Are Paper Plates Recyclable? – Is There A Simpler Option?

Are paper plates recyclable? The answer is that 99% of paper tray jams are not recyclable. The only exception is that clean and uncoated & unpatterned paper plates are recyclable.

It is a concern for many people. In everyday life, paper plates can be used in many situations, such as parties, weddings, and camping. There’s a lot of contaminated paper plates at the end of the meal, can they be recycled? It depends on a variety of factors, let’s dive into this guide.

This guide consists of 5 sections, click on any section that you interest to get there quickly.

  1. Most paper plates are not recyclable
  2. Which paper plates are recyclable?
  3. How do I recycle paper plates?
  4. What is an easier solution?
  5. Conclusion

Most paper plates are not recyclable

In fact, clean paper plates are recyclable especially fully biodegradable bagasse paper plates, and partially pulp plates.

They will be put into special recycling machines to be crushed, broken down, purified and pulped. And that creates pulp that can be reused and made into other products, like paper tableware.

Paper plate is one of the most important parts of paper pulp die tableware. It and paper cup account for 80 of the total production and sales of paper pulp tableware. PLA, vegetable starch, palm trees, wood fiber, bamboo fiber, and bagasse can all be used to produce paper plates

But paper plates of whatever material, when they are contaminated with food oil, they become non-recyclable. Even a small amount of food waste can ruin the recycling of paper plates.

The oil will cling to the paper plate, making it difficult for recycling equipment to break it down and reshape it. And the oil will affect the performance of the chemicals used to break it down.

 Which paper plates are recyclable?

First, there are two prerequisites:

  1. Paper plates should not be contaminated with oil and other food waste
  2. No coating.

In order to increase the water and oil resistance of the paper plate, many paper plate manufacturers will add PLA coating. The coating is difficult to separate from the paper plate, making it non-recyclable.

The coting makes things more complicated,Most city recycling agencies are reluctant to take back coated paper plates

Paper plates are mainly used for food and beverage purposes, but there are other applications and ideas. In the following applications, paper plates do not come into contact with food waste and pollutants, so they are recyclable.

Candy plate

At weddings and parties, there are always some paper plates with candy in the whole package


A lot of early childhood education uses paper plates for craft classes where they become artwork for the children.

Storage box

Lots of tiny clutter in your home? Paper plates can serve as temporary storage boxes that are not exposed to oil, and they are recyclable.

There are other creative uses such as Index Cards, Sundial and dartboards.

So, unused, uncoated & no pattern paper plates are recyclable.

How do I recycle paper plates?

Most cities have recycling plants that are happy to accept uncontaminated paper plates. You can search Google Maps for a recycling plant near you. It’s easy, isn’t it?

Google Maps for a recycling plant near you

What is an easier solution?

Uncontaminated paper plates are easy to recycle and use. But serving food is the most common use of paper plates, so recycling paper plates is not easy. But you can compost paper plates as part of nature’s cycle.

As mentioned above, there are many raw materials used to make paper plates, and they have different natural decomposition and compostability properties.

Not all paper trays are compostable. For details, see this article to compare the compostability of paper trays of different materials.

What You Should Know About Paper Plate Materials?

Which paper plates are biodegradable? Which paper plates are compostable? What’s the difference between them?

You can bury compostable plates in your garden for biodegradation and environmental sustainability. You can also place compostable plates in commercial compost piles.


Are paper plates recyclable?

  • Most paper plates are not recyclable
  • Uncontaminated and uncoated paper plates can be recycled.

 The conditions for recycling paper plates are demanding, so choosing compostable plates and composting them is a better option.


We are specialized in biodegradable disposable tableware manufacturing from 2010. If any questions, please feel free to send to us, we will do our best to solve your problem.

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