Is It Better for the Environment to Use Paper Plates or Wash Dishes?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: September 3, 2021
  • Time to read: 7 min.

The debate about how eco-friendly (in terms of washing) everyday household items should be, continues in nearly every corner of the world.

Well, the answer depends on various factors that work best for your needs. Most households consider using wash dishes as more eco-friendly than paper plates. 

However, disposable plates may still be better for the environment, especially in cases where recycling occurs. They can also serve best for outdoor events such as barbecues and picnics.

This article will find out if paper plates or wash dishes are better for the environment.

Paper Plates vs Wash Dishes: Which One Is Better To Use?

When it comes to comparing the eco-friendliness of paper plates and wash dishes, several essential factors apply.

They include:

  • Method of washing (by hand or dishwasher)
  • Level of carbon emission during the process of manufacturing, packaging, and also transportation.
  • Cost of buying
  • Ability to store and dispose

Handwashing vs Dishwashing

Most households use warm water to clean and sanitize plates by hand. The process can be time-consuming.

That’s because it involves drying the plate entirely before replacing it on the shelf.

Depending on your environmental circumstances, washing by hand could require a lot of energy. This is primarily due to the long time needed for handwashing.

On the other hand, dishwashers are convenient and fast when it comes to washing dishes. This is especially true if they have a heating element.

An individual’s average time to wash dishes by using a dishwasher is around 12-20 minutes instead of about 30 minutes required for washing by hand.

Therefore, using a dishwasher can be an eco-friendly way to wash your dishes. Today, most dishwashers feature energy-saving technology. Plus, they provide hot water only when you need it.

Additionally, it is good to note that you can’t wash some dishes (e.g., plastic) by hand because:

  • They melt upon exposure to hot or warm water
  • They get damaged easily when wet, and they can wear out over time.

Dishwasher vs Handwash: Which One Is Better?

When you use a dishwasher to wash your dishes, it does not mean that you will save the environment from pollution. What matters is how clean and hot the water the dishwasher uses.

If you wash dishes by hand, there are chances of using too much water. That’s because they need to dry out before storing them back.

This could lead to the wastage of natural resources like fresh water in your environment.

You need to wash dishes in clean and hot water so as not to spoil the taste of your food when eating. Besides, you’ll also want them to be completely clean. Otherwise, they may breed bacteria after a while.

If you wash dishes by hand, often it could lead to an increase in your carbon footprint due to relying on both electricity (for dishwashers) and natural resources (like water).

However, you can avoid this by using a dishwasher wisely. When using a dishwasher, it’s essential to check the power and water consumption ratings. This will help restrict you from using more than what’s necessary.

Paper Plates vs Wash Dishes: Carbon Footprint

Paper plates and wash dishes need a lot of energy to manufacture. Since most paper is not recyclable, the process of packaging has an enormous carbon footprint.

However, washing dishes by hand does not have a big carbon footprint. That’s if you use warm water that does not consume a lot of energy in preparation.

Additionally, it does not require much packaging since most households have washbowls and sponges for cleaning their cooking utensils at home.

Paper Plates vs Wash Dishes: Cost

Wash dishes are cheaper than paper plates. The reason is, manufacturing wash dishes do not require many resources.

Take note that paper plates have a high carbon footprint during manufacturing and transportation to different places.

Additionally, you need to consider the cost of transporting the paper plates to your home.

Flatware, bowls, and cutlery do not need much packaging when you buy them. This is unlike paper products which get wrapped in several layers.

Moreover, wash dishes are easier to store because they occupy little space. And you can reuse them for a long time (depending on their quality) without losing their strength and durability.

Wash dishes are the cheapest option for your home since they do not require packaging and much money at all to buy.

Paper Plates vs Wash Dishes: So What Is The Best Eco-Friendly Option?

Wash dishes or paper plates? It’s up to you to decide which one is better for your home. Both have their advantages and disadvantages depending on:

  • the materials used
  • how you wash them out
  • cost involved
  • packaging

If you use paper plates just because it’s cheap, make sure to consider the environment during production and transportation.

There are chances that their manufacturing and transportation processes consume too much energy. As a result, there may be the release of greenhouse gases into the environment.

On the other hand, wash dishes might be an expensive option if you use your hands to wash them out. That’s because you will have to pay for the cleaning process and warm water not to spoil your food.

However, if you consider both options, make sure that an efficient transport system does not consume too much energy and produce greenhouse gases.

The Paper Plate vs Wash Dish Debate

There is no doubt that paper plates are more eco-friendly when you consider their manufacturing process.

They require less energy since their crafting is manual. This means; there’s the generation of fewer emissions during the process of making them.

However, if you compare paper plates vs. wash dishes in terms of use, which one is better?

When looking for disposable products for your events like picnics or barbecues, it’s better to choose wash dishes. They won’t add to the pollution since you can just wash them afterward.

In terms of office lunches or home use, it’s better to choose paper plates. You won’t have to bother about washing them because they’re disposable.

With a paper plate, you can choose the best designs you want. The plates work perfectly with reusable utensils like bowls or mugs. They don’t cause any harm to the environment.

What is the Most Environmentally Friendly Way to Wash Dishes?

Regardless of the method of washing dishes you choose, it is often important to strive to be very energy-efficient and eco-friendly.

If you choose to wash by hand, make sure you use only the amount of water you need. Don’t fill up the bowl or kitchen sink with a lot of water. That’s a wasteful way of consuming water resources.

Buy eco-friendly dish soap. For instance, buying a giant bottle means that the packaging waste reduces.

When using dishwater, do full loads for effective washing. If you wash your dishes more efficiently, you’ll be more eco-friendly.

Therefore, using a dishwasher is the best way of washing dishes than hand washing.

Some of the vital tips to use your dishwater more efficiently include:

  • Work with full loads always
  • Wash in short cycles except if the load is very dry.
  • Consider units that have dry settings as they consume less energy.
  • Scrap your dishes rather than rinsing. If rinsing is a must, use cold water.
  • Buy eco-friendly dishwasher soaps and detergents in bulk to lower waste from packaging.
  • Go for a medium or large-sized dishwasher to reduce washing frequency.
  • Operate your dishwasher outside peak hours
  • Use a few tableware by reducing swapping utensils and reusing cups and plates.

Eco-friendly Tableware and Cutlery

It’s advisable to reduce the number of tableware and cutlery you use for your tables.

For instance, instead of having multiple plates on a table, just have one or two. Reuse and recycle yours after washing them well.

Preferably, use disposable utensils when you are out camping or at picnics. You can also opt for the most eco-friendly utensils that are durable and reusable, like bamboo tableware.

You can also consider plates made from palm leaves as they help reduce carbon footprint. Besides, they can serve best as single-use options or reusable.

Buy bulk packs of tableware to reduce packaging waste during purchase.

During your event, make sure that you wash and reuse these items well after use. If possible, keep them clean and dry before storing them away.

When transporting these items to your event, keep them clean by choosing a large box. More than one item can fit in this box, thereby reducing the number of boxes used.

Final Words

Is it better for the environment to use paper plates or wash dishes? In many cases, it is better to wash your dishes.

However, if you’re unable to and need to use paper plates, make sure you are very eco-friendly when using them.

Choose the most environmentally friendly one or ones that don’t harm the environment at all. If possible, go for washable paper plates.

These are the best and only reliable ways of avoiding damage to our environment by these items. Finally, throwing them away is another way of being environmentally friendly.

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