nice breakfast, blah blah blah. I realized the place was not equipped with dishwasher, dishwashing equipment, etc. because the lady served them on disposable plates using disposable utensils.

ucme's avatar

We eat off the freshly cleaned & talced bottoms of our staff, they do love our little eccentricities

majorrich's avatar

I often use paper plates when I am home alone, and will often use them a second time if I used it just for a sandwich or something that didn’t render the plate unusable. The wife unit frowns on this practice, but she works and cant stop me from doing it. (punching out my defiant chest) When the family is home, we use our regular plates. I do use the regular silverware all the time and often re-use those too! Glad Mama doesn’t see where I post or I’d be in trouble.

jca's avatar

I put plastic utensils in the dishwasher – (just saying).

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Real always unless we are having a large number of guests.

marinelife's avatar

Real. Paper plates are bad for the environment.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@jca “I put plastic utensils in the dishwasher – (just saying).”

If you are willing to do that, why use plastic utensils in the first place?

dappled_leaves's avatar

@jca “I assume that’s what you were referring to.”

Well… not really. In the previous comment, you said (for example) that you were reusing paper cups. I assume that this entails rinsing the cup lightly and putting it in a place for the next day’s use. My question then is, why not reuse an actual cup, under the same regime? Basically this is exactly what @El_Cadejo hastily typed above me!

It almost seems as if you consider the non-disposables as inherently more work – but my point is that they don’t have to be. You can lightly rinse a mug in exactly the same way that you lightly rinse a paper cup. Only you don’t have to throw the mug away and get a new one after a few days.

jca's avatar

@El_Cadejo; I will use plastic at home when I run out of clean “real” utensils. (sorry for delay – had to get child out of shower and help her dress).

@dappled_leaves: I don’t rinse paper cup- as I explained, I know it might be considered gross. I got the cups leftover from a party that I bought them for.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Only if I was going on a picnic or I was having a barbecue with a lot of guests and it was very casual. I’d never use paper plates at home for myself and my family. I’d be concerned about my impact on the environment. I’d rather just wash plates and other utensils.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

China at home, stoneware on the boat. Solid garbage containment is a real problem at sea, so the last thing you want is using up valuable space with voluminous, black, stinking bags of old paper and plastic products. Besides, food, and especially drink, do not taste the same at all in or on plastic. I’m amazed people put up with it except at picnics. It’s also a lot cheaper to re-use durable goods rather than one-time-use goods (fixed costs are a good thing). And it’s better for the environment. Much better.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

^^ Addendum

Oh, yeah. Washing the dishes together is an excellent way to get to know an attractive dinner guest better at someone else’s dinner. The host appreciates that two of their guests want to show a little appreciation, and for some strange reason, a man in the kitchen works like an aphrodisiac on some people. Go figure… but don’t question providence, either.

Some of my best moments with women were instigated while the two of us were washing and rinsing the dishes side-by-side. More guys should know about this.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I had some of my finest, quiet, rational moments of talking with my teenage kids when we shared dish duty.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

Bad for the environment? Seriously? Hoew long do yo think it takes for ceramic plates to decompose? IT NEVER DOES, and there are tons and tons and tons of glass and ceramic bits from broken dishes occupyig landfills everywhere. How many sanctimonious paper haters use environmentally safe dish soap? I know some jellies do, but I bet if we took a look under all those kitchen sinks…
I use paper for stuff that makes sense, and wash the things I use when we have soup, or gravy.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@Jones4Burgers, I don’t routinely throw my ceramic plates in the garbage. Furthermore, I haven’t needed to buy or replace my ceramic dishes for many years. Why create garbage when you can reuse the same dishes over and over and over again. And you are again making assumptions. I use Earth Choice environmentally-friendly dishwasher tablets and dishwashers have been found to be more environmentally friendly than hand washing dishes. I do consider these issues when buying products – any products. I can’t speak for others either to say they don’t do this or that they do.

I’m not opposed to using paper (in contrast to plastic coated paper products) when the situation makes sense but why routinely generate paper waste when you can wash and reuse dishes? This article discusses the process of producing and transporting those paper plates. This research report investigates the environmental impact of disposable plate use over ceramic plate use and determines it’s more environmentally friendly to use ceramic plates.

jca's avatar

I guess a logical thought that comes from the above discussion is if regular plates are better and can just be thrown into the dishwasher or washed with soap and water, why use paper napkins when cloth napkins can be thrown into the laundry with our other clothes? Paper napkins are probably just as bad for the environment as paper plates are.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@jca – agreed.

Couldn’t the same be said for diapers? When I was a kid, my parents used cloth diapers. (In the 1950s).

