Plastic Disposable Plates

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Plastic plates make serving guests at events easy because they can be thrown away after use to avoid long clean-up times. Disposable plates come in several types of plastics, thicknesses, and designs. Find a wide selection of disposable plates, place settings, and party supplies at Staples®.

The Many Different Plastic Plate Materials
The word plastic is a catch-all for what is actually many different materials that are a form of plastic. Plates come in a variety of materials that affects cost and usability. Polystyrene plates are light and airy. They come in large packs at low cost, but might not handle much use before breaking. Melamine is thicker and smooth for a stronger plate that won’t bend. Polypropylene is even stronger and can withstand the heat of a microwave to warm up leftovers. Bio-plastics are biodegradable to help the environment. Some plastic plates are compostable.

How Thickness Affects Usability of Plastic Plates
While the material of the plate is important, so is the thickness. A thicker polystyrene plate is stronger than a thin melamine plate. Thin plates use less material and are often used when the plate doesn’t need to be carried or held in the hands for long. Thicker plates come in smaller packs but can withstand being held during events where lots of standing is required or where the food is delivered to someone waiting at a table. Choose a thickness based on what will be served. Foods with lots of sauce, such as barbecue, require a thicker, more durable plate.

Color and Shapes of Plastics Plates
Events and parties usually have a theme with certain colors or designs. Using matching or contrasting dinnerware helps to bring the entire theme together. Disposable plates come in many different colors to match a theme. They also come in several shapes besides circles, such as squares, octagons, or even round plates with scalloped edges that provide an elegant feel. While the plates are disposable, they look and feel like real china.

Are Plastic Plates Recyclable?
Disposable dinner plates are typically marked with recycling codes 5 (polypropylene) or 6 (polystyrene). Plates with code 5 are recyclable and often easily accepted by curbside recycling programs. Plates with code 6 are more difficult to recycle. Check with your local recycling program to see if they are accepted.

Are Plastics Plates BPA-Free?
Many disposable plates are BPA-free, including those made of polystyrene and polypropylene. However, that doesn't mean they're microwave safe. Polystyrene can leach the chemical styrene into foods when heated and should never be used in the microwave. Melamine isn’t BPA-free. However, there are melamine plates with only trace amounts of BPA that won’t harm food unless heated up. Avoid the microwave when using melamine plates.

What is the Safest Way to Clean Plastic Plates for Reuse?
Since many plates are made of a material that shouldn’t be heated, it is safest to wash them by hand in cold, soapy water. Plastic is usually smooth, so food rinses right off without the need to scrub or soak. Wash and reuse the plates until they become too worn for use and then toss them away.

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