Memorial Day is the semi-official kickoff of U.S. summer camping and barbecue season. Americans enjoy eating outdoors and are willing to travel long distances to state and local parks — basically anywhere with some trees and foliage — to eat meals outdoors, cooked on an open flame.
However, this inevitably produces lots of waste since Americans love cooking outdoors and prefer disposable plates.
A new line of disposable plateware is designed to carry food then be discarded into compost piles or green-waste bins rather than landfills. This is distrubutor Marx Foods' description:
"In addition to this environmentally conscious production method, these durable palm leaf plates are also completely biodegradable and compostable (after all, they are literally a leaf), making them quite possibly the greenest disposable plates available."This compostware is made from naturally shed leaf sheaths of the areca nut palm tree. (Marx Foods calls it an "adaka tree," but I haven't found a reference to it.)
The areca tree is native to India and other parts of South and Southeast Asia. Leaf sheaths are collected from the ground — not picked — washed, air-dried, cut and pressed into round, rectangle, square and even hexagonal plate shapes. No glues, dyes or chemicals are used in the production of the plates.
Marx Foods sent me a sampler pack of the different sizes and shapes available for Internet purchase. What surprised me most was the strength of the plates. They are stronger than any premium paper plates I've ever used, holding the most ample barbecue rib and withstanding metal steak knives with ease.
Other palm leaf plate perks:
- Don't alter the taste of the foods on the plate.
- Little heat transfer, so you can hold hot food without burning your hand.
Durable compostware comes at a premium, costing between $30.25 and $42.25 for 25 plates, depending on the size.
But palm leaf plates might be the "greenest" and most convenient dining option for a backpacking trip or a quick breakfast before work.