Disposable Dinnerware Review: Verterra vs. CVS Earth Essentials

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plates-versus

In general, I am completely averse to any product that can be labeled “disposable.” Part of the reason our planet is in the condition it’s in is that so many people have a disposable mentality. We are socialized to believe that a product’s value is determined by its convenience, no matter how or where it was made or where it will end up once it’s not useful to us anymore.

I am however, also a realist. While I personally have no problem using regular ceramic plates every day and washing them, sometimes by hand, I understand that there are lots of people for whom this isn’t a realistic ideal. There are also situations in which even the eco-conscious among us will want a more convenient alternative.

I recently had a chance to test two completely different types of disposable plates: Verterra dinnerware, made from nothing by fallen palm leaves, heat and pressure, and plates and bowls from the CVS Earth Essentials line, which are made from a derivative of sugarcane. Both are made from renewable resources and are compostable, microwaveable and water-resistant, which, for me, is a bare minimum for any disposable plates. But how well did they perform? My family gladly put both to the test.

Verterra

The first thing I said when I opened the package of Verterra plates is “how cool is that?” Once you know they are made of palm leaves, it seems obvious. Without this knowledge, you might think they were made of bamboo.

Verterra sent us a few plates in a variety of sizes along with one bowl. They were all pretty small, to be honest, and I was a little disappointed by that. I tried to look at the bright side, reasoning that they would help us keep our portion sizes down. However, on a recent shopping trip to our local EarthFare market, my husband and I found 8- and 10-inch Verterra dinner plates, so bigger options are definitely available.

verterra1I tend to cook with sauces pretty often. We’re from the Caribbean, so that typically means curries and tomato-based stews. The Verterra plates felt very sturdy, but I was a little worried about what would happen when they came in contact with steaming gravy. The simple answer? Nothing at all. They held up like a champ.

And while I know the plates are meant to be disposable, I couldn’t bear to throw them away. So I handwashed them and set them on the counter on top of a towel to dry. The handwashing softened the plates quite a bit, and warped them very slightly, but after they dried, they were good as new and as firm as ever. The photo above on the left shows a Verterra plate in use. The photo on the right shows it after it was washed and dried. You can see that it’s slightly warped on the right side, but still completely usable. We’ve actually hand-washed them a couple of times since receiving them, and they show no sign of falling apart or weakening. Given that these are intended as disposable plates, I have to say I was pretty impressed.

Price: Sold in bulk directly from Verterra at about 40-75 cents per plate. Also available in select stores across the U.S. in much smaller quantities from about $3-7 per pack.

CVS Earth Essentials

These plates are made of fibers derived from sugar cane after it is processed. They look innocent enough — sort of like a heavy-duty disposable paper plate. The inside of the plate is smooth, presumably coated with some sort of non-toxic food safe substance to make it waterproof, while the back is a lot rougher to the touch.

We put the Earth Essentials plates to the ultimate test: Spaghetti dinner. Our meat sauce typically isn’t very wet, but sauce is sauce. And I know from experience that paper plates will fold under the pressure. These plates were very sturdy and held up even to my husband’s portion. After we ate, there were no soggy spots on the plate — just some staining from the sauce. Impressive.

cvs1But then I faced the real test. Would I actually be able to throw them away? I walked into the kitchen tempted to head over to the sink, but since the plates have a consistency that is similar to paper, I didn’t think that would be a good idea. Since (confession time) we have yet to get a true compost bin, we tossed the plates in the trash. I asked before receiving the plates if they would still biodegrade if thrown in the regular trash. I was told that the process would take longer, but they would still break down.

Price: $2.50 for a pack of 15 plates, or about 17 cents per plate. Not available at the CVS website, but you can find a store near you.

the verdict?

Overall, I prefer the Verterra plates. They are sturdy and stylish, and I’d feel great about serving to guests on them. And the fact that I can wash and reuse them several times makes them totally worth the money. That said, they are a bit hard to find, and it’s great to know that I can head to my nearest CVS and find some great, compostable plates. I still plan to stick to reusable ceramic plates for daily meals, but if we ever have a cookout or we plan a party for my daughter’s birthday this year, both Verterra and CVS Earth Essentials are great options.

(review)

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5 comments… add one

  • Jenna April 27, 2009, 1:31 pm

    Another option that is a bit more mainstream (meaning: you can grab them at just about any store in the U.S.) comes from Chinet (disclosure: client). They offer two lines, Chinet Casuals and Chinet Classic White, that are made of 100% pre-consumer recycled material, material that would otherwise go into a landfill. Both lines are also biodegradable in home composting.

  • Kathleen April 27, 2009, 6:02 pm

    Thank you for reviewing these. I’ve seen the CVS ones and had thought about buying them for a picnic (since we don’t have a dishwasher and I couldn’t bear the thought of handwashing 20+plates and other dishes. I love the look of the Verterra and will have to check and see if there are any available near me.

    And I loved your intro, and couldn’t agree more about our culture’s disposable mentality.

    Kathleens last blog post..BabyGanics Gentle Cleaning Products

  • MyBrownBaby April 27, 2009, 7:00 pm

    That was a REALLY nice, informative review. It sounds like both are worth a try, but at 75 cents a plate for the Verterra dishes, it seems a little pricey. I’m all game for the CVS ones, though, for everyday use. We go through a lot of paper plates around here when we’re not serving something juicy, and it pains me to toss them in the trash. Thanks for showing that we do have options!

    MyBrownBabys last blog post..Send Fear Packing: Learning To Trust My Gut, Speak My Mind, and Live My Dreams

  • jennae April 28, 2009, 3:13 pm

    @Jenna I definitely appreciate that the Chinet plates are made of paper, but they do require composting. Will they still biodegrade if thrown in with the regular trash?

    @Kathleen I can definitely understand how you’d feel that way. My daughter’s birthday parties are always much smaller, and I wouldn’t want to be washing 20+ plates and bowls either.

    @MyBrownBaby I think what makes the Verterra plates worth the price is the fact that you can reuse them. We’ve had ours for a few months and they are still going strong. They’re great for my daughter because she can’t break them, and I love knowing that they are made of literally nothing but leaves. But the CVS plates are definitely a great, more affordable alternative.

  • Quiskaeya April 28, 2009, 8:19 pm

    Like you I am adverse to the term “disposable”. However, when disposable is a must, I’m glad to hear of alternatives to post consumable paper plates.

    Quiskaeyas last blog post..Is It Green? Is It Crunchy? Is It Natural?

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