Paper plates are decidedly not sexy, or so I thought until I met Michael Dwork at the Red Herring East 2007 conference. Michael is CEO of VerTerra, a company that uses dried, organically-grown palm tree leaves from India to produce amazing disposable dishes. He graduated in 2007 from the Columbia University Business School, where he won $100,000 in a business plan competition. He’s also a self-taught disposable dishware maven, with expertise in such matters as disposable dishware economics and the physical and chemical characteristics of plastic utensils.
My interest in paper plates arose when using plastic wrap to microwave food was banned in our house due to safety concerns. Turns out plastics can emit toxic fumes that may migrate into food zapped in a microwave. While there is some controversy on this issue, my wife insists that we microwave everything on paper plates covered with a paper towel. Unfortunately, as Michael pointed out, the high-end paper plates we use are impregnated with plastic, meaning they are also toxic in the microwave. Ugh, that sucks.
In contrast, VerTerra produces disposable dishes that are completely safe to microwave. They’re made from organically-grown palm tree leaves. That’s it — no chemicals, no binders or plastics, nothing but leaves. If you didn’t mind the texture, these things would even be safe to eat! Through careful research, and lots of trial and error, Michael developed a manufacturing process using steam and pressure to shape the palm leaves into dishes. VerTerra’s manufacturing facility is fair trade, meaning the folks who supply the leaves and actually make the dishes are treated properly.
Now the magic question: where can you buy these things? Although, Michael is still ramping up production, you can purchase these wonders by contacting him through email. Very soon, they will be available for sale through the VerTerra website. Michael is currently seeking capital to expand his manufacturing capacity.
As you can tell, I love this product. Here’s a picture of one his plates.