A recent study has found that single-use cups, such as polystyrene foam cups, benefit both the environment and the economy more-so than their re-usable cup alternatives. The leading Dutch research institute TNO (the Netherlands Organization of Applied Scientific Research) has come to this conclusion by comparing the environmental impact of different drink systems, and determining that single-use cups are generally less harmful to the environment. To supplement this study, TNO also carried out an analysis to determine the relevant environment effects of each drink system and reflect these into a single financial denominator. This analysis showed that all single-use drink systems out-performed all of their re-usable cup alternatives.
To determine the environmental impact of each drinking system, TNO tested the effects of each across ten categories, including its global warming potential, human toxicity potential and fresh water aquatic eco-toxicity potential. The results of the determined effects concluded that re-usable cups scored more poorly in nearly all of the tested categories, and therefore have a greater total negative impact on the environment. For re-usable drink systems, the washing involved with each is the most damaging environmental factor. While the impact of single-use cup systems is primarily related to the production of its raw materials, major strides are being made towards manufacturing these with fewer raw materials and expanding new and current recycling programs for these products.
Based on the evidence reported in this study, it makes sense for organizations of all sizes to use and recycle foam cups. TNO also supports the Retoursysteem®, a recycling program where single-use cups are collected and then recycled into raw material to be used to make other products. As stated in a previous study, TNO determined that the Retoursysteem® is a good option for waste prevention and furthers the argument for choosing single-use cups. Dart Container Corporation, one the largest manufacturers of polystyrene foam cups, also offers similar programs. Both of Dart’s CARE (Cups Are REcyclable) and Recycla-Pak programs cater to the recycling needs of any size organization. The CARE and Recycla-Pak systems make it easy and offer a reliable option for businesses when it comes to recycling foam.