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.

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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 BBQ boxes to buy (taste tested by us), best charcoal barbecues and best pizza ovens.

Best melamine plates, bowls and more to buy in 2023

Dunelm bright picnic cups

Dunelm Set of 4 Brights Picnic Cups 2 copy

Kicking off with one of our top bargains of the summer, this colourful set of four melamine picnic cups is just £3 from Dunelm. Stock up on a couple of sets if you're serving a crowd – they're dishwasher-safe for quick clean-up afterwards. Matching plates and bowls are also available.

Available from:
Dunelm (£3)

M&S floral picnic plates

M&S Set Of 4 Expressive Floral Picnic Side Plates £15 (2) copy

We love the delicate floral details on this set of four picnic side plates, each in a different colour and decorated with white daisies. The smaller size is easy for transporting to the perfect picnic spot and piling with sandwiches, but larger melamine dinner plates are available, too.

Available from:
M&S (£15)

Lakeland summer meadow salad servers

Lakeland serving spoons

It's all in the details for an extra-special picnic, so don't forget to pack these lightweight melamine salad servers. Dish up your salads in style with this floral duo, ideal for outdoor entertaining.

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Available from:
Lakeland (£4.99)

John Lewis & Partners ANYDAY plastic picnic bowls

John Lewis bowls

Once the sandwiches and sausage rolls have been eaten, dish up dessert in these bright aqua plastic bowls from John Lewis & Partners. Perfect for ice cream in the garden or strawberries on a picnic.

Available from:
John Lewis & Partners (£5, set of four)

Ellen Merchant large melamine platter

Ellen Merchant Large Melamine Platter £22.00 copy

Make a statement with this colourful melamine platter. Ideal for presenting a picnic centrepiece or piling high with snacks and appetizers for everyone to help themselves, it is made from bamboo, corn starch and melamine, and is dishwasher-safe.

Available from:
Anthropologie (£22)

John Lewis & Partners plastic wine glasses

John Lewis wine glasses

No more drinking wine out of a soggy cup. For a grown-up picnic, bring along these plastic wine glasses for an improved al fresco drinking experience – perfect for golden hour on long summer evenings.

Available from:
John Lewis & Partners (£12)

ProCook melamine oval serving platter

ProCook, Melamine Tableware Oval Serving Platter, £6 copy

This slim oval platter slips easily into a picnic basket or rucksack. Serve up cheeseboards or antipasti – the glossy Mediterranean-inspired pattern is made for serving a sharing mezze feast.

Available from:
ProCook (£6)

Lakeland mosaic melamine bowls

Lakeland mosaic bowls

With a unique mosaic design, these generous melamine bowls are a versatile piece of picnic kit. Use as individual lunch bowls, fill with salads or fruit for people to help themselves, or save for dessert.

Available from:
Lakeland (£19.96, set of four)

Epicurean Lemon Fresh melamine picnic platter, 44cm

Epicurean Lemon Fresh Melamine Picnic Platter, 44cm, Yellow, £23 yellow

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.

Sarah Leask Studio large wildflowers serving tray

Large Wildflowers Watercolour Serving Tray £28 notonthehighstreet

Having a garden picnic? This generously sized wildflower tray will save on trips in and out of the house, as it's large enough to be loaded with plates, bowls and party nibbles all at once. Each flower print is hand-painted in watercolour, then scanned digitally to create the design.

Available from:
Not on the High Street (£30)

Sophie Allport lobster melamine side plate

Sophie Allport melamine side plate

Sophie Allport has a range of melamine picnicware designs to choose from, including dragonflies, bees and hearts. Our favourite is the lobster print – perfect for a beach picnic. These small side plates are dishwasher-safe and there are matching dinner plates, bowls and even a picnic bag available.

Available from:
Sophie Allport (£9.50)

Epicurean Rio medallion 26cm melamine plates, set of four

epicurean_medallion_plates_amazon-3f3dbc3

These bold Epicurean Rio melamine plates channel the colours and designs of glazed clay, but come in a shatterproof, dishwasher-friendly form.

Rex London melamine kids' plates

rex_london_childrens_plate-5fc34eb

Melamine kids' dinnerware is hard-working and can handle being thrown to the floor by little hands – handy if you're in the weaning phase. Rex London offers a lovely selection of animal-printed kids plates, featuring cute illustrations in a variety of colours and designs.

Available from:
Rex London (£5.95)
Amazon (£5.95)

Diwata melamine salad plates, set of four

amazon_floral_melamine_salad_plate_set_wayfair-5359541

For light bites, these jungle-inspired plates featuring striking palm leaf designs are one way to embrace the exotic from your garden lawn, picnic blanket or kitchen table.

Available from:
Wayfair (£13.29)

ProCook melamine leaf design tumblers, set of four

ProCook Tumblers £12_1

This simple teal, blue and green botanical design has a satisfying matte finish. They’re chip- and scratch-resistant, so you won't need to worry about smashed glassware in the garden, and they're safe for kids to use.

Available from:
ProCook (£12)

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.

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