Paper plates can cause considerable damage to the environment.
Using paper plates looks like a highly practical substitute when you consider the relief of not having to load your dishwasher or worry about breaking a plate. Paper plates, however, have just joined the piles of trash that are filling the landfill.
And in this instance, it could seem that managing plastic waste is preferable to managing discarded paper plates.
Can You Recycle Paper Plates?
The rationale is that paper plates cannot be recycled or reused due to contamination and staining.
Most plastic garbage may be recycled into other secondary products.
This means that, unless you intend to compost the garbage, used paper plates are often dumped in landfills where they slowly degrade.
In other instances, the creation of white paper plates necessitates the addition of chemicals or bleaches to wood pulps.
That could be hazardous to the environment because the significant amount of chlorine needed to create bright white paper plates could harm or kill living things – if it leaks into the ground, or water, or was inhaled when exposed to the air.
Are Paper Plates Biodegradable?
Paper plates decay; considerably more slowly than other paper products. This is because the plates’ additives, which were used to support the plates’ integrity and face value, were added.
However, you can compost your paper plates or give them out to compost companies if you can’t do it yourself to avoid filling landfills with mountains of undigested paper plates.
Since discolored paper plates cannot be recycled, this is a better strategy to prevent litter from paper plate use.
Do Paper Plates Decompose After Use?
The answer is both Yes and No.
Yes, because paper deteriorates. No, because some variables prevent some paper plates from degrading.
Paper plates may be biodegradable and how quickly they break down depends on how they are disposed of by the last user.
Paper plate waste is occasionally tied in plastic bags before being disposed of; this produces an anaerobic environment that hinders the breakdown process.
You’ll see that there are more factors to consider when you balance these alternatives as to why some paper plates might not decompose.
What Can You Use Instead of Paper Plates?
There are numerous alternatives to paper plates that are biodegradable that you might consider if you’re starting to have second thoughts about using them.
Additionally, they are biodegradable and compostable. Here are some choices for biodegradable plates:
1. Sugarcane Plates
These are excellent substitutes because they are biodegradable, compostable, and created from renewable resources. They are also strong and affordable, so they won’t bend easily.
2. Palm Leaf Plates
In the manufacturing facility, water is used to wash and clean the fronds, which are now sheaths. They are then still moist and shaped into different shapes.
High-temperature hot plates are forced against the sheaths during molding. The final plates are now dried in the sun to get rid of extra moisture.
The sheaths and heat-press utilized in manufacture attest to the product’s strength and durability, making it very sustainable. They can also be composted.
It must be thrown away with other rubbish since it decomposes swiftly for disposal.
3. Bamboo Plate
The fact that this type of plate may be produced without the use of hazardous chemicals or materials is noteworthy. The bamboo plants are not harmed when the sheath naturally falls off.
The resulting plates are strong and long-lasting, which makes them ideal for presenting hearty meals.
4. Polypropylene that degrades naturally
These are disposable, eco-friendly plastic plates that have had unique organic additives, typically hydrophilic characteristics, inserted into the polymer chain.
5. Wheat Straw Plastic
Wheat straw is a form of grain that may be eaten and is used to make dishes like flour, bread, and pasta. A by-product of the production of wheat is wheat straw.
Manufacturers can create plates out of wheat straws and other food-grade materials.
It’s non-allergenic, non-renewable, sustainable, and robust without the use of pollutants. Additionally, it reduces waste because the farmers wouldn’t have to burn the straw.
6. Reusable Plate
Now that we know, the benefit of paper plates in keeping you from cleaning and washing is fully defeated by this. But it’s one of the best ways to lessen any potential environmental damage that comes with our growing use of paper plates.
Ceramic and glass plates are examples of reusable serving ware. No matter how strong they are, they are stronger and more resilient than standard paper plates.
They are washable, reusable, and storable. Glass or ceramic plates can be used repeatedly as long as they are not cracked or scratched.
Additionally, they would avoid continuously spending their hard-earned money on paper plates. Glass and ceramic plates are much more environmentally friendly and sustainable than paper or plastic plates.
How Long Does It Take a Paper Plate to Break Down?
Paper plates require at least six months to degrade under ideal circumstances, but some variables could shorten or prolong the process.
However, according to the New York City department, most paper plates completely degrade in five years.
Moisture and Heat
Moisture and heat are a couple of the elements that promote the rapid breakdown of paper plates.
Paper plates also tend to degrade more quickly when disposed of in a well-aerated atmosphere.
The Thickness of The Paper Plate
The thickness of the paper used to manufacture the plates is another crucial element.
The thicker the paper plate, the slower it decomposes; however, if the plates are disposed of in shreds or pieces, the decomposition rate is accelerated.
Impact of Paper Consumption on Global Forests
The effects of the paper products business on forests are examined in an investigative article about the papermaking process that is a part of the Secret Life series.
Despite the rise in sustainable forest management techniques, virgin wood-based fibers still make up most of the pulp used to make paper, including paper plates.
As paper product companies now have signs if they were manufactured from recycled fibers or fibers from sustainably managed forests. It’s become easier to understand where wood fiber for products is sourced from.
To support recycling practices that most benefit forests, look for companies that use “post-consumer trash,” or think about converting to sugar cane plates that are biodegradable and compostable.
The disadvantage of not recycling paper plates after every service outweighs their usefulness for use.
If you are concerned about the ecology, you might choose to keep using ceramic dishes rather than switching to paper plates. Paper plates won’t be a bad idea.
But if you don’t mind composting occasionally.