Paper Plates, Plastic Cups - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 06-08-2004, 12:11 PM
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I've got something on my mind and I'm trying to figure out if I am foolish even worrying about it.



I help a friend who is a vegan chef. She is the former owner of a vegan restaurant, which unfortunately shut down several years ago. She now does luncheons every two weeks at her house for maybe 20 to 30 people, and I help her with the set-up and clean up.



The last luncheon she called me that morning and told me her plumbing broke and asked me to buy paper plates and plastic cups to use, since she was unable to wash her dishes. So I did that, and the plumbers were in her kitchen during the luncheon. I think she felt very embarrassed by the episode.



She called me afterwards and said that she intends to use paper plates and plastic cups from now on. (I think she is assuming that the dishwashing contributed to whatever plumbing problems she had, although from what the plumbers told her, it was mainly a problem of very old pipes.)



EarthSave Nashville has a set of heavy plastic (non-disposable) plates that I have custody of, and that are not currently being used, and that were purchased precisely so we would not have to be environmental hypocrites and use paper plates. I could offer to lend these to my friend for her luncheons, bringing the dirty/soiled plates back home and putting them in my dishwasher.



I guess I am trying to figure out whether this is worth doing or not. Or is using paper plates not such a big deal? And then, what is the real environmental impact of using paper plates vs. running a dishwasher?



Perhaps I am influenced in part by having another environmental group I belong to go through the same issue. We ended up getting donations of china plates and mugs for possible use at dinners, luncheons. It was a bit of a hassle, but everyone assumed it was worth the effort.



So, what are your thoughts on using paper plates and plastic cups and throwing them in the trash? Is this a real environmental issue? Or something trivial that really does not make that much difference?
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#2 Old 06-08-2004, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by joe View Post

So, what are your thoughts on using paper plates and plastic cups and throwing them in the trash? Is this a real environmental issue? Or something trivial that really does not make that much difference?

I don't think there's any real threat of a tree shortage. I only use paper plates, plastic cups, and plastic utensils. I'll wash and reuse the cups sometimes, everything else is trashed. The only thing I wash are pots and pans once a month or so.
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#3 Old 06-08-2004, 12:49 PM
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i never use paper plates or plastic cups. i think it is wasteful and just contributes to greater landfill.



(p.s. yes, i do realize i'm making an impact by washing the dishes (i.e. using up water) but i try to be as water conservative as possible.)
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#4 Old 06-08-2004, 12:53 PM
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I think it is an environmental issue. Are there more biodegradable plates and/or cups?



I never use disposable plates or utensils, unless you count those supposedly disposable containers they sell at the grocery store. I use those until they start to fall apart. I also use plastic forks at work, because they are not easily washed. I brought my own metal spoon and knife that I wash and reuse.



Another thing that I've noticed and that kind of bothers me is the trend of disposable wipes and brushes. There are cleaning wipes, Swiffer, flushable toilet brushes (though I can understand the appeal of this one), Armor All wipes... It seems so wasteful.
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#5 Old 06-08-2004, 12:57 PM
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i hate disposable stuff. i hate garbage. We are avid recyclers and composters (now that we have our own house we have a composter! whee!) and I hate creating any more garbage than is neccessary. I mean, who are we to assume there will be a space cleared just for our garbage in a landfill somewhere?



So yeah, I do think it's an issue. Sure, if may not matter for every individual cup and plate that is thrown out, but if EVERYONE created so much unnecessary garbage it'd be a disaster.
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#6 Old 06-08-2004, 02:21 PM
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Hi Joe,

Wow, that's awfully nice of you to offer to bring her dishes to your house to wash. I personally would be feeling the same way as you are about paper plates and cups. It seems so wasteful.

Here are some plates that would have a little less impact on the environment:

Seventh Generation: http://www.seventhgeneration.com/page.asp?id=1191



On a side note; I still haven't made a point to get to my local EarthSave meeting, but I do get their emails and at our local meetings people are asked to bring their own place setting.
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#7 Old 06-08-2004, 02:26 PM
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Personally, I would not use the disposable stuff. Yes, it takes energy to wash the non-disposable dishes, but it also takes energy to manufacture a new paper plate or plastic cup every time you need one, and to transport it from the factory (probably in China or Indonesia) to your local store. And then there's the landfill issue.
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#8 Old 06-08-2004, 02:40 PM
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When in doubt, I always follow the guideline of first reducing consumption (i.e., not purchasing new plates for every occasion), then reusing (i.e., cleaning plates to use for the next event), and finally recycling. Ideally, if the plates are recyclable, then they can be submitted to the appropriate collection site if they crack or become too scuffed to reuse for the business.



