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Excerpt from:

Report of the
"Starbucks Coffee Company/ Alliance for Environmental Innovation Joint Task Force"

The study shows that reusable cups are indeed better eco choice:

Numerous studies indicate that reusable cups such as ceramic mugs and glasses offer important environmental advantages over disposable cups and that those advantages multiply with each use. Although the magnitude of environmental benefits depends on the type of reusable cup and the number of times it is used, according to most environmental measures, reusable cups are preferable at typical reuse rates.

The Alliance conducted an environmental analysis of the full life cycle of ceramic, paper, glass, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic cups, from the extraction of raw materials to their manufacture, use, and disposal. The Alliance found that the breakeven point beyond which environmental benefits began to accrue was approximately 70 uses for ceramics and 36 uses for glass. Given that a reusable cup may be used, on average, 1,000 times or more (and is generally designed for 3,000 uses), the environmental benefits of using reusable cups in terms of reduced energy use, air and water pollution, and solid waste can be tremendous.

The Alliance research revealed that reusable cups and glasses can provide the following environmental benefits over disposable serveware during their anticipated lifetime:

• Energy Use: Using glasses in place of disposable PET plastic cups reduced energy use by 98 percent based on 1 million beverages served in glasses, including environmental impacts of manufacturing, using and washing glasses.

• Water Pollution and Usage: Both ceramic and glass reduced water pollution by 99 percent. Ceramic reusables reduced water usage by 64 percent.

• Air Pollution: Ceramic reusables reduced the amount of air particulates by 86 percent and of greenhouse gases by 29 percent. The use of glass cut the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 99.7 percent and of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions by 99 percent.

• Solid Waste: Ceramic reusables reduced solid waste by 86 percent, and glass reusables cut solid waste by 88 percent, by weight.