Polystyrene coffee cups are simple, light and economical cups from which to drink coffee from your coffee machine.
While paper coffee cups are made from wood pulp, polystyrene cups are made from oil. For this reason they are often seen as environmentally unfriendly. So are they?
There is a vigorous debate about this with proponents for and against the use of polystyrene.
Those for it note that it is easily recyclable, so just as other plastics or paper products, if collected for recycling, it can be re-processed easily and at low environmental cost. The fact that a coffee cup made from polystyrene, is actually polystyrene is another positive because air makes up 95% of the cup wall. When compared with a paper cup, which is 100% paper, the recycling cost and indeed the raw material used in the first place, are both extremely low.
Those against the product note that it is non-biodegradable and is extremely resistant to breaking down. Light and other environmental impacts like rain and soil bacteria have little impact on it. One of the biggest arguments against the use of polystyrene coffee cups is that when they get into water systems, including the sea they float. This then presents a massive threat to aquatic life.
But paper cups are coated with a wax or polyethylene that comes from oil. Although making a polystyrene cup uses less resources, paper cups are easier to recycle and their impact on the environment is seen as less severe even if the polyethylene layer is difficult to degrade naturally.
Our view is simple If you use polystyrene coffee cups, please make sure you have a recycle plan in place. We are happy to recommend a recycler for them.