Nowadays, everyone uses paper diapers…..what a waste of landfill space.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca People who really concern themselves over these types of things do use cloth napkins more. I bought a new flat sponge sort of thing (I think it is Dutch) to wipe my kitchen counters in lieu of using so much paper towel. I like it better than a regular sponge. I think it probably saves a little trash going into the system and I save a little money. What I don’t know is when I finally throw it out, does it not decompose? I don’t know if it is made from synthetic or real material. I am ten minutes from the Tarpon Springs Spongedocks all the time, I can easily buy real sponges whenever I want to. I wonder if that is better for the environment? Although, I feel bad the living things are ripped from the sea.

jonsblond's avatar

Does it have to be all or nothing when trying to do what’s best?

I use cloth towels instead of paper towels because it saves me money. I used disposable diapers because I didn’t want to spend my sleep deprived day washing poopy cloth diapers.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

It’s pretty obvious to me when I help my sister with her triplets that paper diapers are not optional.

JLeslie's avatar

@jonsblond I hope it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, because then I’m screwed. I do what I can that doesn’t inconvenience me too much, and then I let the rest slide. My recent reusable shopping bag purchase for the supermarket actually is more convenient for me, I wish I had done it years ago. At the same time I don’t recycle every water and soda bottle in my house, because we drink so few I can’t be bothered making the trip to the recycle all the time.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@jca Uh, I’ve never bought paper napkins, and I use paper towel only minimally, preferring to do exactly what you’ve described: use washable cloth napkins for company and towels for emergencies.

As @jonsblond points out, this is also a great money-saver.

jca's avatar

If I am at the kitchen sink, I’ll try to dry my hands with a regular kitchen towel. If I dry them with paper towel, I will put it on the counter and reuse it. I don’t have any formal system for doing it, I don’t open them and line them up or anything, I’ll just put it down and reuse. If I use the paper towel to do something like wipe the counter, I’ll throw it out.

I work for an organization that caters food for meetings at least once every few months. It’s incredible, the amount of waste. Large aluminum trays that hot food comes in, garbage. They’re all covered with tomato sauce and nobody is cleaning them and recycling. The utensils are all thrown out – all plastic. The serving utensils, thrown out, plastic. The cups, thrown out, all plastic. The butter in separate servings, like they have in restaurants, thrown out plastic, once the butter is used. Last few times I was in the hospital, all the food served to patients, plastic and styrofoam plates and utensils, all thrown out. I guess the labor to collect and wash the utensils is too much. I would collect my unused stuff and I took it all home, plus when I travel, I take home the unused plastic or styrofoam coffee cups from my hotel room. Otherwise, I know the maids just throw them out.

@dappled_leaves: You’re probably in the minority (people who use cloth napkins at home). I don’t think I know of anybody that does that for every day. That’s great!

JLeslie's avatar

I reuse my paper towels too if they just cleaned up water. It’s why my kitchen is never perfectly tidy. LOL. Always something I am trying to reuse.

I take some of the cups from the hotels, but why would they throw out the unused ones?

I use plastic bags for my shoes when I pack my luggage for travel. I reuse them for years.

The waste in catering is unbelievable. It bothers me too. We keep plastic trays and then use them again when we bring food to someone else’s house. Hopefully, they reuse them too.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@jca It actually sounds like you have a great opportunity to create change in that organization. Why not take the initiative to organize a recycling and composting regime for them? It could be a great experience, and it would be a really good thing to do.

jca's avatar

@dappled_leaves: The goal when there’s an event is to clean up asap. These meetings occur after work, usually, and everyone wants to get home as soon as the meetings end. Unless I want to personally dedicate myself to cleaning and recycling all the stuff for catering for over 100, it’s not happening.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@jca I don’t want to totally derail here, just saying that organization is the key. It doesn’t mean that you personally have to clean up after everyone, it just means setting up specific ways of dealing with waste (sorting different things into bins, for example). This is work the catering staff or the attendees can do themselves with little effort, if there are designated bins and clear signs.

jca's avatar

@dappled_leaves: Yes, I understand. There is no catering staff or attendees. It’s volunteer and the goal from the top down is get everyone home asap.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@jca I imagine the cleanup must be very minimal indeed if there are no attendees. :P

I get it. Change is bad. Effort is worse.

jca's avatar

@dappled_leaves: There are volunteers who help with the cleanup, after people swoop in like vultures to take the leftovers.

I cannot be the catalyst in this organization to start a recycling program. I am at the bottom as far as decisions go, and I am vulnerable to being let go. Please don’t make assumptions about my opinion on change or effort.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I work for an organisation with thousands of employees. Each year we get a Christmas present if we attend the Christmas lunch. One year, we were all given mugs to get our coffee in from the coffee shop. We get a discount if we use one of those cups rather than getting the usual paper cups.

I haven’t seen any disposable cups used for years in a meeting either. We do have catering staff who deliver the food/coffee and take away the dishes and clean them. I do think it comes down to an attitudinal change from management.

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