How eco friendly is a reusable coffee cup?
The answer is complicated, it depends on the life cycle of the cup and the consumption of resources and the impact upon the environment throughout its life cycle.
The Therma Cup only has be used 24 times instead of a single use cup to offset the energy used in manufacturing. It takes fair amount of heat energy to fire a kiln to make a ceramic cup, approx 12,000 Kilo Joules (KJ) per cup. It also takes a surprising amount energy and water to make a single use paper cup, 500 KJ per cup*. The production of paper consumes a huge amount of water and energy resources. Water is used in the production of paper pulp and energy is consumed drying the pulp and forming the paper. Paper cups are not made from recycled paper because they need to be food safe so they are made from virgin paper.
Surprisingly the main energy consumption of a ceramic cup comes from washing the cup as apposed to throwing a paper cup away. This is due to the heating of the water for washing the cup. It takes 90 KJ per cup based on an domestic dishwasher*.
To get an idea what a Kilo Joules (KJ) is, it takes approximately 400 KJ to boil 1 liter of water.
*link for energy consumption figures
Made in the UK
The Therma Cup is made in Stoke on Trent in the United Kingdom, the main market for the cup is in the UK, so zero air miles for the manufacturing and majority of the shipping.
Shipping and Packaging
Ceramics need to be packed securely, but wrapping a reusable cup in bubble wrap that is often used once and cant be recycled easily does not make sense. We use a recycled paper alternative to bubble wrap (see picture) and our box is a handy size that can be reused.
Life of the Cup
How many "reusable cups" have now been thrown away? Technically most things are recyclable but in practice they are not, due to the recycling infrastructure in place. The Therma Cup is more than a fad, it has value in its insulated property, its easy to clean and its a nice object, so hopefully Therma Cup owners will have a long term relationship with their cup.