The Story of Plastic Utensils: Long Description

Plastic utensils were introduced in the 1940s but did not start being mass produced until the 1950s. A decade later, along with the growth of the fast-food industry, they became widely used.

  • Single-use utensils can take up to 1000 years to decompose.
  • Most plastic utensils are made of polystyrene, which can release toxic chemicals when heated.


In the United States, more than 100 million plastic utensils are used every day.


Their size, inconsistent materials, and shape make them difficult to recycle.

Did You Know?

France is the first country to ban plastic cutlery, plates, and cups. The ban takes effect in 2020.

Monica Serrano, NGM Staff; Kelsey Nowakoski
Sources: Plastic Pollution Coalition; Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition, France; Polymer Plastics; 5 Gyres