A Huhtamaki-commissioned lifecycle analysis study has revealed that recycling a paper cup lowers its carbon footprint by an additional 54%.

The food and drink packaging specialist, together with the Finnish paperboard manufacturer Stora Enso, requested research into the environmental effects of various cups. The subsequent findings were made by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland during the 2018-2019 period.

The study focused on paper cups that are used in cafes, as well as other takeaway cups.

Café paper cups were compared with ceramic cups, while the drawbacks of on-the-go paper cups were analysed alongside those of reusable plastic and steel cups.

Dishwashing was the major factor said to be affecting the climate impact of ceramic cups. A ceramic cup needs to be used at least 350 times to achieve a carbon footprint smaller than one made from paper.

In addition, a takeaway reusable plastic cup should be used at least 20 times in order for it to be more environmentally friendly than a paper cup.

According to the study, the breakeven point of a paper cup increases to between 32 and 36 times when they are recycled, made with a plant-based polyethylene coating, or both.

Huhtamaki Europe-Asia-Oceania sustainability director Richard Ali said: “At Huhtamaki we are passionate about the sustainability of our products and we constantly want to know and understand more about this important subject.

“That’s why we set out to study the life cycle of a paper cup for coffee and its climate impact. We also wanted to find out what the major critical aspects are of paper cups and what could be improved.”