Summer is the season of plastic and disposable dinnerware. I get the practicality of it. With backyard meals, lugging the glass and china out to the deck can feel like a bit of effort and having kids running around the back yard with a cold drink in a breakable glass can be a bit of a worry.
Then there’s the chance that cutlery will get lost in the grass or fall through the cracks in the deck. If you’re feeding a crowd it just seems easier to use disposable.
Look in any store for outside dishes and the first thing you’ll find are brightly-coloured cups, plates and bowls made of some un-numbered plastic. Disposable dinnerware is often plastic or Styrofoam.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw out about 113 billion disposable cups, 29 billion disposable plates and 39 billion disposable utensils each year. That’s a lot of landfill, not to mentions the environmental impact of what goes into making them in the first place.
Summer simplicity doesn’t have to mean disposable. Nor are the only options for eating outside plastic. There are lots of great options for picnic and back-deck dishes that are reusable, non-toxic or at the very least, compostable.
If you do go with plastic reusable dishes make sure they’re made from polypropylene (#5 plastic). Other plastics are more likely to leach chemicals into your food. Avoid un-numbered plastics and especially polystyrene (Styrofoam). Never put hot food in or on any plastic, especially polystyrene.
Canadian Tire carries enameled cups, plates and bowls in their camping department. These are the classic cowboy dishes that are speckled blue. If you’d prefer something fancier there is a great variety available online. (My friend Sue has a great set of enameled plates designed to look like your grandmother’s best china.)
Super Store has a line of bamboo dishes that are biodegradable and can go in the dishwasher. They come in fun colours and a great variety of shapes and sizes, including serving dishes.
If you’re looking for disposable dinnerware choose paper plates and bowls since they can be composted. Then be sure to compost them.
For cutlery consider picking up an extra set of stainless steel knives, forks and spoons at Value Village. Plastic cutlery isn’t recyclable.
Look for napkins made from recycled paper if you don’t want to use cloth napkins. Ditto for tablecloths.
And for everyday summer fun silicone popsicle tubes are the easiest way yet to make your own popsicles. Regular moulds can sometimes be a pain since you have to run the whole rack under water to loosen the popsicles. And you need to find enough flat space in the freezer for the whole rack. Silicone tubes are individual tubes with tops. We use ours for leftover smoothie and also fill them with a blend of fruit juice and fruit puree (mango-orange is a favourite in our household).