Warewash woe: Attack of the self-cleaning plates!

Imagine a world in which restaurants don’t need machines to wash plates or dishes.

It’s a prospect that’s enough to turn a warewashing supplier’s face green, but it might not be as farfetched as it sounds if a Swedish design company has its way.

Stockholm-based Tomorrow Machine claims it has developed a ‘self-cleaning’ plate that takes its inspiration from the way in which a lotus leaf can get rid of unwanted matter that falls on it.

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The company’s research has been carried out with domestic sink washing in mind, but it insists there are “obvious benefits” for restaurants and canteens in the future if it can create a version that works commercially.

According to a report in The Independent, the plate is made from a cellulose pulp which is pressed in a heated mould. A ‘super-hydrophobic’ coating is then applied, which means it is extremely difficult to get wet and leaves it impervious to even the thickest gravy or soup.

The material hardens in a similar way to ceramics but is capable of repelling dirt and liquid, the company claims.

“Hopefully this process will mean we can say goodbye to washing up forever, because it’s completely based on how nature cleans itself,” designer Hanna Billqvist was quoted as saying. “It mimics the surface of a lotus leaf with a special surface that is self-cleaning if water or dirt falls on it.”

Jeanette Orrey OBE, founder of the Food for Life Partnership and a dinner lady for 20 years, said she could see exactly how such technology could benefit caterers in the future.

“It would have been a life-saver if I’d had this, as we could be washing upwards of 12,000 plates and pans a day. Just think how much money on energy and water we could save to put towards better school meals.”

Tomorrow Machine declined to say how much the plate costs to develop or how long it could take to bring it to market.

There is also one major hurdle that it has to overcome if it is to move the process forward — Billqvist acknowledges that the material is “toxic” and has not been approved for use.

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