Long before the first silverware fork was invented, diners feasted on meals with primitive wooden cutlery. The durability of silver cutlery and the easy disposal of plastic cutlery eventually edged wooden cutlery aside. Yet now, in an era of energy efficiency and conservation, wooden cutlery has seen a comeback. Although it is not nearly as durable and sanitary as its metal counterparts, wooden cutlery is prized as safe, lightweight disposable cutlery constructed from renewable resources, and it is easily recycled.
Wooden cutlery is a natural product, constructed from an abundant, renewable resource — wood — and it is 100 percent compostable. Bamboo cutlery, made from the fast-growing, quickly replenished bamboo trees, is very environmentally friendly. When compared with the oil-based, non-biodegradable plastic types of cutlery that glut the world's landfills, wooden cutlery is a safe and superior alternative. Wooden cutlery also can be constructed of any type of hardwood, such as birch and maple. Recycling wood cutlery with other food waste helps solve the growing problem of plastics and other non-biodegradable and hazardous materials in landfills and soil.
Wood is an absorbent, porous material, soaking in moisture and bacteria from food and water. For this reason, wooden cutlery is not sanitary and is unsuited for long-term use, as silverware is. Wooden cutlery made from certain types of wood, such as cedar or cypress, could contaminate food with its strong odors and oily resins. Wooden cutlery constructed of wood byproducts, imported wood or recycled wood might be exposed to chemicals during the washing or manufacturing process.
Most wooden cutlery is carefully sanded and smoothed for safe use. Wood does dry out, however, and it might develop splinters or cracks if it is improperly stored or handled. The dangers of splintering is indeed rare, but must be mentioned when comparing wooden cutlery to the safety of silver and plastic ware.
Wooden cutlery is safe for the environment and a very adequate replacement for plastics for food preparation and consumption. When used as disposable cutlery intended for one or two uses, wooden cutlery can be superior. As a long-term utensil for everyday use, however, wooden cutlery is not as durable and is not recommended.