Waste-free Options for Summer Picnics

Picnics and outdoor gatherings offer some of summer’s most enjoyable occasions.  However, if you are an environmentally-conscious person, it’s likely that you cringe a bit when you see all of the trash generated from disposable plates and cups at parties.

Disposable products may seem like the only practical option in our busy lives, but alternatives exist that can significantly reduce the amount of waste generated at your next party.

Compostable picnic-ware

In the last few years, the availability of biodegradable and compostable picnic-ware has improved.  You can find it in most grocery stores.  Generally, it has the look and feel of traditional picnic-ware, but instead of being made from petroleum or other non-biodegradable substances, it is plant based.

Compostable plates, cups and utensils provide a good alternative to traditional picnic-ware if you must go disposable; however, clever marketing has made us forget that they only benefit the planet if you plan to compost them.  Many people do not have adequate access to composting yet.  They may not have room or a desired to compost in their backyard, and even though composting is up-and-coming as a government service, it is still in its formative stage in many places.

While it can be argued that biodegradable picnic-ware may break down in the landfill, throwing biodegradable objects into the landfill provides no real additional benefit compared to throwing anything else away.  The material still goes to waste rather than being broken-down and recycled into the Earth.

Reusable picnic-ware

Convenient, Earth-friendly options also exist for those who do not have access to composting.  The company Recycline offers reusable picnic-ware that is compact, affordable and durable.  The Preserve line of plates, cups and flatware are made from recycled yogurt cups.

The best part is…they are dishwasher safe!  While the cleanup may take a little more time than just throwing everything away, because they can be put in the dishwasher, it is within practical limits of most people.  A set for 40 people does not take up too much space and will easily fit in a small space in a kitchen cupboard.

This picnic-ware will last a while and will pay for itself after just a few gatherings.  It is quite durable, but if an item does happen to break, it can be recycled in many facilities.

It can make a difference

Estimates show that each year in the US, we dispose of 60 billion cups, 20 billion eating utensils and 25 billion plates.  That’s approximately 80 plates per person in the US per year!  If even a fraction of these plates were compostable or reusable, it would prevent a lot of waste from going to the landfill.

References: http://www.adm.uwaterloo.ca/infowast/watgreen/projects/library/f03biodegradeablesatstjeromes.pdf


Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons by edenpictures

3 thoughts on “Waste-free Options for Summer Picnics”

  1. I'm a member of an outdoor group that rents cabins in the winter and we always have potluck food. Everyone brings there own dishes, cups, and silverware. It would work for a picnic, too!

    1. Good work on rallying people to bring their own dishes! That's a great idea for a potluck. Bring your own food to share…bring your own dishes too. Are these potlucks events that you host entirely waste-free? Do people make food at home and bring them in reusable containers? If so, I'd like to come to such an event :)

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