So, cleaning, then. Use the most environmentally sensitive detergent you can find from Ecover, 7th Gen, or whomever. If you must run a dishwasher (which uses a lot of water and electricity), then use the cycle that runs the shortest. Hopefully you have a newer, more energy efficient machine. I prefer to handwash dishes both for diminished environmental impact, and because it's one of the few chores that (though I hate doing it) relaxes me. Something about the repeated motions of washing and rinsing the dishes while listening to music can be a worthwhile activity if you want to unwind from mentally strenuous activity.
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#9 Old 06-08-2004, 03:05 PM
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If she is dead-set on using disposable, you may try steering her in the direction of the plates and cutlery made by NatureWorks PLA. These items are made from corn and are compostable and completely biodegradable. They are slightly more expensive than paper plates and plasticware, but the environmental tradeoffs are pretty significant.



http://www.brenmarco.com/natureworkspla/nw_main.html
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#10 Old 06-08-2004, 03:59 PM
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Thank you all for the feedback.



It's good to get a "reality check" on these issues.
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#11 Old 06-08-2004, 04:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SallyK View Post

Hi Joe,

Wow, that's awfully nice of you to offer to bring her dishes to your house to wash.



Well, I haven't done it yet, but just running the dishwasher one more time every two weeks to deal with these dishes should not be that big of a problem. At any rate, I'm willing to try it to see how it works out.



Quote:
I personally would be feeling the same way as you are about paper plates and cups. It seems so wasteful.

Here are some plates that would have a little less impact on the environment:

Seventh Generation: http://www.seventhgeneration.com/page.asp?id=1191



On a side note; I still haven't made a point to get to my local EarthSave meeting, but I do get their emails and at our local meetings people are asked to bring their own place setting.



Thanks for this reference. We do have one store here in Nashville (Wild Oats)

that sells Seventh Generation products, so I'll have to look into it.



The paper plates available at the local supermarket, though, are the Dixie Heavy Duty with Soak Proof Shield (and similar products). They are quite strong and do not fall apart if there is a gravy, sauce or other liquid on the plate. But I'd imagine that whatever they use to make them "soak proof" would also tend to make them non-bio-degradable, or at least would make them difficult to degrade.



When EarthSave Nashville was actively holding potlucks, some people brought their own dishes and settings but most did not. We also held our meetings at a church where they had a kitchen and dishes we could use, but that meant they had to be washed, dried, and replaced in the cupboards while we were there, so took up extra time. The other plates could be taken home for washing, etc., so allowed us to leave earlier.
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#12 Old 06-08-2004, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Jess B View Post

If she is dead-set on using disposable, you may try steering her in the direction of the plates and cutlery made by NatureWorks PLA. These items are made from corn and are compostable and completely biodegradable. They are slightly more expensive than paper plates and plasticware, but the environmental tradeoffs are pretty significant.



http://www.brenmarco.com/natureworkspla/nw_main.html



That's fascinating, but since they sell at 2,000 per case at $426, I think they would not be a practical purchase for my vegan chef.
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#13 Old 06-08-2004, 11:47 PM
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I would definitely wash plates too, and not only that, but I'd do it by hand without the aid of a dishwasher!
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#14 Old 06-09-2004, 12:11 AM
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I dont really use paper products.. I just buy "picnic sets" which consists of colorful plastic plates, bowls, cups, and cutlery. Easy to wash, and can be reused over and over.
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#15 Old 06-09-2004, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by christy13 View Post

Another thing that I've noticed and that kind of bothers me is the trend of disposable wipes and brushes. There are cleaning wipes, Swiffer, flushable toilet brushes (though I can understand the appeal of this one), Armor All wipes... It seems so wasteful.



I love all those things. Using a Swiffer is cleaner than using the same mop over and over.
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#16 Old 06-09-2004, 07:20 AM
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I love all those disposable wipes too.



And all this stuff is so cheap. If it was expensive I'd do it all the old way with a rag and water, but you can find mass quantities of paper plates, plastic cups, utensils, and cleaning supplies, cleaning wipes, each for just a dollar and each supply lasting more than a month.
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#17 Old 06-09-2004, 12:36 PM
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I'm bothered by all the disposable cleaning wipes and things too. Sure they are convenient, but at what cost to the environment? I have a friend who uses paper towels for everything...she never uses a cloth to wipe down a table. I am not kidding, when she comes over for dinner she uses a half roll of paper towels!



I read a quote at our local visual arts center when they did a display of some environmentalist art: "It takes 100 times more energy to create 10,000 plastic spoons than to make one metal teaspoon and wash it 10,000 times." It made me think!
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#18 Old 06-09-2004, 12:55 PM
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"It takes 100 times more energy to create 10,000 plastic spoons than to make one metal teaspoon and wash it 10,000 times." It made me think!

