Paper Cups Are More Eco-Friendly Than Styrofoam Cups, Right?

The answer might surprise you.

Cover image via CNA Insider

Which is more eco-friendly: a paper cup or a styrofoam cup? Well, according to a survey of 1,000 Singaporeans, one in two picked paper cups as having the least negative impact on the environment.

However, foam cups are actually made with fewer resources than it takes to make paper cups, and in that respect, a foam cup would be less damaging to the environment.

According to one of Singapore’s largest paper recycling facilities, Sembcorp Tay Paper, the used paper cups actually cannot be recycled in the country because they are contaminated and not hygienic, reported the Channel NewsAsia programme Trash Trail.

In fact, it's only the sleeve wrapped outside the paper cup that is recyclable.

Image via CNA Insider

According to Wern Tan, spokesperson for Malex Paper Products, one of Malaysia's largest paper cup manufacturers, which also supplies its products to Singapore, paper cups are made with virgin paper - entirely from tree pulp - rather than from recycled material

In fact, it’s pretty hard to find recycled paper that is food grade, and enough to make the paper cups, revealed the Malex spokesperson to Channel NewsAsia.

Malex keeps its 25 machines running for 24 hours a day in order to make 50 million paper cups a month. Whereas, manufacturing foam cups actually consumes 20% less fuel and nearly as half water, according to a 2006 study by Dutch organisation TNO.

Moreover, 30% more fuel is needed to transport the raw material for paper cups.

Now after reading so far you may very well think that styrofoam cups causes less negative impact on the environment, but the truth is that a styrofoam cup may actually be more damaging than its counterpart. Basically, both products are not very eco-friendly here.

Like how used paper cups are not recycled in the country and are sent to an overseas recycling facility, Styrofoam cups recycling facility is readily not available here.

Additionally, while manufacturing foam cups is less taxing on the earth's resources, they are still made of polystyrene, which secretes cancer-causing chemicals when in contact with heat. Not just that, it also takes more than a million years to decompose.

Cities like Penang, New York and Toronto have banned the use of Styrofoam packaging.

Watch the Trash Trail episode on disposable cups below:

The key message here is that paper cup is not as eco-friendly as you think. And if you really care, you should bring your own cup.

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