Cutting boards are essential tools in any kitchen, and it is important to choose wisely because your cutting board will (or should) last you for many years. There are many types of cutting board, such as plastic, wood, glass, and various stones such as marble or slate, and each of these has advantages and disadvantages.
Plastic cutting boards can sit well in an ultra-modern kitchen, but the fact that they are plastic cannot be disguised, and for some, this makes them less attractive than the more natural materials.
Many people have the idea that plastic boards may be safer than wooden cutting boards because they are non-porous and so bacteria should not be able to enter. This seems to be a myth, however. See, for example: http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/cutting_board.htm. The main thrust of the argument is that wood has some substance within it that kills bacteria, and plastic does not. Like all boards, the safety and hygiene surrounding use of a cutting board depends on the cleaning routine.
Plastic boards can be cheaper, and they are much lighter than the natural alternatives as well. They can also be found in a range of colours to suit the kitchen colour scheme. Since they are reasonably priced, it is quite feasible to buy a number of plastic cutting boards for different purposes, such as separate cutting boards for vegetables and meats. This can have advantages because meat and vegetables must never be chopped on the same board, and having two boards means you do not have to clean the boards between the different types of foods.
One drawback of plastic boards is that the dense plastic material tends to dull knife blades quite quickly.
Wood has been used for cutting boards for thousands of years, and is attractive in almost any kitchen. Most wooden boards are not heavy and they do not blunt knives (unlike some stone and plastic boards). Many have a decorative groove near the edge to catch meat juices and prevent them running onto the bench top.
Wood has natural anti-bacterial properties, and it can be kept clean and bacteria-free through regular bleaching. Regular rinsing with vinegar can also kill any germs and freshen the surface. Wood can be preserved by regular oiling with olive oil, and treated properly a wooden cutting board can last for many decades.
It has been shown that well-used wooden boards can be more effectively cleaned and disinfected than heavily scored plastic boards. Also, when a wooden board is thoroughly grooved with knife cuts, it can be planed and re-sanded giving a brand new wooden surface that will last for many more years. You cannot do this with a plastic or stone board.
Stone cutting boards also look attractive in almost any kitchen, but they tend to be extremely heavy, and like glass and plastic cutting boards they quickly blunt knives because the surface is so hard. Stone boards also tend to be the most expensive type of cutting board.
Stone cutting boards come in a range of types of stone, such as marble and slate, and so can be selected to match the dcor of the rest of the kitchen. Most stone boards are very heavy, and this means that the board must be kept out on the bench tops all the time, and this may be seen as a disadvantage.
One advantage of stone boards is that they never become grooved or damaged by the knives, and there is an argument that this makes them more hygienic and less likely to harbour bacteria. This is a rather weak argument, however, because if wooden or plastic boards are cleaned and disinfected with bleach regularly they will not harbour bacteria either.
Plastic, wood and stone cutting boards all have their advantages and disadvantages. Plastic boards are inexpensive and can be bought in a range of colours, sizes or shapes, and different boards can be kept for different purposes. Wood boards are hard-wearing, attractive, easy to clean and maintain, and can last a lifetime, and they do not blunt knives as much as the alternatives. Stone boards are expensive, heavy, and quickly blunt knives, but they can be an attractive addition to the kitchen.