First experience with bees was with a large (at the time 1000 hives was large) in the mid 70's and they were a mixed bag. I believe The Deeps (broodnests) were mostly foundationless and the honey supers were all shallows with wax foundation, but it was along time ago :-\. Over the years of 'playing with bees' off and on (until becoming a serious bee 'keeper') I used wax because that's what everybody else did, a BIG bandwagon. The basic start up kit comes with one or two deeps, a medium, a shallow, inner and outer covers, along with 'wax foundation' to place inside the frames. The only directions offered to beginners was/is for proper placement, not necessarily other options, unless it meant an upgrade of some sort of an even 'better' foundation or .........plastic. Frankly I don;t understand the logic for using plastic and remain unconvinced that they work very well or that the bees wouldn't rather not have them in their homes. Sorry.............to drone on..................
We can;t help our desire to do something, find something...better. Part of the human condition and not a bad thing, usually :-D.
Beeks began experimenting with their own homemade foundations well over 100 years ago as far as I can tell, making it a relatively new addition to beekeeping, not any older than the Lang hives most of use I suspect, but they really didn't take off until someone figured out how to manufacture embossed foundation on an industrial scale. I guess it was that, the whole industrialization of the process is what turned me off and sent me toward a foundationless system. That and not knowing where any of the wax came from. IMO; My bees (only mine now ;) have never been happier.
Sorry to stray.........................it is my way...................These are just my own observations
Take what you want, leave what you don't.