You can find a large variety of camping tableware, made out of different kinds of material and suitable for many use cases. Tableware made out of melamine is currently trending since it’s lightweight, shatterproof, mostly colorful and comparatively affordable - apparently the ideal travel companion while camping out with your van.
Looking past the advantages at first sight you will find that there are a couple of downsides when using melamine which we will be looking at in this article.
What is melamine actually?
Melamine is a powder neutral in taste and odor made from urea, which itself occurs when neutral gas is being incinerated. Adding formaldehyde to it you will end up with melamine resin which is the substance that is being processed into tableware. And this is where you need to be careful!
But why is melamine toxic?
Formaldehyde and melamine are being released at a temperature of 70°C and these components could be transferred onto food items or even be absorbed through the nose in the form of gas. Both substances are being suspected to cause cancer or allergies.
Despite the fact that some manufacturers approve the use of microwaves with their products, you should be careful doing so considering the point made above.
Not only a rise in temperature but also acidic and fatty dishes (e.g. tomato soup, dressed salads or citrus fruits) are able to dissolve toxic substances out of the tableware.
Recycling - another issue!
Even if you disregard all the health risks, there is still a huge environmental issue. Melamine is very difficult if not impossible to recycle. Compared to pure plastic - which gets crushed up and deformed under high heat during the recycling process - melamine can only be crushed up, but not to be shaped into new forms. The sad truth is, that it’s mostly discarded as hazardous waste.
What are the alternatives?
Bamboo articles are often pitched as biodegradable and sustainable alternatives mostly alongside the promise that they are compostable.
It’s technically correct that the bamboo part (consisting of pulverized bamboo fibers) is compostable. Yet, this is disregarding the fact that by caulking bamboo with melamine those two materials become inseparable and are therefore not compostable.
One good alternative can be dishes made out of stainless steel. It’s shatterproof, heat resistant and very robust. Bumps and scratches can occur, but then again those are nothing more than evidence of past adventures.
Those who backpack regularly and are in need of lightweight dishes should look into titanium. Almost as robust as stainless steel, it’s rust-proof and lightweight.
If you’re bored by the clean metal look, you should consider enamel tableware. Available in many forms and colors, it also adds that sexy nostalgic touch to your campervan!
The best part: enamel consists of natural resources such as quartz, soda, feldspar and other metal oxides. At 850°C those are being melted onto a metal core and as a result you get a smooth, non-toxic, heat resistant and most of all sturdy surface.
Special effect: enamel can even be fixed with special enamel repair sets!
We’re curious to know: what do you bring on your travels and why? What experiences have you made and what are your recommendations for the next purchase? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org!