The biggest pain about throwing a party, is cleaning up afterwards – and that’s what drives us to buy disposable plates, forks and glasses. 30 years ago, paper plates were the thing, or at larger gatherings, you’d see leaf based options. And of course, no train journey was complete without a ‘kulladh ki chai.’ Each of these eco-friendly options have been replaced with more sturdy plastic and styrofoam – available in large quantities and at extremely cheap prices. The cost however to the environment is extremely high. These disposables clog our landfills, add to the depletion of natural resources, and release toxins that pollute the very air we breathe.
But that’s changing once again. There are now a range of Eco-friendly disposables readily available in India. They’re beautiful to look at, sturdy and extremely functional in design, made of renewable, natural, non toxic resources, and are biodegradable. They might be more expensive than plastics, for instance 50 plates for about Rs. 550 – but when you consider the overall cost of any party, this expense is negligible. In fact, many options are extremely stylish (such as those from Simply Urbane), and are an ideal replacement for tacky plastic.
Here’s a quick primer on the different types of eco-friendly plates available in the market currently. The key lies in the material used. Remember as a thumb rule, eco-friendly materials are easily biodegradable, are renewable, and release minimal toxins into the environment in their entire life cycle (production to recycling).
As the name suggests, these are made from the fallen leaves of Palm trees. They are processed with water and heat and then pressed into shape. In most cases, the process is chemical-free and no trees are cut down to make them. The lightweight leaf plates are very sturdy, making them ideal for serving hot as well as cold food. They can be composted at home, and are readily available online.
Check out this palm leaf kids party set for 25.
We love Bagasse because it actually utilizes waste – sugarcane waste – which is the fiber left over once juice is extracted from sugarcane. First the fiber is turned into pulp and then it is molded to create plates and other serve ware. Bagasse plates have the look and feel of paper plates but are leak-proof and suitable for both hot and cold temperatures. Again there are lots of options available, if you’re an online shopper, check these compartment plates.
Serve ware made from plant biomass (waste) is another option for the eco-conscious. A variety of cups, plates, bowls, and trays in all shapes and sizes are manufactured by high temperature molding of biomass pulp formed by crushing organic matter derived from plants. Serve ware made of plant biomass is easily biodegradable and very sturdy. A pack of 50 sectional plates cost Rs. 550 and definitely worth a try for your next party.
What makes Bamboo ideal is that it is one of the fastest replenishing natural resources, is sturdy and products made of Bamboo have a beautiful color. Bamboo achieves full maturity in about 4 years, and there are varieties available that does the same in less than one year. Most other varieties of wood take many more years (anywhere between 20 to 120). The only issue is you won’t find bamboo disposable plates and serve ware (or at least we didn’t – let us know if you do!) but you can find other interesting things like Bamboo Party Forks and dim sum steamers if you search online.
Once you start looking for eco-friendly disposables, you’ll find products made from bio-degradable plastics. These are made of starch from cornstalk and wheat straw which in the past were discarded. It’s now possible to use them to produce cutlery with excellent strength and that are safe for using with hot and cold foods. However, these take much longer to biodegrade, and are not easy to compost.
You can also go to a local potter (you’ll find pottery shops across NCR – Press Enclave in Saket, potters lining the roads in Delhi and Gurgaon), and ask her or him to create a batch of glasses for you. They can cost around Rs. 3-4 per piece depending on the quantity you buy (we bout 40 glasses for Rs. 4 a piece). They look great, work well, and are completely eco-friendly.
And finally, for a true Zero waste experience, try edible cutlery. Hyderabad based Bakey’s has created this innovative product that is as eco friendly as it gets. You can eat it, and what’s left behind can be easily composted. Made from flours of jowar (sorghum) blended with rice and wheat, Bakeys cutlery doesn’t contain any chemicals or preservatives and is available in different flavors. Yes, that’s right. You can buy spoons in 3 flavors – Savoury, Sweet, and Plain – from their website.
Go ahead, throw that party and use disposables responsibly! Look for them online, go to a store, or check them out right here.