Environmental impact of paper coffee cups

Written by mara shannon
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Environmental impact of paper coffee cups
Reusable coffee cups are better for the environment than paper. (Coffee grains and coffee cup image by mashe from Fotolia.com)

Paper coffee cups and other disposable containers make up 18 per cent of America's garbage. Replacing paper coffee cups with reusable mugs can help reduce waste and environmental impact.

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Advantages

Paper coffee cups are better for the environment than foam cups, since paper cups are biodegradable and can be made with part recycled material.

Manufacture

Over 6.5 million trees are killed each year to manufacture the over 16 billion paper coffee cups that Americans use. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, produce oxygen and filter groundwater; they can no longer perform their functions when they are removed from the ecosystem.

Shipping

The vehicles that ship paper coffee cups to their destinations burn gas, producing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Decomposition

Paper coffee cups have a polythene coating which prevents leaks. As the cups decompose, the polythene releases methane--a greenhouse gas 23 times worse than carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.

Reduction

One problem with paper coffee cups is "stacking," using two cups instead of one so the cup is not too hot to hold. Paper sleeves for coffee cups are reusable and help reduce waste, thus reducing paper cups' environmental impact.

Comparison

After a comparison of the energy and resources needed to produce ceramic coffee mugs and paper coffee cups, the Environmental Defense Fund has concluded that a reusable cup is better after 70 uses--a small task for a daily coffee drinker.

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