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Life cycle analysis of disposable cups

It is estimated that between half and one billion disposable mugs are used in Sweden every year. IVL Swedish Environmental Institute has, on behalf of Keep Sweden Clean, performed a life cycle analysis of disposable cups. The study shows that the disposable mug is clearly worse for the climate than a reusable mug.

Every year, between 500 and 1,000 million disposable mugs are used in Sweden. This corresponds to 50–100 disposable cups per person and year. The Keep Sweden Clean Foundation wanted to compare the environmental impact of disposable mugs for on-the-go coffee with the environmental impact of reusable mugs for the same purpose. The comparison was performed using a life cycle analysis.

The study also focuses on the question of how many times a reusable mug must be used for it to pay off in terms of climate, compared with consuming the corresponding number of coffee in disposable mugs. The study is based on general models and therefore does not compare specific mugs but more general types of disposable mugs and reusable mugs.

Reusable mugs are worse for the environment

The study shows that the disposable mug is significantly worse for the environment than the reusable mug. By using reusable mugs, we can all contribute to reducing our climate impact and at the same time reduce the risk of the plastic from the disposable mugs ending up in the sea, says Johanna Ragnartz, CEO of Keep Sweden Clean.

- It rewards our climate to use reusable mugs instead of disposable mugs, but you need to use them about 15-45 times, the examples in the study we recently did show, says Karin Sanne, LCA expert at IVL Swedish Environmental Institute.

Most rubbish comes from land

The bamboo mug needs to be used about 15 times and the thermos mug about 45 times for it to pay off in terms of climate, compared to the disposable mug. This means that if you drink coffee on the go three times a week, the bamboo mug needs to be used for about five weeks and the thermos mug for about 15 weeks.

- Plastic in the oceans is one of the biggest environmental problems of our time and most of the rubbish comes from land. The only way to stop littering is for everyone to stop littering. An easy way to pull your straw to the pile is to use reusable mugs, says Johanna Ragnartz, CEO of Keep Sweden Clean.

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