You ask, 'Why should I buy Compostable Cups and Tableware? Compostable cups are more costly than the foam or paper cups.'
If we should look at all the pieces of the cup life cycle, will we find that paper cup and foam cup to be really cheaper? Let's take a look at the raw materials, production and waste costs.
Oil is used in the production of foam cups and products. USA relies on foreign imports of oil. The Brent Spot monthly states that the oil prices(2) in Jan of 2011 are around $100 compared to about $40 in 1987. Our current economic crisis of Federal Debt is in part from our imports of this foreign oil. 70% of OPEC's daily crude output (in million barrels per day) comes from Saudi Arabia 9.35, Iran 4.09, Venezuela 3.13, Kuwait 2.57, United Arab Emirates 2.38.(2) Americans should be looking at ways to be self sufficient from our dependency of foreign oil like Venezuela. Cutting the use of petroleum out of the production of foam food containers is minor, but a big step in addressing the bigger issues.
Disposable paper cups are made from trees and according to Green Facts 3 billion to 6 billion trees per year are cut down. This represents about 60,000 square kilometers of forest area globally which does not include the countries who do not monitor the tree industry or tree plantations. From planting to harvesting of a tree, it will take about 10 - 20 years depending on the type of tree.
Compostable cups and other food containers are made from renewable resources of sugarcane, corn, and other natural plants. From planting to harvesting the natural plants for biodegradable tableware, it takes about 1 - 1 1/2 years for the crop to grow. Before, compostable cups and tableware the sugarcane pulp was burned for fuel. Now the renewable resources have additional by products.
It is not a secret that oil production has significant air pollutant emissions and has caused damage in the coast, waterways, and gulf.
Beautiful trees are great for the environment when they are healthy growing and they remove gaseous pollutants by absorbing them with normal air. They exchange carbon dioxide into oxygen. So we cut down a tree we lose the benefits and produce the wood and pulp contributing to more air, water and land pollution.
Compostable cups and products create a much smaller carbon footprint by using renewable resources than their competitor of foam or paper cups and products.
Life Cycle Ending
With everything in life there is a complete life cycle. Each person creates about 4.4 pounds of trash every day. The landfill in the final destination of all this trash. If not in the landfill, then as trash along the roads and waterways.
It is estimated that only 5% of the foam is recycled and most of the foam cups are not recycled. Foam never decomposes USA over 2 billion foam cups are used a year. Other foam products like the take out boxes are not included in this number, but it is also staggering.
The disposable paper cups and other paper products are decompose over a long time, but will decompose. The usage of paper and paper products is enormous, so the environmental impact is also very significant. The major contents of landfills is discarded paper. Paper products create a great deal of methane gas during the time they compost which is a pollutant to the air and the underground water.
The cost to maintain and create new landfills is astronomical. The American public will pay these costs in our taxes for more landfills, maintenance of landfills, clean up efforts in our waterways, and other such costs. If the cost of pollution and clean up was added into the foam or paper product at the time it was purchased by way of a tax, would you still buy foam or paper products? The costs are hidden from the end user, but they are there just the same.
Maybe the manufacturer or the purchaser should have to bear part of the expense of the waste costs. Remember when you had to pay $.05 for the soda cans and bottles? You received the money back when you recycled the item. This way the person using the product had to pay or recycle. Not a bad idea.
Every product should be reviewed and someone or the corporation should be made responsible for the complete life cycle, especially the end-cycle cost. There is a large clean-up problem and cost in our future or if not our future than our children's future.