Paper Cup, Is It Actually Eco-Friendly Or A False Advertisement?

commercial composting facilities Compostable eco-friendly landfills New Zealand paper cup PLA Wellington

Tea and coffee are widely consumed drinks in the world. It’s normal to see people sitting at their favorite shop enjoying their morning coffee or even carry those with them on their way to work. Takeaway coffee cups have existed for a long time and there are still debating over compostable coffee cups, whether it is genuinely good for the environment or no better than regular plastic. And here we will break down a few things so you can have a better look at compostable cups.

  

What is coffee cups made from?

The paper cup is made from paper. But not just any regular paper but FSC certified paperboard, which means they are not from the forest. Then what makes it waterproof and leakproof? Inside the paper cups are coated with a thin lining called PLA ( Polylactic Acid).

 

PLA is plastic?

Yes, but also No.

Let’s talk about plastic. Plastic, polymeric material that has the capability of being molded or shaped, usually by the application of heat and pressure. 

So yes, PLA has the characteristic of plastic. But the plastic we have been using and PLA have a huge difference between them. The main material to create plastic is polymer. However, the “plastic” products that we use daily such as milk bottle, water bottles are made from synthetic polymer (derived from petroleum oil and made by scientists and engineers) and PLA is a type of natural polymer (derived from sugar derivatives, including starch, cellulose, and lactic acid). So no, PLA is not the plastic that we always think it is, it’s a plant-based plastic that causes less harm to the environment.

  

Why PLA is better than common plastic?

Producing PLA uses 65 percent less energy than producing conventional plastics, according to an independent analysis commissioned by NatureWorks. It also generates 68 percent fewer greenhouse gases and contains no toxins. The manufacture of PLA does save oil and generates far less air pollution.

  

The composting time of compostable products? 

Commercial composting or industrial composting occurs in facilities at about 60 degrees Celsius. This takes about six months for the product to break down into carbon dioxide and water. The composted product can then be sold.

 

 

Where can these products go after used?

None of these paper cups should end up in landfill or recycle bin. The purpose of creating compostable paper cups is to divert it from landfills and reduce gas emissions. There are few commercial compost facilities in NZ and the number will grow more since Wellington council and Sustainability trust are planning to open 3 more facilities in Wellington.

 

 

 Reference: 

 

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/corn-plastic-to-the-rescue-126404720/#p5t7FrSo8OtBr7lg.99

https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/101633903/why-millions-of-coffee-cups-end-up-in-rubbish-dumps

https://sustaintrust.org.nz/blog/community-compost-wellington?rq=compost

http://www.worldcentric.org/biocompostables/bioplastics

https://wdkadesignforimpact.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/biodegradable-plastics/

 



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