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The Ultimate Plastic Dinnerware Shopping Guide for 2024

Every year, a new round of plastic dinnerware and tableware sets hits the market. But to shop smart, you need to know which types of plastics are truly designed to hold up to daily use.

We reviewed the various types of plastics used to make plastic dinnerware in terms of overall durability, break and scratch resistance, and dishwasher and microwave use. Read on to discover which plastic dishes and glasses are best suited for your specific needs.

Not All Plastics are Created Equal

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

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

Here’s a quick rundown on each of these dinnerware plastics with some of our top picks from Amazon’s extensive collection. You can also find more of our top picks for plastic dishes and glasses in our best plastic dinnerware and best plastic drinkware reviews.

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.

See more top-rated melamine plastic dinnerware brands in our plastic tableware review and shopping guide.

Tritan Unbreakable Drinkware

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.

Polypropylene Plastic 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 and the newer eco-friendly polypropylene/wheat straw blends, by brands including ShopWithGreen and GreenAndLife are dishwasher safe and BPA-free.

SAN Plastic Drinkware & Dishes

SAN plastic dinnerware is a real performer. SAN plastic items come in both clear glass-like products and casual, colorful styles, generally at very reasonable 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 plastic plates and bowls in SAN.

Acrylic Plastic Drinkware

Acrylic plastic items aren’t as durable as tableware made from other plastics. They aren’t dishwasher safe and are prone to scratching and breakage. However, you can find many decorative looks at reasonable prices in acrylic — usually in plastic glasses and stemware.

If you’re looking for light-duty plastic drinkware that won’t get too much abuse, check out the fun styles available in acrylic.

Polycarbonate Unbreakable Plastic Glasses

Virtually unbreakable, dishwasher-safe polycarbonate is the same material used to make bulletproof glass. Its durability and exceptional clarity create great-looking, reliable products that can be enjoyed season after season. Strahl / Bold offers a standout collection of polycarbonate glasses with super high-end styling and finish.

Polycarbonate 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. Polycarbonate dishes are generally available in bulk from commercial foodservice companies such as Carlisle and Cambro.

Dishwasher Tips for Plastic Dishes & Glasses

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-rated 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 to plastic tableware — particularly Tritan, SAN, and Polycarbonate — avoid higher heat cycles such as Sani Cycle or Pot Scrubber settings in these dishwashers.

Melamine plastic dinnerware generally withstands higher temperatures, but it’s best to stick to regular cycles to keep your dishwasher-safe plastics looking great in the long run.

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.

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