I could be wrong, but wouldn't that be the same as saying "It takes twice the energy to create 200 plastic spoons than to make one metal spoon and wash it 200 times," it's either that, or "It takes 100 times more energy to create a plastic spoon than to make one metal spoon."



In either case, I think it's simply best to be less wasteful.
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#19 Old 06-23-2004, 11:54 AM
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Joe, I found this website and thought I would post it here for you. Looks like good stuff....

http://www.simplybiodegradable.com/

I didn't look at prices and such though.

You haven't said...are you doing this girl's dishes now?
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#20 Old 06-23-2004, 11:57 AM
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I found this as well: http://mocoloco.com/archives/000125.php

Very cool looking!
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#21 Old 06-23-2004, 12:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by christy13 View Post

Another thing that I've noticed and that kind of bothers me is the trend of disposable wipes and brushes. There are cleaning wipes, Swiffer, flushable toilet brushes (though I can understand the appeal of this one), Armor All wipes... It seems so wasteful.





I've noticed this too. Drives me crazy. I mean, yeah, the appeal is there, but it just seems wrong.
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#22 Old 06-23-2004, 12:28 PM
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Joe, are you sure you aren't just interested in getting free food off of her?

Q: How many poets does it take to change a light bulb? A: 1001...one to change the bulb, 1000 to say it's already been done.
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#23 Old 06-23-2004, 12:32 PM
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I can't wait to get the disposable toilet brushes, but everything else I hate using. It's a lso a fact that not only are these things taking up space in landfills, but those bleaching rags and wipes having toxic chemicals in them.



epski, dishwashers don't necessarily use any more energy and water than washing dishes by hand. Junior year i took AP Env. Science and we actually had to do problems like this, comparing dish washing v. dishwasher, and a lot of times the dishwasher came out on top. (I don't think this included the heated dry though )
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#24 Old 06-23-2004, 12:47 PM
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Originally Posted by kpickell View Post

I don't think there's any real threat of a tree shortage. I only use paper plates, plastic cups, and plastic utensils. I'll wash and reuse the cups sometimes, everything else is trashed. The only thing I wash are pots and pans once a month or so.





---Its not just the "paper" from the trees. There's a lot more that goes into it:

-The tree must be cut down.

-then driven to a pulping factory.

-They guys need to be paid to cut down the tree and drive the truck.

-The gas is used for the truck. (probably diesel, which is particularly bad for the air.)

-The factory that does the pulping, puts emmissions into the air.

-The factory uses electricty from the electricity plant which puts emissions into the air.

-All the people working at the pulping factory have to drive their cars to work, using gas, putting emmissions into the air.

-The pulped wood gets transported to the paper factory.

-Gas is used to transport it. (diesel)

-The guys have to be paid to drive the truck.

-The paper factory puts emissions into the air.

-It also uses electricity from the electricity plant, which puts emmissions into the air.

-All the people that work there, drive. (see point above)

-After the paper plates are made, they're packaged in plastic (more emmissions), then transported, not once, but twice or more to the warehouses of companies that sell the paper plates. (trucks/diesel)

-People drive (emmissions) to the store (which uses electricity) to get the paper plates.

-People use paper plates once, then throw them away. The garbage man then has to pick up more garbage than he would if the person wouldn't use paper plates, resulting in more gas usage (diesel, probably), and emmissions.



[I'm sure I'm missing some steps in this equation, but I think I've got most of it.]



Or--you could use traditional plates which are made once, transported once, then wash and re-use them.



(I came to the massive realization recently of all that goes into 1 piece of junk mail, and the production of paper plates is not too far off from that. I'm trying my darndest to cut down as much as possible on my garbage creation.)
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#25 Old 06-23-2004, 12:55 PM
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Personally, I would not use the disposable stuff. Yes, it takes energy to wash the non-disposable dishes, but it also takes energy to manufacture a new paper plate or plastic cup every time you need one, and to transport it from the factory (probably in China or Indonesia) to your local store. And then there's the landfill issue.





Agreed whole heartedly. See my post above.
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#26 Old 06-23-2004, 01:21 PM
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Joe, I found this website and thought I would post it here for you. Looks like good stuff....

http://www.simplybiodegradable.com/

I didn't look at prices and such though.

You haven't said...are you doing this girl's dishes now?



The next luncheon is June 30. I just mentioned the idea to her on the phone last week before she left on vacation, so I will bring the plates over to her (probably that morning) and she will decide. So this basically hasn't happened yet/hasn't been decided yet.



