Melamine dinnerware is a practical option for al fresco dining for a number of reasons. The material is shatterproof unlike traditional tableware, giving it a robustness that’s safe to use for all ages. It’s also lighter to carry in picnic rucksacks or in a picnic hamper alongside picnic food.
The designs have come so far that you often don’t notice that the bowls and plates aren’t actually ceramic until you pick them up, so you don’t need to lower your standards if it’s a classy set of tableware you’re after.
These materials are washable so the reusable nature makes them a more environmentally friendly choice than single-use disposable paper plates for picnics and parties. We’ve got a delicious collection of picnic recipes, perfect for catering to all tastes and dietary requirements like easy scotch eggs, easy vegan slaws and courgette frittatas.
Whether you’re looking for elegant outdoor tableware for garden dinner parties, a large picnic set for family barbecues or simply some extra-durable plates and bowls, there are lots of melamine, bamboo and eco-fibre options to choose from. Here are some of our favourites.
Get outside with the perfect picnic and be inspired by our easy summer sharing recipes. For more summery buys, visit our reviews section to find over 500 buyer’s guides including the best charcoal barbecues and best pizza ovens.
Best melamine plates to buy in 2021
Epicurean Lemon Fresh melamine picnic platter, 44cm
This large 44cm platter brings an air of bright, zesty freshness to the centre of a picnic table, textured like the mottled skin of a lemon and finished with a wipeable glaze.
Foodle wheat straw melamine dinner set, 28 pieces
Made of wheat-straw fibre and food-grade PP, this melamine dinner set is BPA-free, dishwasher- and freezer-safe so a good option if you want a robust set for four that’s less harsh on the environment than traditional melamine. It has everything you need to get started al fresco: cutlery, bowls, plates and cups.
Nautical chip & dip bowl
Nibbles are essential for any picnic. The central section of this melamine plate is perfect for spooning in hummus, baba ganoush, guacamole or a herby lemon & feta dip. Surround your chosen dip with a colourful section of crudités, place in the centre of the table and let everybody dig in.
Epicurean Rio medallion 26cm melamine plates, set of four
These bold Epicurean Rio melamine plates channel the colour designs of glazed clay, in a shatterproof and dishwasher-friendly form.
Rex London melamine kids’ plates
Melamine kids dinnerware can luckily handle side-swipes from high chairs onto floors by little hands. Rex London do a lovely selection of animal-inspired kids plates that feature animal illustrations in a variety of colours and designs.
VonShef 12-piece melamine dinner set
- Available from VonShef (£29.99)
This shatterproof set of melamine dinnerware comes with four plates, bowls and side plates and has a nicely ridged grey finish – a great neutral set for relaxed outdoor lunches or dressed-up dinners.
Diwata melamine salad plates, set of four
- Available from Wayfair (£23.75)
For light bites, these Amazon jungle-inspired plates, featuring striking palm designs, are one way to embrace the exotic from your garden lawn, picnic blanket or kitchen table.
Poketo Dots & Marks bowl, set of four
Made from cornstarch and bamboo fibre printed with food-grade ink, these plastic-free bowls are a particularly nice option if you’re looking for bright and simple outdoor tableware. They’re also dishwasher-safe and even compostable.
Wholeleaf Company palm leaf plate & bowl picnic pack
- Available from The Wholeleaf Company, (£29.99)
Awarded the best eco-friendly picnic basket by BBC Good Food experts, this plastic-free picnic box by Wholeleaf Co is a fully compostable option for when you don’t want to carry dirty plates home. The kit contains 25 dessert bowls, plates and cups made from seasonal naturally shed palm leaves along with FSC-certified wooden knives, forks and spoons.
Available from The Wholeleaf Company, (£29.99)
Emilie O’Connor Dugong salad bowl
- Available from iamfy (£25)
We love everything about this dishwasher-safe salad bowl, from its quirky design and the handy bamboo chopping board that doubles up as a lid, to the servers that slot into it for convenient storage. A donation of profits is also made by the brand towards the restoration of coral reefs with every purchase.
Available from iamfy (£25)
Best melamine cups to buy in 2021
Yvonne Ellen safari picnic tumblers, set of four
- Available from Yvon Ellen (£20)
Dishwasher-safe, these safari tumblers from Yvonne Ellen are a great combination of style and practicality. Each features a different safari animal illustration in a summer pastel shade.
Available from Yvon Ellen (£20)
So’Home Mimo Miami Arch tumblers
Each of these differently coloured melamine tumblers are finished with a dark blue rim which adds a contemporary touch to their simple, durable design. They can also be stacked together for easy transportation.
Royal Doulton Pacific Blue tumblers, set of four
For some coastal-inspired class in a practical melamine package, this navy-and-white abstract tumblers set by Royal Doulton is an excellent option for a contemporary picnic table.
National Trust Riverlands bamboo tumbler
- Available from National Trust (£4)
With a design inspired by the foliage lining the streams at Nymans in West Sussex, this dishwasher-safe tumbler forms part of the National Trust’s Riverlands collection and is made from bamboo fibre, corn starch and melamine. Matching items are available.
Available from National Trust (£4)
Tropical eco-friendly bamboo jug
- Available from Cancer Research UK (£4.99)
This 1.5 litre jug will bring a touch of the tropics to your picnic table with every pour. Pile in plenty of ice and fruits for an easy sangria on a balmy evening, or try our simple summer punch recipe packed with lemon verbena and mint.
Available from Cancer Research UK (£4.99)
Are melamine plates safe?
Melamine is a synthetic compound and thermosetting plastic that can be easily moulded into shatterproof utensils and tableware, for example from melamine-formaldehyde resin. This makes them particularly suited to outdoor use over ceramic plates which can break into sharp or small pieces and be swallowed.
According to a 2018 Government Chemist Review, residues of melamine and formaldehyde “may migrate from finished products”, but after research conducted under exaggerated temperatures with acidic foods, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded levels of migration to be acceptable in actual-use conditions (in foods other than infant formula). It’s not recommended to heat food on melamine tableware in the microwave, even if the label says it’s microwave-safe.
Recipes to eat outdoors
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