Paper Plates vs. Washing Dishes

Paper Plates vs. Washing Dishes

Milena Kukurekovic

Paper plates vs. washing dishes - let’s settle this debate once and for all.

When shifting towards a sustainable lifestyle, the most burning question to arise in one’s mind is whether to use paper plates or wash dishes. Honestly, it’s not that easy to answer this question. But, we are going to explain every bit of it to help you get to a conclusion.

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Paper Plates vs. Washing Dishes: Which Is More Eco-Friendly?

Paper plates are made by pressing wood pulp, so they are thought to be more eco-friendly than reusable dishes. However, there are questions about whether paper plates fully degrade or not.

So, paper plates vs. washing dishes - what’s better? Let’s find out by comparing the merits and demerits of both of these.

Pros and Cons of Paper Plates

Pros Cons
They are compostable, i.e., they degrade in the environment. Paper plates are made from wood pulp which comes from cutting trees. So, a bunch of paper plates costs a few trees.
Paper plates offer the convenience of not having to be washed. You have to give them the right conditions (high temperature, proper aeration) so they can decompose faster.
Unlike melamine or ceramic, paper plates don’t break easily. So they are safe to use when kids are around. Paper plates are likely to bend, particularly when you serve hot food.
Paper plates are hygienic because only one person is eating off a plate. Paper plates change the taste of the meal a little bit.
Paper plates cut the cost of water and electricity, which would otherwise be there in the case of reusable dishes. Even though the cost of washing cuts, the cost of transportation is still there.
Depending on the material, most paper plates are microwave-safe. In the long run, paper plates cost more, and you regularly travel to the supermarket to buy new ones.

Pros and Cons of Washing Dishes

Pros Cons
Ceramic and melamine dinnerware have a good impression on your restaurant. You have to go through the long process of washing, rinsing, drying, and storing them in a clean place.
Compared to paper plates, reusable dishes cost lesser in the long run. Dishwashing can be stressful if you don’t have a dishwasher and live in a large family.
Choosing a dishwasher helps you save time and water. Dishwashers are expensive.

Environmental Impact

Paper plates vs. dishwashers - the environmental impact is important to consider.

It is crucial to mention that there are several types of paper plates. All those materials vary in biodegradability, durability, and cost. Looking at the comparison we did, paper plates can harm and benefit the environment in one way or the other.

If we look at the expenditure of water and electricity that is used up in washing dishes, paper plates seem eco-friendlier.

Factors to Consider When Comparing Paper Plates vs. Washing Dishes

The following factors are to consider when deciding which is better - paper plates or reusable plates.

Carbon Footprint

Dishwashing consumes water and electricity. But the same resources are used in making paper plates (8 gallons of water is used to make one paper plate).

Decrease your carbon footprint by filling full loads in the dishwasher.

Washing Method

The method you use for washing dishes counts too. Modern dishwashers are much more effective and take less water to wash the dishes.

If you don’t have a dishwasher, you will use lots of water. Dishwashing by hand also takes much time you could otherwise spend with your family. In that case, using paper plates instead of washing dishes would be better.


We compared the cost of using reusable and paper plates. We concluded that reusable dishes are more cost-effective than paper plates (keeping in mind that you’re using an efficient dishwasher).

However, paper plates are better if you have a large gathering to serve.

Storage and Disposal

This is a tricky party. First, paper plates must be stored in a cool and dry place where the environment doesn’t suit biodegradability.

Dispose of the paper plates in a compost area in your backyard. That would ensure they don’t end up in landfills. Instead, you can use the compost as fertilizer for your plants.

The reusable plates need to wash, dry, and stored properly in your kitchen cabinet. That is a lot of work when you are busy.

Paper Plates vs Washing Dishes: Which Is More Eco-Friendly?

Besides the convenience paper plates bring, washing dishes is more eco-friendly. If you are using the right ways to wash dishes, i.e., dishwashers or eco-friendly soap with hot water, you are reducing your carbon footprint.

Eco-Friendly Ways to Wash Dishes

Make dishwashing guilt-free with these tips:

  • Use a dishwasher to wash dishes
  • Put full loads in your dishwasher
  • Use an eco-friendly soap
  • When washing by hand, turn off the tap when you are not using water and applying soap
  • You can also use the two-basin method. Fill one of the two sinks with hot water and soap, and rinse the dishes in the other sink
  • Use warm water instead of cold water to reduce water waste.

Eco-Friendly Tableware and Cutlery

Eco-friendly tableware has been trending in the world of sustainability. They are made of birchwood, palm leaves, or bamboo. Compared to paper plates, they are an eco-friendlier choice.

Among the eco-friendly plates, palm leaf plates are the most eco-friendly. This is because they are made from dried palm leaves and degrade into the environment quickly.

It is important to mention that palm leaf plates do not leach harmful chemicals into your food, so they are safe from a health point of view.

Which Is Better: Paper Plates or Dishwashers?

We understand how stressful it is to look at a pile of dirty dishes when you come home after a long day. If you don’t want to wash dishes before bed, paper plates might be a good option.

Even in the case of dishwashers, you have to take out and organize the dishes. Dishwashers are better if you look at the carbon footprint. They take up less water, energy, and time.

But if you are going for convenience and ease, go for the paper plates.

Buy Elegant & Fancy Disposable Dinner Party Plates at Smarty Had a Party

Washing dishes can be stressful and time-consuming when you are hosting a party at your house. In such situations, disposables come to save your life.

Disposable dinnerware can be fancy to make your party tables elegant. So head over to Smarty Had A Party and shop from their wide range of disposable dinnerware. The quality of the disposable plastic charger plates and dishes is what makes them a perfect choice for parties. Plus, they are recyclable, so you can enjoy a guilt-free cleanup.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Here are answers to some of the most asked questions about using paper plates instead of washing dishes.

Are paper plates bad for the environment?

To answer your question, “Are paper plates bad for the environment”? We will have to dig deep into their disposal. Paper plates can be bad for the environment if you don’t make proper arrangements for their degradation. They take up so much space in the landfills until they turn to dust.

If you are using paper plates, dispose of them in your compost bin, and you will be good to go.

How long does it take a paper plate to decompose?

Depending on temperature conditions, paper plates take 3-4 months to decompose. Therefore, they take more time to degrade in open landfills.

Is it cheaper to wash plates or use paper plates?

It’s cheaper to wash dishes in everyday life. So spend on an efficient dishwasher, and free yourself from the stress of washing dishes.

Still, eco-friendly plates are better when you have an event. Our disposable party plates dispose of easily and are much cheaper.

What is worse for the environment, paper plates or washing dishes?

Based on the facts we have stated so far, both have negative impacts on the environment. However, when you compare their environmental impact, reusable dishes are better.

If you have to use paper plates, ensure they are 100% recyclable.

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