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Seen to be green? Is there any substance behind the promises?


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Numerous companies all over the world are now offering for sale environmentally sound products, in our industry the most commonplace are the PLA (poly lactic acid) coated paper cups the likes of Starbucks and the other major coffee houses are employing in their desire to be seen as ‘green’. Many are now offering reusable ceramic mugs to drink in store, or that you can purchase and return with and receive a discount.

Hundreds of websites have sprung up now offering biodegradable disposable tableware and ‘to-go’ products.

What many do not realize is that some of these products are pointless unless the companies and consumers using these products change their habits too.

Having just finished reading a press release about a certain restaurant switching its type of paper cups from the standard oil based lined product to the new in vogue PLA coated ‘biodegradable’ types and advising us how they are single handedly saving the planet I feel it is necessary to point out a couple of things.

Firstly these PLA coated biodegradable cups will not biodegrade in landfill so it of little use paying the extra money for these cups if they are simply thrown in the bin bags with the rest of the trash.

Another point to note is that recycling and composting is mainly a service carried out by local councils – and many councils treat waste differently from one area to another. Some will collect your waste plastic for resale (sold typically in the Far East) some will burn it for power, some send it to landfill irrespective of how you have sorted it at home and work.

One of the main problems with the short sighted efforts of these (usually large) companies trying their upmost to be ‘seen to be doing the right thing’ is that they do not consider where their rubbish goes, how these new products are made or how they should be handled in order to make the most of their biodegradable properties.

Biodegradable paper cups can create more waste of not properly sorted at waste reclamation sites, these new PLA coated paper cups do not look different from standard oil lined paper cups as a result this can actually create more problems. 99% of all paper cups used/sold at present have an oil based lining and are regularly collected for recycling, if however one of these PLA lined paper cups came into contact with these cups the natural lining would react with the oil based lining and ruin the whole batch. There have already been stories of PLA bottles finding their way into polypropylene recycling bins and contaminating their contents.

There have also been reports of deforestation in parts of China to create space to grow these crops used for production of PLA and in the west we have been giving farm subsidies to farmers in Africa to grow many of the crops we are now using for PLA and bio-fuels – plunging these people back into poverty!

Removing land once used to grow food in order to grow crops for bio-fuels and alternatives to plastics also increases food prices, something everybody will have noticed in the last year

Event Supplies is one of the largest suppliers of Paper Cups in the UK - take a look at our extensive range of single wall, double wall and ripple cups.


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