Flexible Cutting Boards: Minimalist Dream or Disposable Nightmare

A friend recently sent us a flexible cutting board, a new concept which we greeted very positively. I have heard them praised: how easy it is to bend it into a funnel after chopping to add the veggies to the soup; how light and easy to handle, easy to clean up; so thin they store right on the counter-top or tuck away anywhere. And they can be printed with pretty pictures or color-coded for different food categories. 'This is treehugger!' I thought. Now I am having second thoughts.I admit to being a fan of wooden cutting boards and a bit neutral on the scary-bacteria issue, never having gotten sick with only a reasonable amount of soap (normal, not the anti-bacterial stuff) and warm water treatment. Wood is reported to discourage bacterial growth. Wood heals: the pores close up so bacteria cannot be harbored in a good hardwood (or bamboo if you can afford it) cutting board. A wood cutting board can be rescued with a little TLC even after a lot of use. And it is better for your knives...any cutting surface which is not getting nicks and grooves is harder than your knife blade so it is the blade which is suffering.

But that is all personal. And all the arguments go the other way: wood cannot be washed in such hot water so plastics are less susceptible to bacterial growth; light, dishwasher safe plastic cutting boards are a great improvement in kitchen ease for a lot of people. But when the plastic gets too ugly, and it doesn't take long in a high use zone, there is a lot of good plastic gone to waste. Nicks less than 10% deep cause the other 90% of the material to reach the end of its life. The almost paper-thin flexible cutting board seems like the perfect design to resolve this drawback. Yes, I thought to myself, this has a place in the green kitchen!

But, of course, a little research always goes into fleshing out an article so Treehugger readers get the real scoop, all the news that's fit to print, as Mr. Ochs would say. And the very first google hit on "cutting board lite flexible " advertises the "chop chop disposable cutting board". Oh no, is this just another trick to replace a $15 dollar product with a lifespan measured in years with a 12-pack for $2.99 with a lifespan of a few minutes????

My cutting mat is holding up well after three months. The cheerful design hides any damage well, and it is certainly living up to the praise my friends have heaped upon it. I will try to remain optimistic. Like many products, if not abused, the flexible cutting board offers benefits in clever use of minimal materials. A small note of caution: like many trendy products, there appears to be a real mixture of both high quality and wanna-be cutting boards available. If you decide that this is the answer for you next time your thick plastic board doesn't meet the upcoming mom-inspection criteria, beware of boards which do not emphasize compliance to food-contact standards, because the flood of imports filling this market demand may not be fully up to speed on the regulations in the country of sale. And let us know your thoughts: minimalist dream or disposable nightmare?

photo via Sur la Table

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