Sleek, sustainable alternatives to disposable tableware

Single-use tableware create increasing, massive amounts of waste. We eat out more than our parents ever did and our lunches are more and more wasteful. The best way to minimize lunch waste is to pack a lunch and pack only what you can eat, and to keep the restaurant option for that special occasion. The bento-box for lunch is a huge trend right now in Europe, mine is a shiny round box. When I happened to eat at my company’s canteen I noticed the invasion of the shelves by disposable packaging. And when my colleagues and I ate out at any of the pricey parisian eateries, it was more and more difficult to find non-disposable tableware. Here in rural South India, I never once had to say “I’d rather have a real cup please”.  When I go to the staff cafeteria, I pick up my large steel tray and my steel cup from the drainer wash it, fill them up and afterwards I wash ’em put ’em back, so someone else can do the same. Easy peasy. Nothing worth adding to the landfill about.  

When browsing the antique shops in Thekkady I noticed more vintage alternatives to disposable ware. Colourful, round, shiny canteens, trays and cups were on display at The Red Frog, a trendy design store. I then tried to find those articles in retail but they were not to be found. The Red Frog’s antiquarian Manu Abraham explained that theses antiques actually had come from Europe  in the 19th century.  Enamelled ware was created by applying a glass like finish of enamel to cast iron, and later steel. The metal was cut and cleaned, then spouts and handles riveted on prior to enamelling. Later the spouts and handles were welded, which is one indicator of the items age. The kitchen item was then coated with multiple layers of enamel before being fired in a kiln, then cooled. Many were then hand painted, though later designs could be applied by stencils, lithography or decals.

Seeing these European classics in an Indian setting was so refreshing, I look forward to seeing more of them when European countries do ban disposable tableware from restaurants. Hopefully soon.

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