Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Mug every day keeps the Paper Cup waste away!

by Katy Green

Did you know that if you use a mug for your coffee or tea instead of a paper cup you are saving much more than trees? 

Paper cup recycling is not NEW to most people but the paper cup love affair is still strong in America and worldwide. In addition, most fast food and coffee shop retailers still serve beverages in paper cups.

To make matters worse, there is a ton of conflicting statements about paper cup decomposition and recycling on the internet - so to quench my thirst for paper cup facts, I scoured the web for several hours.  I discovered a couple things I did not know about paper cup recycling and a few questionable statements. Here goes:
  1. The paper cup was invented in 1907 (knew that)
  2. According to the Ministry of Environment, paper cup manufacturers use 20 - 25 year old trees to produce paper cups. (Ministry of Environment)
  3. The United States is the largest consumer of paper cups out of 220 billion cups worldwide the USA consumes 130 billion cups. That is a lot of paper people. (Eastern Europack)
  4. Over 6.5 million trees were cut down in 2006 to make 16 billion paper cups in the USA which is a lot less than what we consume but other countries like China produce paper cups for US consumption. (Korea Today)
  5. Most paper cups are created with a resin or glue to help with holding liquid. According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, it is very difficult if not nearly impossible to recycle a paper cup because of the resin. (RSC)
  6. The RSC states, that paper cups produce 93.8 percent greenhouse gas - methane and C02. (RSC)
  7. According to many sources, paper cups do not biodegrade easily because they are made of wood pulp and resin and it take between 5 - 20 years to recycle depending on climate - moist is better than dry. (too many sources to list)
  8. It is not true that a Styrofoam cup is any better (many sources state that because production of a Styrofoam cup uses less energy than a paper cup) because it is compressed air and although it may disintegrate it will never fully biodegrade and there is no service available for recycling Styrofoam. (Biodegradable Institute)
  9. Styrofoam cups are created using a polystyrene manufacturing process which is the fifth largest creator of hazardous material in 1986, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  10. The primary chemical, styrene according to the EPA is listed as a possible carcinogen which can cause depression, headaches, damage to nervous system and many other alarming ailments.(EPA)
  11. Recycled plastic cups or recycled paper cups are better than non- recycled. (Katy's opinion)
  12. Starbucks is famous for promoting their post consumer fiber (PCF) paper cups that can be recycled into new cups according to an SBUX November 2010 press release.
  13. Starbucks has ambitious goal to make 100% of their paper cups reusable and recyclable by 2015. 
  14. Starbucks offers a 10 cents discount (not 10% as posted on other sites) on any beverage anytime for anyone that brings their reusable travel mug.
To remedy the paper cup debacle you can use a mug or reusable travel mug instead:
  • Vintage mugs are great
  • Recycled Glass Mugs
  • BPA Free Mugs
  • Non Toxic Cups
  • Handmade Mugs
  • Recycled Plastic Cups
You can start your No More Paper Cup Campaign by using a mug at the office and at home and STOP buying paper cups at the store. If you go to places like Starbucks bring your travel reusable mug instead (like the stylish double walled glass therm-o mug below). Take action by asking your neighborhood coffee shop to fill your mug instead of giving you a paper cup? 

I encourage all mug virgins to buy vintage mugs because not only are you helping the environment in many ways and but you will own a piece of history that you can pass on to your loved ones.

Information Resources:  Ministry of Environment, Royal Society of Chemistry,, Europack, Environmental Protection Agency, Korea Today, Biodegradable Institute.

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