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[GreenYes] Re: Recyclable Plastic Cups



Nancy,

I think you are looking at the cups the wrong way. In the life cycle
of cups, the most damage in terms of use of resources, creation of
greenhouse gasses, and waste of energy comes from the manufacturing of
cups in the first place, not the disposal or composting of cups at the
end of their life. In this, recycling is clearly better than
composting - particularly for the biodegradable cups.

First regarding biodegradable cups, unfortunately, unlike leaves,
grass, weeds, and food waste, biodegradable plastic and paper cups do
not break down into natural fertilizers. The biodegradable plastic
(PLA or polylactic acid) and PLA-coated paper cups break down almost
entirely into carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) and water. Leaves,
weeds and other natural plant materials have lignins and other complex
organic molecules that break down to form the nice brown humus that
makes up compost. PLA is a very simple molecule that when it breaks
down, goes very quickly all the way to carbon dioxide and water
leaving virtually nothing left behind to grow plants in. Paper cups
are made with a paper-making process which removes lignins, and so
they too break down almost all the way to carbon dioxide and water.
For these cups, all of the energy and material that went into making
the cups is completely lost - 100% waste.

When you recycle cups, it does take some energy, but it takes a lot
less energy and material than it does to make cups out of virgin
materials. Thus, when you recycle cups, it takes less energy than it
does to compost the cups and then have to start out fresh with raw
materials to make new cups. Note - this is true even for the
biodegradable PLA cups. It would be more efficient and less damaging
to the environment if you could recycle the PLA cups instead of
composting them. The only problem is the difficulty in collecting and
cleaning the cups so that they could be recycled into new cups.

In short, this is just a specific example of why our solid waste
hierarchy has recycling above composting. In most cases, recycling
saves more energy and resources than composting does.

Peter Spendelow
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality


On Mar 31, 7:02 am, "Nancy Poh" <nancy...@no.address> wrote:
> I am surprised to hear that because we have supply of Bio-degradable
> containers that are convertible into natural fertilizers. Is that not
> better than recyclable since there will be no energy wasted to recycle
> it?
>
> Rgds
> GreenBeing Nancy
> - Show quoted text -


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