Why are paper cups bad for the environment?

We never know what’s really behind the things that we use, eh? You take your coffee at home without noticing the potential of your “to-go” drinking paper cup to destroy nature. 

Every day, we are using more and more disposable cups. In the U.S alone, it is estimated that we use about 500 million paper cups every year. These paper cups have a huge impact on our environment in many ways.

The use of paper cups has been alarming measuring how the environmental impact of the small things that we do can end up in destruction. 

Paper cups, from the word “paper”, are basically made largely from it but are also lined with plastic polyethylene which is tightly bonded to the paper making the cups liquid-resistant and durable. It makes a huge impact in the landfills. 

One thing that we are certain about is that 6.5 million trees are killed yearly. Adding to the damage are 4 billion gallons of water being thrown away to produce a product that only ends up in trash after you drink your favorite drinks. It is not so much about reducing the paper cups you use, it is about making sure it doesn’t get into the environment. 

A chain of paper cups

According to the Paper Cup and Recycling Group (PCRRG) based in UK and Europe, a possible paper cup supply chain involves the following processes:

  • A manufacturer takes the paper and applies a thin plastic layer to make it waterproof. 
  • When the manufacturing process is done, it proceeds to the retailer.
  • The retailer is where, we, the consumers, come in. 
  • When the paper cup is no longer used, it gets trashed and proceeds to landfills together with the rest of our trash. 
  • Soon after, the new technology, Fibre Recover Facility recovers the quality fiber from papers currently being sent to landfill.
  • Lastly, the recovered waste papers turned into new paper and board products.
  Is all paper biodegradable?

Convenience Culture: The Unavoidable Truth 

The unavoidable truth is how convenient paper cups are for the people in the run to work or school than carrying their mug around and washing it out between uses. This is also true for the famous “red paper cups” that we use for beer pong at the parties for us to have fun and get wasted all night. 

What we fail to realize is that as these cups are produced, we cause an irreversible damage to nature. The oxygen we pollute and the trees we sacrifice greatly impact our lives more than we know it. 

In fact, more than 50 million of single-use cups are expendable and end up lying in landfills. This only shows how paper cups add to the burden on our waste management services and our environment in general. 

Convenience culture blocks us from letting us see the harsh realities of the things that surround us, the things we use and the action it takes for us to take care of our environment. Although a zero waste lifestyle is far-fetched, it should not be a reason for us to keep slacking in trying to live green. 

Common questions about why paper cups are bad for the environment 

What are the pros and cons of paper cups?

In today’s world, paper cups also called “carton cups” are commonly used in coffee shops, restaurants, malls, households and even at birthday parties. Despite its versatility being a major pro, the disadvantage remains true that it continues to be an additional garbage problem. 

  Are paper cups safer than plastic?

During the manufacturing process, paper cups are being covered with plastic paste known as the polyethylene. In 2007, an estimated 1.3 tons of paper cups were produced and it takes a lot of trees to produce that amount of paper cups. 

Studies also show that while paper cups are being manufactured, trees produce oxygen and absorb harmful carbon dioxide. 

What’s the difference between paper cups and plastic cups?                              

Plastic cups take longer to biodegrade but really goes for cold drinks compared to paper cups which is its main advantage is biodegradability and can serve for your hot drinks preventing thermal burns. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), paper manufacturing has increased more than 300 percent from 1960 to 2007. 

Their figure estimates for plastics are even more startling; the plastic generation has increased over 7,000 percent over the same time period. Probably, the two are what we call the “War of Waste”. 

What is the best way to prevent environmental problems caused by paper cups?

The best way to prevent environmental destruction is being aware of the environmental influence of the product we use. Knowing that it does not only affect our surroundings but also our health will influence our everyday decisions of choosing a reusable cup instead of a paper cup. This is why raising awareness of the nature of the paper cups is essential. 

Despite being a better alternative over plastic cups, there is no denying that they also cause an impact on the environment. Its need for more trees being cut is enough reason for us to rethink how many paper cups we use in a day, and how much this adds to our current garbage crisis.

Why are paper cups bad for the environment?


We have to rethink how we are doing it all. It is important to consider our footprint! Susan has been writing on this blog since 2020, but it has been on her mind for a lot longer!

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