Our rapidly depleting resources have fueled a growing concern for the environment. For coffee lovers, the best alternative for them is to use a reusable coffee cup such as coffee tumblers and coffee mugs.
However, the use of the disposable coffee cup is very convenient and still very popular in cafes. Most cafes serve their reusable coffee cup in disposable cups rather than in mugs. Yet, the subject of whether paper cups are actually better than Styrofoam cups has been debated for a long time.
Our first instincts would tell us that between the paper and the Styrofoam cup, the former is the better and more environmental friendly option.
But apparently, that is not the case. Research and studies have shown that the use of the Styrofoam cup is actually the greener option.
There are 2 main reasons for this.
First, paper cups actually generate more waste than Styrofoam ones. They are thin and do not insulate heat naturally. So if a hot drink such as coffee is poured in, the cup will still be too hot for a person to hold directly.
Thus, cardboard sleeves are needed for insulation. Furthermore, cafes use cardboard trays when people get their coffee to go. This is very wasteful.
It is also a misconception that paper cups biodegrade quickly. Although tey are made from renewable resources, modern landfills are designed to inhibit air from coming in contact with waste, thus making bio degradation almost impossible.
Air is needed for bio degradation to occur so it actually takes a longer time for these cups to break down.
And secondly, it consume more raw materials than manufacturing a Styrofoam cup.
A study by Martin Hocking, a notable Canadian scientist, has revealed that the manufacturing of it uses as much petroleum as in the manufacturing of the Styrofoam cup.
What is more, the paper cup also uses paper pulp, so that is actually more raw materials. The printed coffee cup makes use of even more materials in making the print on the paper cup. This is why they costs more.
The use of more raw materials means more resources and energy is required. As a result, the production of it uses 10 times the amount of steam, up to 20 times more electricity, and 300 times more volume of waste water.
To make things worse, the waste water in the production of the paper cup contains 40 times more contaminants than the waste water from making plastic Styrofoam ones.
Using a reusable mug is always the best option. However, if the use of a reusable mug is not available, then we should go for the next best alternative. When all of the factors are considered, choosing the Styrofoam cup is really the more environmentally responsible option.