Paper towels and plastic utensils are everywhere, from our offices to restaurants and even our homes.
Many people find it easier to reuse them than recycle them.
So, if you’re tempted to wash and reuse yours at home, you aren’t alone. But is it appropriate to reuse them?
So, Is It Safe to Reuse Paper Plates and Plastic Utensils?
Well, the short answer is that most disposable dishes are reusable. So, provided you wash them with hot water and soap, there is no reason you can’t reuse them. However, paper plates and other paper tableware cannot be reused. That’s because they are made of a porous material, and manufacturers don’t use any sealant on them.
With plastic utensils, you can easily wash them with your hands or throw them in your dishwasher. So, reusing won’t be a problem. But with paper towels, unfortunately, you will have to use them one time.
See Also: Is It Tacky To Use Paper Plates For Thanksgiving Dinner
It is also worth mentioning that some people find it objectionable to reuse paper plates. Remember that they are designed to be disposable.
If you are serving your guests, they may be reluctant to use a plastic plate already used by another person, even if you have washed it. So, keep this in mind when reusing plastic utensils.
Reusing Plastic Utensils
You can reuse your plastic utensils at home, but it is not recommended.
That’s because they are categorized as disposable utensils, meaning they are meant for one-time use.
But, if you’d like to reuse them, wash them properly with hot water and soap to remove grease and dirt.
Also, remember that repeatedly washing plastic utensils can cause them to degrade. So they may not serve you for a long time.
The advantage of reusing plastic utensils is obvious; it saves you money. But there are far more disadvantages. Plastic knives and forks are only good for a week. After that, they will be too dirty to reuse. Generally, plastic utensils aren’t designed for repeated use.
Reusing means, you must wash them with hot and soap water frequently.
But doing that can cause the utensils’ edges to curl up. As a result, it creates spaces that store food particles even after washing, encouraging bacteria growth. Using such utensils, therefore, poses a huge risk to your health.
Also, as we have mentioned earlier, repeated cleaning of these utensils causes them to degrade. So, in short, it isn’t a good idea to reuse plastic cutlery.
Recycling Plastic Cutlery
If you can’t reuse your plastic utensils, you might think the next step is throwing them away.
However, not so fast. If you care about the environment and you are one of the people who want to protect it, you should be concerned about how to dispose of your plastic cutlery.
Plastic materials can damage the environment significantly if not disposed of properly.
Plastic is not biodegradable, meaning it can last for years without breaking down. Therefore, it is not desirable to throw it away. Recycling might be a great alternative, depending on where you live. Many recycling companies will melt and remold plastic cutlery.
We should mention that plastic is made of polystyrene, a thermoplastic material that can be melted.
But while some cities and counties accept polystyrene, others do not because recycling is expensive.
The best thing is to check with your local recycling center or environmental service department on whether they offer such services.
However, we must mention that recycling plastic cutlery may also not be the best option.
Plastic in the recycling machine can be mistaken for paper since it is small and lightweight.
So, while the cutlery will still get recycled, it would contaminate the recycled product and can also clog some holes, damaging the machine.
What to Do With Plastic Utensils?
If recycling no longer sounds like a great option, you still have tons of options, including;
1. Donate Them
If you have many plastic utensils that you aren’t using, consider giving them away.
You can donate them to charity, and non-profitable organizations that do many events and mass feed the homeless.
Or, you can give them to homeless shelters as they are way easier to locate.
2. Use Them As Bookmarks
Wondering how you can use your plastic spoons and forks? Turn them into a bookmark.
Most times, they come in various colors and different designs. So, you will have many cool bookmarks.
!!Simply cut the spoon or fork part and shape the snipped edges using a file. Then, you will have several cutlery handles to use as bookmarks to know the page you are currently reading.
Can You Reuse Paper Plates?
It depends on the type of paper plate you bought. Some brands use heavy-duty paper, which doesn’t get too dirty.
In that case, you can reuse them if you serve dry food. You only need to clean them, not with water, and use them again.
You can also use them as craft projects. However, your paper plates need to be clean for this to work.
Alternatively, you may use them as packaging. Just fold them into a basket for muffins, cookies, and other baked items.
Can You Recycle Paper Plates?
Reusing paper plates is hard because they are made of a porous material that can’t be washed with water.
Therefore, if you serve wet food to them, your only choice is to throw them away. But can they be recycled? The answer is both yes and no.
Most paper plates cannot be recycled since they have plastic, wax, or clay coating.
This coating is designed to make the surface smooth and prevent them from soaking liquids and grease.
In most cases, separating the coating and the paper in a recycling facility is impossible. Therefore, it’s challenging to recycle paper plates like regular paper.
Another reason is that once you use these plates, they become filled with food waste, which can sometimes be greasy.
So, because of these contaminants, most municipalities will not take paper plates for recycling.
On the other hand, if your paper plates do not have a plastic coating, you can take them to municipalities for recycling, provided they aren’t filled with food remaining, oil, or grease.
Confirm with your local recycling team whether they offer this program first to avoid wasting time.
Once you confirm they accept, gather your clean paper plates and take them to a recycling plant.
Please ensure that your plates do not have any food materials. The recyclers will then sort the plates out, remove contaminated ones, and convert them into pulp using water and other chemicals.
Afterward, they will remove unwanted materials on the pulp, add bleach, roll, and cut the pipe into different sizes.
While you can reuse plastic utensils and paper plates (in some cases), it is generally not advisable.
These items were made for one-time use. Therefore, it is best to leave them at that.
But, if you want to reuse yours, follow the steps we have recommended above. Also, consider taking them to a recycling facility instead of throwing them away.
But, for paper plates, you have to ensure they are not contaminated