The Ultimate Plastic Dinnerware Shopping Guide

The key to shopping success is realizing that all plastics are not created equal. Smart shoppers can easily find plastic dinnerware that outlasts the season. In order to get the most out of your plastic dishes and drinkware, you need to know which plastics perform the best.

Plastic dinnerware is great for busy homes but you need to know the differences between the many plastic used to make dishes and drinkware
Plastic dinnerware comes in all shapes, sizes, styles, and price points. This Cambridge Plastic Dinnerware Set by US Acrylic is made from polypropylene and SAN plastic, dishwasher-safe, and great for casual dining.

Not All Plastic Dinnerware is Created Equal

Non-disposable plastic dinnerware generally is made from one of several FDA-approved plastics, and each has its own unique strengths.

Plastic TypeUnbreakableDishwasher-safeScratch-resistantMicrowave-safeCost
AcrylicFairNo to FairFairNo$
SAN BlendGoodBestBestFair$-$$

Here’s a quick rundown on each of these dinnerware plastics with examples from Amazon’s extensive collection. If you want to learn more about the best brands in plastic tableware, check out our latest plastic tableware review and shopping guide.

Tritan Unbreakable Dinnerware

Tritan is a virtually unbreakable plastic primarily used to make very glass-like plastic drinkware. BPA-free Tritan plastic is a true performer and products made from this plastic are unbreakable, have great clarity, and hold up extremely well in the dishwasher.

Melamine Plastic Dinnerware

Melamine is the undisputed king when it comes to plastic dishes. Melamine dinnerware is BPA-free and closely mimics the look and feel of ceramic and stoneware dishes. It’s extremely break-resistant, scratch-resistant, and always dishwasher-safe. But melamine isn’t recommended for microwave use.

Learn more about top melamine plastic dinnerware brands in our plastic tableware review and shopping guide.

Polypropylene Dinnerware

Inexpensive polypropylene tableware is abundant and found in a variety of sets in solid or translucent designs. A true workhorse, virtually unbreakable polypropylene dinnerware is almost rubbery in look and feel, plus it’s not very scratch-resistant.

Polypropylene is popular for casual plastic dinnerware, picnic plates, and kids’ dishes. Polypropylene tableware is also dishwasher safe and BPA-free.

Acrylic Plastic Dinnerware

Acrylic dinnerware isn’t as durable as the other tableware options, but you can sure find some pretty designs at reasonable prices. If you’re looking for light-duty plastic dinnerware that won’t get too much abuse, check out the fun dinnerware styles available in acrylic.

SAN Plastic Drinkware & Dishes

SAN plastic dinnerware is a real performer. It comes in both clear glass-like products and casual, colorful styles — all at great prices. SAN products are rigid, scratch-resistant, dishwasher-safe, and BPA-free. It’s very break-resistant, too, but not quite as unbreakable as tableware made from Tritan or polycarbonate plastics.

SAN is generally used to make plastic drinkware, but Bentley Drinkware also makes plates and bowls from SAN plastic.

Polycarbonate Unbreakable Plastic Tableware

Virtually unbreakable, dishwasher-safe polycarbonate is the same material used to make bulletproof glass. Its durability and exceptional clarity create good-looking, reliable products that can be enjoyed season after season.

Polycarbonate tableware is more expensive to produce than other plastics, so it usually does not come in trendy styles. Like SAN and Tritan, polycarbonate plastic glasses are abundant, but dishes are harder to find. However, Strahl does make a line of polycarbonate dinnerware.

Dishwasher Tips for All Types of Plastic Dinnerware

SAN, polycarbonate, and Tritan plastic dinnerware and glasses won’t cloud and craze like acrylic glasses under normal use. However, some high-end and Energy-star residential dishwashers can pose a problem.

High-end and Energy-star dishwashers actually heat water to temperatures much higher than standard commercial temperatures of 140- to 150-degrees Fahrenheit and can damage any type of plastic dinnerware. To prevent damage, avoid higher heat cycles such as Sani Cycle or Pot Scrubber settings in these dishwashers.

That’s a Wrap

Whatever your need — stylish poolside dishes, plates for the RV, or durable family-friendly dinnerware, there’s a plastic that meets your style and budget.

If long-lasting, worry-free use is your goal, then Tritan, SAN, polycarbonate, melamine, and polypropylene dinnerware is the best choice. You can find plenty of fun designs in acrylic, but they might not last as long as other types.

Ultimately, you’ll make smart buys if you know what to expect from the many different types of dinnerware plastics. If you have any questions or favorite plastic dinnerware brands of your own, please share in the comments below. Thanks for reading. Cheers! Krista

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