6 Ways to Make Pulp-Based Tableware Water and Oil Resistant

Table of Contents

ChatGPTEnhance pulp-based tableware by applying coatings like wax, PLA, or silicone, or by mixing in additives like AKD, to significantly improve resistance to water and oil.

Biodegradable Films

Pulp-based tableware, when covered with biodegradable films, receives significant waterproof and oil-proof properties, which are important for the everyday use of these products. These films, usually of polylactic acid, preserve the degradability of the pulp but sustainably prolong the period of their designed use. Plateware of this kind is typically used in restaurants and cafes when serving greasy or liquid food, as they prevent leakage and are environmentally friendly. For a staple PLA film, water resistance of a pulp plate is sure to increase more than twofold in comparison with an uncoated plate. As an illustration, a simple pulp plate would typically start getting limp and yielding to moist foods within 10 minutes of serving, while the same plate covered with PLA film would survive for 30 minutes or even more.

Therefore, food that needs a long preparedness in dressing, such as salad in vinaigrette or a very hot and oily dish, e.g., French fries, will be suitably placed on this type of plate. The costing effect of such an addition is estimated at 0.05 – 0.10 USD depending on the size of the plate and the thickness of the film. Though adding to the general production cost, neither the leakage prevention effectiveness nor the extended durability allow speaking against this minor spending, especially for commercial objects.

As a significant type of positive influence is an economic consideration, the eco-friendly one is also crucial. PLA is made from renewable sources: corn starch, sugar cane, and a couple of others. It is decomposed in industrial composting to water and carbon dioxide. The growing awareness of green products has its own sources in the bolstered attractiveness of large-scale ideas, and both subscribers and makers of this kind of tableware are sure to perpetuate the increasing eco-friendliness trend.


Plastic Films

Presence of any type of plastic films on the top of pulp-based tableware tremendously improves its performance in terms of water and oil resistance. Such films are commonly made of one of the two types of plastics – usually either polyethylene or polypropylene, which act as powerful hurdles for both moisture and grease. For example, a film made of polyethylene is capable of increasing the range of foods a pulp-based bowl can serve from simple dry snacks to all sorts of soups or stews, while they remain inside the bowl in a perfectly dry condition. Specifically, while bare pulp-based bowls might get soft and lose their rigidity in as few as 15 to 20 minutes, coated with polyethylene versions of such bowls are capable of holding hot liquid for well over an hour.

This is why coated tableware made of conventional plastics is particularly popular in fast food chains and outdoor cafes. Such a subtle improvement in usability of the product is usually followed by a relatively low increase in cost of the product, which usually amounts to around 0.08-0.12 USD per unit and is considered absolutely worthwhile by most companies on account of numerous business benefits of the practice.

Among these is high customer satisfaction with deployed items, which results in both repeated business and positive reviews, and, ultimately, make a significant contribution into the establishment’s reputation of a distinguished culinary establishment. At the same time, environmental concerns about such approaches should not be dismissed, since plastics are very slow to decay and are not biodegradable like PLA – in some cases they may take up to hundreds of years to break down. For this reason most establishments tend to use biodegradable alternatives such as bioplastics in their production unless conventional plastics offer unique properties that are indispensable for a product to function properly.

Wax Coatings

Tableware made of pulp can be substantially improved for use with different types of food, such as those containing water or oils, by applying a wax coating. Such products, known for their water-repelling qualities, can have the substance either sprayed onto or blended with the pulp it is made of during manufacturing. As a result, the tableware can hold moist and/or oily food much longer than caution dictates that it should.

To be more exact, a pulp plate coated in wax will still support an oily food product like a salad with dressing or fried chicken, and other food items, for about 45 minutes after the water-resistant quality starts to lessen. Compared to this, an enwaxed plate, on the other hand, all but immediately starts soaking up the substances and will decentigrate in about 10-15 minutes. The added cost associated with the use of wax would also be relatively insiginificant, somewhere within the $ 0.03-0.07 per item range.

The use of waxes for this application also benefits from several environmental aspects. The natural type, such as beeswax and carnauba wax, are biodegradable and therefore more environmentally-friendly than synthetic waxes typically used. However, the degradibility in a compost situation varies, and is still only an option where such facilities would be available in the local area.


