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Every great wedding reception has three things in common – delicious food, wonderful people and a great bar. Due to the convenience they offer, disposable cups are ubiquitous at weddings, and this is especially so when they take place at exotic locations. However, the age-old question still stands – paper or plastic? As a host, you’ll want to make environmentally responsible choices and with the movement to reduce the usage of single use paper cups, you might even feel pressurized to do so. Let’s do a comparison and find out if it’s better to use paper or plastic cups for weddings.

The Early Days of Disposable Cups

The modern paper cup was developed for hygienic purposes in the early 20th century. And as the world learns to cope with COVID-19 today, they are still being used for the same safety reasons. The roots of paper cups can be traced to the end of the American Civil War, where plain old drinking water had become progressively popular due to the growing temperance movement. Activists had dotted cities with water fountains and traveled bar to bar in temperance wagons, offering water as the healthier alternative to liquor or beer. In those days, regardless of where people drank from, they did so from communal cups.

Simultaneously, Americans were learning about the germ theory of disease. Among them, Lawrence Luellen, a Boston lawyer, was disturbed by the now-obvious health hazards posed by communal cups. As such, he came up with the idea of using paper cups that were meant to be used once and disposed of thereafter – there should not be any sharing of cups.

When the Spanish flu swept around the world in 1918 and claimed the lives of about 100 million people, germaphobes were suddenly no longer alone in their phobia against germs. Before long, the disposable culture has permeated the American culture. Disposable cups are here to stay and this has led to the common use of paper and plastic cups for weddings, birthday parties, and other communal events.

Environmental Impact of Manufacturing Paper and Plastic

As people now push to put an end to single-use plastic disposables, many businesses are switching to paper products, but is this alternative better for the environment?

Paper products are made from trees. Trees reduce our atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, thereby countering the effects of carbon emissions made by man; they give us a fighting chance against global warming. When we create more paper products, we are actually talking about deforestation which ultimately causes harm to the environment.

Plastic is made from petroleum byproducts, meaning they’re made from materials that have been extracted and processed for other purposes.

Compared to plastics, producing paper products requires more water and energy. When it comes to recycling paper, the process is even more resource-intensive. Additionally, paper products are heavier than plastic and will require more fuel to transport – seven trucks are needed to transport two million paper bags while only one is needed for the same number of plastic bags. This also translates to the larger amount of waste going to the landfill once paper is being disposed of.

Paper or Plastic Cups for Weddings?

Based on what has been discussed, it would seem like paper products are not viable for business owners and the environment. Not only are they more expensive, but they also leave a greater carbon footprint. If you’re planning a wedding, which would you go with?

September 24, 2021 — SmartSites