Sure there have been some alternatives available, but bamboo plates are prohibitively expensive and corn-based plates can cause problems for people with allergies (not to mention encouraging this country's dependence on corn.)
That's why we were thrilled to find this sugar cane based alternative. These plates are made from bagasse, the sugar cane fiber left over after the juice has been extracted. Not only is sugar cane a more renewable resource than trees, but since the waste fiber would normally be burned, these products are doubly environmentally friendly. They're fully biodegradable and compostable, and can hold both hot and cold items.
We found these plates at Branch Home, which also carries the potato starch cutlery seen in the photo here.
For extra points, seek out the unbleached bagasse plates available at World Centric, which start at $2.50 for a pack of 50.