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The Ultimate Plastic Dinnerware Shopping Guide

Most plastic dinnerware is designed to last for years, even with everyday use. But to shop smart, you need to know which plastics perform the best when it comes to overall durability, break and scratch resistance, and dishwasher and microwave use. Here’s a look at the differences in the various dinnerware plastics to help you spot the best plastic dishes and glasses for your specific needs.

Plastic dinnerware comes in all shapes, sizes, styles, and price points. Some, like the Wheat Plastic Dishes by ShopWithGreen checks all the boxes: virtually unbreakable, dishwasher-safe, microwave-safe—an ideal choice for everyday use in a busy home.

Not All Plastics are 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
TritanBestBestGoodFair$$
MelamineGoodBestBestNo$-$$$
PolypropyleneBestBestFairGood$
AcrylicFairNo to FairFairNo$
SAN BlendGoodBestBestFair$-$$
PolycarbonateBestGoodGoodFair$$-$$$

Here’s a quick rundown on each of these dinnerware plastics with examples from Amazon’s extensive collection. You can also find our latest 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, plus they’re 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.

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 its 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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