Melamine, bamboo, wood, enamel, porcelain or tempered glass tableware – We have struggled for a long time and have finally decided what’s best
Melamine tableware is light, unbreakable and versatile in design
When we borrowed my parents’ motorhome for the first time, we found pretty melamine plates in it, which were very practical, light, unbreakable and very pleasant to touch. So it seemed obvious that we wanted to get ourselves a nice melamine tableware set as well when we wanted to start our summer holidays with our own motorhome. There really is a wide range of very attractive sets, and we had already chosen a nice vintage tableware set and were about to buy it when I got hold of an article on the toxins that can be released by melamine tableware. Especially heat above 70 degrees Celsius and acids can release melamine and formaldehyde and lead to kidney problems, allergies and an increased risk of cancer, as summarised the German magazine Öko-Test in its article from January 2020 Testing Children’s Tableware: Parents Should Avoid Melamine Dishes.
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Bamboo tableware: the ecological alternative?
We were a little disappointed and continued our search, first of all of course with the quite pretty bamboo tableware, which now and then would like to present itself as particularly ecological, but unfortunately mostly hides the fact that here too melamine resin is required for the production.
Wooden tableware: pure nature
Unfortunately, genuine wooden dishes are not very suitable either, as the plates and bowls require comparatively intensive care and because they do not really dry quickly after washing up, and they soak up liquid again quickly when eating. In addition, melamine is often used as a supplement to create a better surface. Here, you should pay close attention to the product descriptions and buy a binder-free product.
Taking porcelain on holiday
Porcelain would of course be a wonderful option in terms of feel, maintenance and health, but unfortunately porcelain plates are heavy and can break really easily. Still, we almost considered taking porcelain with us on our travels, as many other caravan holidaymakers do.
Enamel tableware: the camping classic
So maybe the good old enamel tableware is better after all? The coating itself is very safe from a health point of view because it is produced in a similar way to glass. However, the basic material, which is enamelled, can be problematic. The frequently-used aluminium is now considered very questionable, and if the enamel gets cracks and scratches, food can come into contact with this material. Bacteria also likely to nestle in the cracks. Personally, I don’t like to drink my coffee out of a hot enamel cup or to cut up my food on enamel plates.
Tableware made of natural plastics as an alternative?
So what is the alternative? Öko-Test recommends using plastics made from renewable raw materials such as cellulose, maize, beet or sugar cane for children’s tableware, but also notes that these plastics usually have an astonishingly poor ecological balance sheet and are by no means “eco”. A study by the Goethe University in Frankfurt showed that two thirds of the materials tested contained toxins.
Is there really no really healthy tableware alternative?
At this point, we practically gave up looking for the non-existent, healthy and camping-compatible tableware alternative, and I took another look at the beautiful melamine tableware set and thought about whether it was possible to adhere to the specifications regarding heat and acid. But then my gaze fell on the blog article Camping glassware from Herman-unterwegs just in time. The tempered glass tableware from Corelle discussed here sounded very promising.
Corelle tempered glass tableware of three-layer glass laminate
Special tempered glass tableware has been produced in New York by Corning since the 1970s. It was based on the development of Vitrelle glass, which was developed in the 1940s for the first generation of TV screens in the USA. This tempered glass consists of a special three-layer glass laminate, with two hard outer layers of glass and a soft layer in between, which can absorb shocks and impacts. It is actually very light compared to porcelain, and it is almost as light as melamine tableware. Plus, it is very shatterproof, scratch-resistant and dishwasher and microwave safe. Because it is thermally bonded, no glue was needed and it is therefore just as safe to use as porcelain from a health point of view.
Our Corelle tableware in the summer holiday test
So we bought a set of dishes before our summer trip and were only disappointed that the cups that came with it were made of earthenware. Apparently it is not possible to make cups with Corelle glass. But the crockery had us immediately convinced. It is of high quality and looks like porcelain tableware, but is much lighter. We had it in continuous use for 4 weeks and it still looks like new. A bowl fell to the floor and survived the fall without any problems. Children walked over the plates without breaking them. Therefore we can definitely recommend these dishes to others.
French Duralex glasses for morning coffee
We then replaced the earthenware cups with high-quality Duralex glasses. These glasses have been made of tempered glass in France since the 1940s. To do this, glass is heated to 600 degrees and then rapidly cooled in an annealing furnace to produce a less shock-sensitive and heat-resistant tempered glass. Known to every child in France as Gigogne glass, Duralex glass is two and a half times harder than normal glass and is considered to be the first design object of the modern age that was accessible to everyone. Drinking our morning coffee from such glasses has become an indispensable part of our holiday mood.