I did find 20 of the hard plastic (melamine (sp?)) Rubbermaid dishwasher-washable plates. I think these are ideal, but we would need 10 to 15 more. And when I contacted Rubbermaid, I found out they stopped making them in 1999.



If you know of any other manufacturer that makes similar plates, and where I can get them, please let me know. (No, I haven't tried to search on the internet yet.)



I do have these Oneida Classic china plates, which possibly could be used.

But they have the "scuffmark" problem I posted about in another thread. I haven't had time yet to experiment with other cleaning methods. The main problem with them is that they are heavy, and I really don't want to risk dropping them and smashing them. (Yes, I have succeeded in dropping and smashing my friend's glass cookware that was in a heavy box, and I don't want to repeat this folly.)



I did pick up some of the Seventh Generation paper plates that you mentioned earlier. The main problem with these is that the luncheon is a smorgasbord type meal where you serve yourself from the various cooking pots and containers full of food. This means that you have to be able to hold your plate with one hand and spoon or ladle the food onto your plate using the other hand. But the Seventh Generation paper plates are too thin to be held with one hand yet support the weight of the food. (They are like the "old-fashioned" paper plates from the 1960s.) So, if they are to be used, a support-plate or backing plate would have to be used underneath.

That might be an option, possibly using the china plates as backing plates.

(But then, I have to ask myself: Why not just eat off the china plates? Why use paper plates at all?)



Another possible option might be to use the plastic plates plus some of the plates that had previously been used to make up the balance, and I would just take these home and put them in my dishwasher. Possibly I could lend the Oneida china plates to my vegan cook friend to use until I get her plates back to her.



I just don't know. There are lots of possibilities. It will be up to her to decide. She is very much concerned with the aesthetics of her food presentation, so might reject some of these ideas on aesthetic grounds. Also, she seems to keep telling me that my ideas are "too complicated," so might reject them on that ground. Or, maybe we will experiment with all this and see what works. I dunno. She's the boss.



I did bring the plates to an annual meeting of an environmental group I belong to, where desserts were served. One of the other members brought paper plates, and about half the people there used the paper plates. So even environmentalists seem to be insensitive on this issue.



Thanks for all the info. I really appreciate it. I will let you know how this all works out.
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#27 Old 06-23-2004, 01:35 PM
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Joe, are you sure you aren't just interested in getting free food off of her?



She is a wonderful cook, and I'd gladly pay her the modest fee she asks for her food. But she has asked me to help her, and she set the terms of the help. So I don't think I'm ripping her off.



I also do buy her gifts fairly frequently of things I think she might need or be able to use. These have included a 20 quart stainless-steel cooking pot, fire extinguishers, an "Ove Glove," and various supplies.



I've had no indication that she thinks of me as a freeloader.



She is a generous person and often cooks for cancer patients through Gilda's Club.
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#28 Old 06-23-2004, 04:06 PM
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---Its not just the "paper" from the trees. There's a lot more that goes into it:

-The tree must be cut down.

-then driven to a pulping factory.

-They guys need to be paid to cut down the tree and drive the truck.

-The gas is used for the truck. (probably diesel, which is particularly bad for the air.)

-The factory that does the pulping, puts emmissions into the air.

-The factory uses electricty from the electricity plant which puts emissions into the air.

-All the people working at the pulping factory have to drive their cars to work, using gas, putting emmissions into the air.

-The pulped wood gets transported to the paper factory.

-Gas is used to transport it. (diesel)

-The guys have to be paid to drive the truck.

-The paper factory puts emissions into the air.

-It also uses electricity from the electricity plant, which puts emmissions into the air.

-All the people that work there, drive. (see point above)

-After the paper plates are made, they're packaged in plastic (more emmissions), then transported, not once, but twice or more to the warehouses of companies that sell the paper plates. (trucks/diesel)

-People drive (emmissions) to the store (which uses electricity) to get the paper plates.

-People use paper plates once, then throw them away. The garbage man then has to pick up more garbage than he would if the person wouldn't use paper plates, resulting in more gas usage (diesel, probably), and emmissions.



[I'm sure I'm missing some steps in this equation, but I think I've got most of it.]



Yeah. That stuff doesn't concern me.



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#29 Old 06-23-2004, 07:38 PM
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You can get recycled cups and stuff at http://www.treecycle.com in bulk. So at least that would be better than unrecycled.
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#30 Old 06-23-2004, 09:46 PM
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The plates I buy from the dollar store are recylced, but the cups aren't. I'd buy recycled cups if they were cheap enough but I like that I can 3 months worth of cups for a dollar.
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