Early in the 20th century it was common for glasses to be shared across water sources. This sharing caused public health problems with diseases and illness spread from person to person through the use of these cups.
Based on these problems, and as goods were cheap and readily available, by 1917, the glass disappeared from the public carriages, replaced by paper cups. In 1942, at Massachusetts State College, a study showed that the cost of washing glass, re-used after disinfection, was 1.6 times the cost of using a single service mugs .
Paper Coffee cups are manufactured from base 'cup board' and uses a special Multi-ply machine, covered with a barrier coating for waterproofing. Initially, paper cups for hot drinks were glued together and made watertight by the use of a small amount of clay in the bottom of the glass, and then rotated at high speed, so that the clay would travel to the inside of the glass, making water-resistant the paper. This led, however, to a very distinctive smell and taste of drinks cartons. Cold drink mugs can not be treated the same way, if condensation forms on the outside, then movement of the board makes the cup unstable.
Most cups are designed for single use and disposal or recycling. Life cycle inventory comparisons against the plastic cup shows that in terms of impact on the environment, there is no clear winner. Study of a coffee cups made with plain (16 grams) show that CO2 emissions are around 0:11 kilograms (0.25 kg) per cup sleeves - including from trees, materials, production and transmission loss. Potential habitat destruction with a paper coffee cup (16 grams) with the sleeve is estimated at 0.09 square meters (0.93 square meters). It takes more than 6.5 million trees to reduce the 16 billion cups in 2006 by the American consumer to use, with 4 billion gallons of water, leading to 253 million pounds of waste. Very little recycled paper is used in the manufacturing of paper due to pollution concerns and regulations. Most are lined with plastic, composting and recycling of cups is not uncommon.
Most Coffee mugs are laminated with a plastic resin. This process keeps your beverages warm and inhibits leaking - but it also prevents the cups from being recycled. Starbucks now makes its disposable mugs with 10% recycled content. They won't use a higher percentage because the recycled cups they've tried in the past leaked or failed and customers complained. There is a new type of biodegradable and compostable paper coffee cup available, but they are a bit more expensive, relatively resource intensive to produce and have not yet been widely adopted across the country.
The fact is, no matter what they're made of, most disposable beverage cups end up in landfills. But there is something you can do about it. Join the growing movement towards reducing coffee cup waste.