…one paper plate at a time.

Using paper plates during picnics or big gatherings is undoubtedly more convenient than washing and avoiding breakage of ceramic plates. However, it does raise the question: what is the environmental impact of using paper plates? Determining whether using paper plates is better for the environment than running a dishwasher load that consumes electricity and water is a difficult task. However, looking at the impact of manufacturing paper plates and the disposal of them gives clear answers.

just the facts

  • Pulp and paper is the third largest industrial polluter of air, water and soil.
  • In the U.S., total industrial releases of toxic waste into the air were 690 million pounds (313,000 tonnes) in 2015 and pulp and paper accounted for 20%.
  • Paper accounts for 25% of landfill waste and 33% of municipal waste.
  • Chlorine-based bleaches are used during production which results in toxic materials being released into our water, air and soil.
  • When paper rots, it emits methane gas which is 25 times more toxic than carbon dioxide.
  • Unlike office paper and newsprint, paper plates are contaminated with food residue when used and cannot be recycled. Unless you have a home composting system, your paper plates go straight to landfills, where biodegrading processes are slow.
tree forest

And then, of course, the trees…

  • 93% of paper comes from trees.
  • To print a Sunday edition of the New York Times requires 75,000 trees!
  • 14% of all global wood harvest is used to make paper.
  • Deforestation is one of the main environmental problems we are facing today.
  • Every tree produces enough oxygen for three people to breathe.

what you can do

  • Use ceramic plates! Here are some hand-crafted stackables you can leave out on your counter for easy use (and they look stylish, too!). Use, wash, stack, repeat!!!
  • Recycle all your paper waste.
  • Be a conscious consumer and buy “100% post-consumer waste recycled”. Buy recycled paper materials or materials that came from sustainable managed forests.  
  • In the office, reuse paper. If you have only used one side for example, collect them instead of throwing them away and use for scrap paper.
  • If you already have a scanned copy of a file, do not print it out.
  • Use email instead of paper when communicating with clients and customers.
  • Insist on “Process Chlorine Free” paper materials.
  • Buy products with the least paper packaging. Encourage businesses that follow environment friendly practices.
  • Take advantage of the latest technologies like tablets, computers and smart phones to keep your files and notes.

As a consumer, the way you use and dispose of paper and other paper products greatly affect our paper waste. These small efforts on your part will be a valuable contribution in the resolution of our pollution problems today.

References:; Wikipedia: Environmental Impact of Paper; Natural resources Defense Council


stackable hand-built
ceramic plates