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[GreenYes] Re: reusable cups vs. paper


Title: Re: [GreenYes] reusable cups vs. paper
The Treehugger piece is based on an article in the UK’s Guardian reporting on studies done in Canada (can you say the capital of pulp?) and Europe. After years of reading about the materials wars my take is that paper, plastic and ceramics are close to a wash in the “green cost-benefit” world. There are too many variables that are regional to really come up with a meaningful answer. All that said, plastic is often cheaper by far, and that always indicates to me that there is probably a resource reason for this. Ceramics and glass it is often said need to be used an ungodly number of times before they “pay off.” The problem is that they often break before that number of times (the Guardian piece says at least 1000 times). One thing in the Guardian article that was interesting was the statement: “And if you use each polystyrene cup twice, or even three times, you are looking at a lot of mug usages before you start saving energy.”

All of which leads to the proper answer, of course, in a business setting anyway, and that is that workers should try to focus on bringing their own containers for liquid (which they rinse or wash at home with their other dishes). We just advised a 300 person office that recently converted from bottled water to filtered water jugs  and paper cups (and were complaining about costs) to just do away with all of it and let employees fill up drink bottles at the kitchen sink or make coffee and tea out of tap water (which in Philly was the source of the water they are filtering anyway). I don’t think they’re going to take our advice, but at least they have a common sense choice.

In the end, it’s a values thing, isn’t it? We work with a lot of sporting and entertainment venues where disposables are the only solution. They have to weigh environmental issues against safety, sanitation, and convenience for their patrons. Hopefully, over the next decade there will be more composting alternatives available for paper and cornstarch cups, but even then the environmental costs are high.

Finally, we tell schools they need to consider going to “waste free” lunch programs where everyone brings lunch from home (with provisions for kids who would have trouble with this). Lunch cafeteria waste is 50% of the garbage coming out of schools.  My guess is that if half the schools in this country went to waste free lunches that would more than offset the office disposable problem. Is that going to happen? Sadly, we need two or three more serious disasters like Katrina to wake folks up.

Have a good weekend.

David
--
David Biddle, Executive Director
<http://www.gpcrc.com>
Greater Philadelphia Commercial Recycling Council
P.O. Box 4037
Philadelphia, PA 19118

215-247-3090 (desk)
215-432-8225 (cell)


on 3/20/08 9:26 AM, Estriano at estriano@no.address wrote:


A recent article on Treehugger.com claims to have definitively found
that paper cups use less energy --
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/03/ceramic-greener-than-disposable.php

But of course, many responded that many variables were not accounted
for, i.e., delivery, travel to landfill, etc.

I have a client who wants to know if there is any more "official" word
on this. They've calculated that their staff of about 100 "use an
astounding 22,000 plus cups at a weight of nearly 700 pounds" each
year. So in their case, how could disposable cups be a better option?
They are in the process of switching.

I'd be grateful for any additional hard data that I could share with
them. Thank you.

Elizabeth Striano
www.agreenfootprint.com













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