Plastic Plates, Plastic Bowls
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Is It Safe to Microwave Plastic Plates & Bowls?The short answer is, “It Depends.” Most importantly, you shouldn’t microwave anything that isn’t labeled “microwave safe.” Just because it doesn’t melt does not mean it is safe to use in the microwave. This label is based on two factors: whether or not the plastic holds its shape and whether or not it leaches chemical components, and how much it leaches.
“How much” means that some plastics are designated as microwave safe even if they leach chemicals, as long as it is within certain parameters that are considered safe. If you feel strongly about not wanting toxins getting into your food, then it is best to skip using plastic in your microwave altogether.
If you feel comfortable using microwave safe plastics, here are some precautions you should follow, courtesy of the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide:
- Numbers 2, 4 and 5 are considered safer plastics. Plastic #1 may leach endocrine disruptors depending on the temperature and how it is used. Plastic #7 often contains BPA. Keep in mind, though, that even the “safe” numbers are sometimes not safe for the microwave so make sure it is labeled safe for microwave use.
- Most takeout containers, water bottles, plastic tubs, bottles and jars (like the ones that hold margarine or condiments) are not microwave safe.
- Microwavable dinner trays and plastic steam bags are only safe for one-time use.
- When using microwave-safe plastics, make sure to vent the container by leaving the lid open or lifting the edge of the cover.Don’t allow plastic wrap to touch the food during the microwaving process. A safer option is to substitute plastic wrap with wax paper, kitchen parchment paper, or white paper towels.
Can You Recycle Plastic Dinnerware?
Much of the disposable dinnerware (plates, cups, bowls, utensils) out there is made from plastic #6. Many recycling programs do not accept this type of plastic, so check with your local program to find out. Here are some options if your local facility does not accept it:
- Consider washing and reusing plastic dinnerware several times. This will at least lessen their environmental impact if they cannot be recycled.
- Consider purchasing biodegradable disposable dinnerware that can be disposed of in a home compost pile. Tapioca plates are a great option because they can be composted or included with paper recycling as long as you’ve cleaned them first. Sugarcane and palm leaf plates can also be added to a compost pile.
- A line of dinnerware from Preserve is made from #5 plastic and offers a program that enables customers to either drop off or mail in used plates if your local recycling program does not accept it.
- Check with your local facility to see if they accept #6 plastic as this is what most dinnerware is made from. If they do accept it, then problem solved. If they do not, hopefully we’ve given you some viable alternatives that will work for you.
Can I Put Plastic Plates in the Dishwasher?
Unless your plastic plate is clearly marked “dishwasher safe”, you should wash it by hand. Heat from the water and dry cycle can cause the material to warp and melt, which is not a problem you want to have to deal with. Even if it is safe to put in the dishwasher, it is best to put it on the upper rack away from the heating element.