Addition of Additives

The resistance of the tableware to water and oil products is significantly higher when certain chemical additives are incorporated into the pulp mixture. Primarily, such additives as alkyl ketene dimer and rosin size demonstrate good results, as they are able to interact with the cellulose fibers forming the tableware and create a hydrophobic layer within the material. Hence, taking AKD as an example, the pulp-based plate will be able to resist oil and water for the duration of a single meal . In comparison, the plain pulp will begin to soak in the oil and water almost immediately, with the tableware being only usable for about 10 to 20 minutes.

This quality is especially critical for foods that are known for challenging regular papery plates such as creamy pastas and oily pizzas. Additionally, the total cost of such an additive is relatively low and only amounts to $0.02 to $0.05 per unit. Given that using the additive makes the tableware much more serviceable to the customer in terms of their meal duration, this cost is virtually negligible.

Simultaneously, chemical additives serve additional purposes: they do not just improve physical characteristics of the resulting pulp product and its resistance to food contaminants but also ensure compliance with food safety standards and regulations. In other words, when using chemicals such as AKD, manufacturers know that their tableware is safe for the end customer to use. Importantly, substances that are used for pulp paper in tableware are extensively tested and proved to be both safe for the customer and effective for the intended purpose.

Silicone Coatings

When silicone coatings are applied to pulp-based tableware, the items become considerably more resilient to water and oil and can therefore be used for a broader range of culinary applications. The material itself exhibits excellent hydrophobic properties, and once applied, it forms a flexible non-stick barrier on the surface of the tableware. This makes it useful for managing “sloppy” or greasy foods that may otherwise stick to or soak through less resistant surfaces. For example, one major manufacturer advertises the use of its silicone-coated pulp tableware for the likes of barbecue ribs or syrup-coated pancakes, foods that can easily stick to the plate.

The appeal of such fixtures is further supported by their longevity. At the capacity for which the coatings are applied, these can last for two hours when handling oily or wet food. In comparison, untreated pulp products can go for no more than 20 minutes before disintegrating under similar conditions. Ultimately, one of the key benefits of these items is their guarantee to remain solid and practically unchanged throughout the duration of their use, ensuring that the customer’s experience is not impacted. It is important, however, to bear in mind the costs of applying the coating. The actual cost is variable and depends on the thickness and quality of the silicone.

As an example, the price of applying the coating provided with the aforementioned guarantee is about $0.10 to $0.20. However, it is also important to consider that this cost is effectively fixed since it only alters the price of the batch by a single digit, but the benefit, i.e., avoiding the necessity to enhance quality with local alternatives or tolerate increased waste or decreased quality is substantial. Finally, it is also worth mentioning that silicone is generally agreed to be safe and stable at high temperatures, which ensure that such tableware pieces can be safely used with both cold iceboxes and hot soups.

Composite Coatings

The innovative method of using composite coatings on pulp-based tableware allows combining several materials to achieve the highest possible water and oil resistance. The production of tableware by this method is complex and consists of applying several different coatings that contribute to the effective work of the whole system. Typically, the coatings include wax, PLA, and silicone. Wax is applied as the base layer to provide moisture resistance, followed by PLA, in the middle. This layer is responsible for biodegradability.

Finally, the main coating is applied on top – silicone with oil resistance and non-stick properties. The choice of composite coatings allows increasing the performance of disposable tableware to the maximum. The difference in the advantage of using composite coatings is most noticeable in serving complex dishes in full ownership with wet and oily components. For example, dishes such as dressed salad with oil, as well as Asian soups, require the presence of a very durable mixture of wet and oily substances for a quick meal. Comparing time of effective use, composite-coated plates can hold the described mixture for the entire time of a meal, which usually lasts from two to three hours.

In the meantime, single-coated or untreated tableware will only last 30 minutes. It is worth noting that the production of items with composite coatings has a higher cost of about $0.15 to $0.30 more per unit. Nevertheless, the cost is justified by the amount of the required replacements or double plating of less durable disposables. Food-service operators usually pay particular attention to this point, as the time spent is a significant part of customer service productivity.

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