When we have a big get-together, we use disposable plates.
Disposable plates are not a new invention--far from it. At one time in India, earthenware dishes had to be broken after use, so most people used plates made of coconut palm leaves. Even now, food cooked in or eaten from leaves is far from rare, and food served in edible "plates" like tortillas and buns can be found everywhere.
Diners in the middle ages ate off trenchers: slices of stale wheat bread trimmed into squares or rectangles. Food from the common bowls and thick sauces for dipping meat were transferred to these. A poorer diner had to make do with one trencher for the whole meal, flipping it over when the first side got too messy. More favored guests might have several. One might wipe one's fingers on the trencher and throw it to the dogs, but table scraps and used trenchers were also collected and distributed to the poor. Yum.
While we're on the subject, do you know what I hate? "Plating the food." I don't glass the wine or bowl the soup, either.
Marian Allen, Author Lady (and part-time curmudgeon)