Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Plastic Cups Versus Polystyrene Foam Cups: The Showdown

For many years now, the most popular type of cups being used is the polystyrene foam cup. Its popularity can be traced to the fact that it is the container of choice when it comes to hot drinks are a popular type of container for hot drinks, particularly in restaurants and home and office environments. Its excellent insulating capacities make it a preferable cup over the rest. Moreover, they are versatile as well in the sense that they are microwavable, which means they can also be used in heating smaller food stuff. 

However, many studies have also pointed out the dangers of polystyrene foam, particularly to the physical health of people using implements containing this material. The styrene compound found in this foam may seep into the contents of the container and is actually carcinogenic when ingested.

Moreover, these cups present an environmental disadvantage: Most recycling programs still do not accept styrene for recycling, although the material is actually recyclable. The thing about styrene is that when dumped into landfills, it does not degrade. Instead, it beads, and when it goes down to the water supply or gets washed out to a body of water, it can be consumed by humans or marine animals that think it is food. Lastly, these foam cups happen to be more costly compared to other cups made of other materials.  With those considerations, are polystyrene foams really the best choice for a business, home, or office?

Now, here come plastic cups to the rescue. The first thing that those who prefer foam over plastic, as mentioned earlier, is the microwavable factor of the former. Plastic, when microwaved, tends to melt faster and seep carcinogenic toxins into its contents. Thus, when foam cups would be replaced with plastic, microwavable glass containers can be provided as alternatives when heating food.

In the subject of foam cups having better insulating properties than cups made of other materials, an alternative would be to make cup warmers more accessible. Cup warmers are covers that are slipped on the cups that not only keep the drinker’s hands from being burned, but actually also keeps warm drinks warmer, longer. So, when cups made of plastic are used, cup warmer sleeves can be provided so that the heat from the drinks would be insulated, and the drinker’s hands can be protected as well.

Shifting from foam to plastic cups needs information dissemination among people affected. Some of them may not be used to using cups made of plastic, so they may forget using a sleeve warmer and getting themselves burned in the process. The benefit of these cups is that a majority of recycling centers do accept cups made of plastic for proper recycling. Thus, with a little rinsing, they can be collected and sent to a recycling center instead of being thrown into a trash can. Lastly, if the cup warmers being used are made of cardboard or paper, they could be recycled as well!

Plastic cups are more affordable and environmentally-friendlier compared to styrene foam cups for those that need disposable cups. Swapping foam cups to plastic ones can be done easily with a bit of planning and conviction.