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Are Paper Plates Compostable? (How to Tell and How to Do It Right)

Are Paper Plates Compostable? (How to Tell and How to Do It Right)

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If you’re like my family, you go through your fair share of paper plates. As much as we’d like to help the environment by using only reusable dishware, sometimes it’s in our best interest to use something that requires very little cleanup.

There’s also times where it just makes more sense to use paper, such as for a large party or event. Most people don’t have enough dishware to accommodate these scenarios, and even if you do, do you really want to wash all of those dishes?

Whether it’s for a large gathering or simply day-to-day use, if you’re going to use paper plates, you’d probably like an alternative to simply throwing them in the trash. This alternative might be to recycle or to compost, but in this article, I’ll focus on whether or not you can compost paper plates.

Are Paper Plates Safe to Compost?

The short answer is yes, paper plates are compostable, as long as they’re not polycoated or contain special chemicals.

A polycoated plate is one that’s been coated with a thin layer of plastic. This improves the durability of the plate by helping to keep moisture out. This is a common practice for many paper-based items.

Some plates may also contain chemicals to improve the durability of the plates that are not safe to compost. You might find some that have printed ink on them as well.

How to Tell if Paper Plates Are Compostable

Not all plates are compost safe, but you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding some that are. With more and more companies trying to go green, it’s become increasingly easy to identify whether or not something is compostable.

Simply check the packaging for your plates to see if it says anything about being biodegradable in a home compost. If it does, the plates likely don’t contain a plastic coating or any sort of special ink and should be safe to add to your compost.

How to Compost Paper Plates

So, you’ve found paper plates that are compostable? That’s great! Just make sure you take the appropriate steps to keep your compost healthy when adding paper plates to it.

What steps should you follow?

1 – Don’t Overdo It

Adding too much of any material to your compost has the potential to upset its natural balance. Make sure your paper plates only make up a small portion of your pile.

If you’re composting a large quantity of plates from a party or some sort of event, work in small amounts of plates over an extend time period.

2 – Rotate Regularly

This tip isn’t specific to paper plates, but maintaining a healthy compost pile requires regular turning. This helps to disperse the heat in the core and distributes the microorganisms that are hard at work.

3 – Clear Any Food That’s Not Compost-Friendly

Not all foods are ideal for the compost. This includes meat and dairy. If your plates are covered in foods that aren’t safe (or ideal) to compost, remove as much of the food particles as possible before adding them to your compost pile.

4 – Breakdown the Plates Before Composting

Another step that you’ll want to take when composting paper plates is to tear the plates up into very small pieces, or better yet, shred them. This will help the plates break down more quickly in your compost pile and allows you to more easily mix the plates in with the other items in your compost.

Final Thoughts

As long as you buy the right type of paper plates, you can rest easy knowing you won’t be sending them to the landfill.

Simply look for plates that say “compostable” on them, then go ahead and add them to your compost pile when you’re done using them. Just make sure to follow the proper steps to keep your compost healthy.

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Saturday 22nd of May 2021

Compostable packaging can contain certain types of PFAs and flurorinated chemicals, which are toxic. They are added for barrier to grease and oils. It will not say so on the packaging. These are known as "forever" chemicals and are the same class of chemicals as Scotchgard. While there are laws banning the use of these chemicals, they are commonly used because they are very inexpensive and very effective. You can read more here: