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Miss Manners Has a Thing to Say About Plastic Utensils

A reader who refuses to accept plastic items at gatherings gets scolded by the manners maven.

Norbert Sparrow

March 16, 2023

1 Min Read
picnic basket with plastic utensils
littleny/iStock via Getty Images

Organizing a dinner party or any gathering involving food is a fraught affair these days. One has to take into account the various food allergies — real or imagined — and lifestyle choices of the guests. It's almost inevitable that at least one or two will be vegetarian, but will there also be a vegan among us? Will someone be glucose intolerant? The list goes on, creating a menu-planning minefield. Well, you can add plastic utensils to that list.

I came across a Miss Manners column from March 18, 2020, in The Ledger — this is not the column that currently appears in the Washington Post and other media outlets — in which a reader wrote about refusing to accept plastic items at gatherings. “Finger foods on a paper napkin work very well, as gatherings that use plastic tend to be casual. I take paper goods as my contribution, so others have a choice, also,” wrote the considerate reader.

The reader signed off with: “This planet is drowning in plastic . . . .  If one can refuse to eat meat, one should also be able to refuse, tactfully, plastic.”

I can’t say that I’m an avid fan of this or any other Miss Manners, but I did like her response.

The way to refuse plasticware is not to draw attention to why — or what — one is refusing. “Just as Miss Manners objects to the guest who explains in detail why she hates mushrooms, she believes that a guest with a preference for paper should confine her answer to a polite, enigmatic refusal,” wrote the columnist.

The best part? No opportunity for virtue signaling.

About the Author(s)

Norbert Sparrow

Editor in chief of PlasticsToday since 2015, Norbert Sparrow has more than 30 years of editorial experience in business-to-business media. He studied journalism at the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, where he earned a master's degree.


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