Trying To Be Greener

Safer eco-living, one day at a time

Corn based cups – good for the environment? December 2, 2008

Filed under: Eco Innovations,saving resources — Kirstin @ 8:31 am
Tags: ,

Cups made from corn have been showing up at some coffee shops and other places were beverages are sold but are they the best option for the environment? Let’s take a look.

Some say they are:

  • They’re made from corn so they reduce our use of petroleum, which most plastics come from.
  • They’re made with a naturally occurring resources.
  • They can be composted.

Some say they aren’t:

  • They cost more to make than traditional plastic cups.
  • The corn used is often made from genetically modified corn.
  • The cups cannot be composted in your backyard. They need to be commercially composted.
  • Not all shops that use these products are collecting them for composting.

If the cups are sent to a landfill rather than a commercial compost, they will decompose eventually, which can’t be said for plastic cups. It will take a long time, though.

The best bet, of course,  is to use a BPA-free, reusable beverage container when your on the go. You were kind of expecting me to say this, weren’t you?

But I’m curious everyone – have you seen these cups being offered where you live? If so, where?

Photo from Flickr by Elisharene

Photo from Flickr by Elisharene

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6 Responses to “Corn based cups – good for the environment?”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    I haven’t seen anything — largely because I don’t usually get drinks when I’m out and we don’t eat fast food very often.

  2. bdaiss Says:

    I see a lot of these – but that’s because we use them extensively in my company. The prices are coming down and quality is going up.

    And you can compost them in the backyard….BUT it only works if you cut ’em up into smaller pieces and make sure the pile stays on the wetter side. And it’ll still take a long time.

    I think they’re a better option than petroleum-plastic, but I like post consumer recycled content paper cups the best. Easier to compost (provided the coating is done right), and better use of materials.

    So what about PLA based utensils? Good or bad?

  3. Sam Says:

    Be proud of our government – for once! Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, started an initiative called “Green the Capitol.” Not only are they doing all kinds of things like replacing light bulbs to save energy, they completely overhauled the food service as well. When you eat in one of the House cafeterias, you can be sure that the majority of what you are eating is locally grown and made from fresh, seasonal ingredients. Your cutlery and cups are made from that corn polymer plastic. Your containers and cartons are made from sugar cane. The best part, I think, is that when you go to throw away your trash, you separate into different bins and they actually do commercially compost the cutlery and containers. I’m not certain of this part, but I think I also read that they used mulch from that compost to fertilize the gardens around the capitol building and that they grow greens in greenhouses from the compost too. The compost facility is located less than 50 miles away in Maryland. The House of Representatives had to change food service vendors to a greener vendor. Speaking from experience – the food is delicious! And the Senate? Plastic, plastic, more plastic, and pre-prepared foods with miles of trucking and tons of preservatives, yuck.

  4. Anna Says:

    I have the corn based coffee cups from a recent event. I agree with @bdaiss with his or her thoughts. If you are using alot of them for your company, you should find a commerical composter ( However, check before you show up at their doorstop because the information may not be accurate as it pertains to your circumstance. This happened to me in regards to the NJ listings because I was a resident trying to bring my stuff to a commerical composter.

    If you only have a few then a backyard composter it is okay. You have to buy compostable ones not biodegradeable ones for your backyard composter.

    Some people throw them in a plastic garbage bag and think they will decompose. I was told by a company who sells them, that they will not decompose in a plastic bag.

    Plus, the gmo issue? Personally, buy alot of mugs that can be washed.


  5. Missy Says:

    I have heard of these cups. I have mixed feelings about them. They do seem to be more eco-friendly because of the composting factor and technically they are sustainable.
    However, my opinion is that all corn in modified. Corn used to be maize. It is not that anymore. It is completely man-made/modified. Also, I don’t believe that corn has health benefits, we can break it down, so why put it in the soil. What is in the soil will end up in our lettuce and tomatoes.
    Rather than being good, it might just be the lesser of two evils.

  6. Krissy Says:

    My concern now is what I have heard about deforestation to plant soya, corn and palm for bio fuels, and especially the increase in corn costs and grains as corn takes over as a biofuel crop. Parts of the world rely on grain, rice and corn crops to survive, now the prices are too high and those places are going to suffer as corn prices rise.
    I am starting a food service business adn I am looking for eco friendly, sustainable pacakging- and I am not sure about
    corn plastics due to the bigger picture impact.

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