Plastic Drinkware Materials for Your Restaurant

Types of Plastics in Commercial Drinkware

Plastic drinkware is a great option for many restaurants, especially because there are a wide range of options to choose from. Many operators choose plastic because they need something more durable than glass and want to invest in drinkware that will not shatter when servers lose their grip or customers knock cups over. Plastic drinkware is also more economical than glassware, and it is available in a multitude of colors, sizes, and even materials. Below are the plastic materials you can choose from as you select the best plastic drinkware for your business.

About the Four Types of Plastic

Below are the materials commonly used in drinkware from plastic tumblers to plastic wine glasses, along with their benefits and drawbacks.


polycarbonate wineglass

Polycarbonate is one of the most common options for products like plastic wine and cocktail glasses that are made to closely emulate glass. The reasoning behind this is that that it is one of the clearest plastics available. It is also very economical and dishwasher safe. Unfortunately, it is not as durable as some of the other plastic versions available.

One of the main drawbacks of polycarbonate plastic drinkware is that it is less resistant to chemicals than other options, so it starts to show clouding or etching fairly quickly when it is washed in a dishwasher. Polycarbonate is impact-resistant, but can still crack or break under pressure. Polycarbonate is also often avoided by those with concerns about BPA, since it is not BPA-free.


SAN glass

SAN, or styrene acrylonitrile resin, is another common plastic used in drinkware. It sometimes has a gray, blue, or yellow tint, making it less "glass-like" than polycarbonate. However, it is preferred by many operators seeking a BPA-free option. SAN is commonly used for plastic coffee mugs, beer mugs, and plastic tumblers, which may be colored blue, red, or amber.

SAN is not quite as impact resistant as polycarbonate, meaning it is slightly more likely to crack if dropped, but it has a higher chemical resistance and will not cloud in the dishwasher as easily as polycarbonate. SAN lasts longer than polycarbonate on average, so while it is more expensive than polycarbonate initially, it may be more economical for high-volume operators in the long run.


Melamine Mug

Melamine is an organic-based plastic made of plant fibers that have been combined with resin. It is commonly used in commercial dinnerware due to its durability. It is dishwasher safe and will not shatter if dropped, as it is very difficult to crack. Melamine can be colored easily, making it a popular choice for manufacturers who want to offer tableware in a wide range of colors.

Melamine is an insulator, making it a practical choice for plastic coffee mugs, as it will help keep drinks hotter longer. However, it should never be microwaved or heated on a stovetop, as this can cause damage to the plastic.


Tritan Copolyester

The newest plastic available for drinkware is copolyester, most often known as Tritan, made by Eastman. Copolyester looks like glass, with a clarity that does not become clouded after dishwashing due to its chemical resistance. It will not crack, warp, or stain over time, and is odor resistant.

Tritan is the most durable of the plastics available. It is most often used for barware, but because it is heat resistant, it is also used for mugs. While this plastic option usually requires the largest initial investment, Tritan plastic lasts the longest of the plastic drinkware options, making it a popular choice for high-volume foodservice operators.