Paper Coffee Cup vs. Styrofoam Coffee Cup – Which is More Green?
This debate has been going on for years. The disposable coffee cup has become quite popular after the advent of famous coffee franchises, from which a lot of people get their coffee brewed on a daily basis.
When getting to-go coffee, most of us think that disposable paper cups are greener or more environmentally responsible than Styrofoam coffee cups.
However, as hard as it is to believe, Styrofoam cups are actually the greener choice.
But before we go any further, let us clarify something first. The thing that we call Styrofoam coffee cups are actually polystyrene cups.
Styrofoam, which is a trademark product of the Dow Chemical Company, is not used to make coffee cups at all. Therefore, Styrofoam cups do not exist at all!
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Paper Cups Generate More Waste
Paper cups usually come with cardboard sleeves for insulation. Without one, handling a paper cup filled with hot coffee is impossible for some people.
Furthermore, some people ask for double, even triple paper cups when getting their to-go coffee and with a cardboard sleeve to boot!
On the other hand, polystyrene cups are naturally insulated and don’t require the use of sleeves at all. As a result, paper cups generate more waste than polystyrene cups.
So what? Paper cups biodegrade quickly anyway.
Believe it or not, this is not the case at all. Paper cups do biodegrade, but not as quickly as you might think.
Landfills are designed to inhibit degradation so toxic wastes do not seep into and contaminate the surrounding soil and groundwater. Therefore, 20 years from now, a paper cup will still be a paper cup.
Paper Cups Consume More Raw Materials than Polystyrene Cups
There’s a reason why polystyrene cups are cheaper. To make paper cups, you need to use more raw materials and energy.
A study by a Canadian scientist named Martin Hocking shows that making a paper cup takes as much petroleum or natural gas as a polystyrene cup.
However, the paper cup uses another ingredient, which is wood pulp. As a result, the paper cup consumes 12 times as much steam, 36 times more electricity, and twice the amount of cooling water as a polystyrene cup. This is why paper cups cost more than twice than polystyrene cups.
Be More Environmentally Responsible
When we factor all of these in, it seems the polystyrene cup, or the plastic Styrofoam cup, is the greener choice among the two. However, try to be more environmentally responsible and use reusable coffee cups whenever you can.
Travel mugs do exist, and they exist for this purpose. However, if you must use disposable coffee cups, use polystyrene cups instead of paper cups.
OCM was started in 2007, focusing first on coffee machines, then marketing for coffee and food and beverage companies. Check out this restaurant marketing guide to learn more about the many campaigns and companies we have worked with.
OCM has also created many marketing workshops and classes for the F&B industry. Many of the modules are running in the Singapore Skillsfuture Classes in tertiary institutions such as Temasek Polytechnic Skillsfuture Academy and also ITE College East COC classes.
For the readers (coffee lovers), we continue to share coffee articles (and videos) and have also started a free coffee class section (with free online coffee training supported by coffee partners).
To connect with coffee and F&B practitioners, join our growing F&B group on Linkedin (20 000 and growing).
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