Dishware and Glassware

Recycled glass. A variety of dish and glass styles made of recycled glass can be purchased at most import stores and natural food stores that have kitchenware departments. Often these are handmade by recycling old soda bottles, and can be recycled along with glass bottles and jars.

Pottery with recycled, lead-free glaze. Glaze that runs off during firing is collected and periodically recycled.

Pottery finished with a lead-free glaze. Local potters are a good source of unusual and imaginative designs. Potters often label their pieces “lead-free” if a lead-free glaze is used–if there isn’t a label, ask the potter, as lead-free glazes are becoming almost standard among craftspeople concerned about their own safety. Pottery and most glazes are made from naturally-occurring mineral clays (not renewable, but abundant, and used straight from the earth). Broken pottery can be ground up and used again to make new pots.

Clear or colored glass. Glass is made from silica, silicates, and other minerals (not renewable, but silica is the most abundant mineral on earth). Plain glass glassware is sold in every store that carries glassware; clear glass dishware is sold in housewares and import stores. Made from mined minerals and cannot be recycled.

Standard chinaware. The federal government prohibits the sale of dinnerware that releases lead in amounts greater than 2,000 ppb (which prevents direct cases of lead poisoning), but the state of California requires warning labels on any dishware that releases lead in amount greater than 224 ppb to protect against long-term health risks. Most major manufacturers of dinnerware sold in department stores and home decorating shops still use lead glazes, without labeling them as such. If you want to buy this kind of dinnerware, ask the salesperson and verify with the manufacturer whether or not a lead-free glaze was used on the particular style you are interested in. Generally patterns with bright colors contain lead; white and subdued earth tones do not.

Imported pottery with bright glazes. The biggest offenders of lead in dishware and glassware are the brightly colored pottery pieces from foreign countries. If in doubt, don’t buy it.

Lead crystal. Lead is added to the basic glass formula to make the glass sparkle more by refracting light. In some states, lead crystal now requires a health warning label.