The facts about disposable dinnerware

Plastic cutlery on a white paper plate

In Australia plastic plates and cutlery cannot be easily recycled.

Even when plates are made from recyclable plastic, because they are flat recycling machines will often mistakenly sort them as paper.

Plastic cutlery is the wrong shape to be correctly sorted by recycling machines, which are designed to separate containers like bottles and tubs. These items usually end up in landfill and take centuries to break down.

Alternatives for plastic dinnerware are becoming more widely available, such as biodegradable products made from recycled paper, bamboo and sugarcane. One company in India has even launched the world's first edible cutlery.

Say no to disposable dinnerware

Sustainable bamboo cutlery

Take cutlery from your kitchen drawer to picnics and use reusable dinnerware when entertaining at home.

If you're short you could hire some, ask your guests to bring their own, or buy cutlery and crockery from your local charity shop and return it afterwards.

Buy biodegradable or compostable dinnerware

If you cannot avoid disposable dinnerware, consider biodegradable or compostable products (or even edible cutlery!)

Biodegradable products

  • bamboo
  • palm leaf
  • sugarcane

Compostable products

  • paper
  • cornstarch

Biodegradable products are not recyclable or compostable but they will break down over time with exposure to sun and air.

Compostable products will usually break down in commercial or household compost depending on the thickness and materials used. The type of composting required is usually specified on the label.

Dump chopsticks while you're at it

According to Greenpeace, almost 4 million trees are sacrificed to produce 57 billion pairs of chopsticks each year. When you're out or ordering takeaway, say no to chopsticks and disposable cutlery.

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