In some German football stadiums, mountains of discarded plastic cups pile up after the final whistle. About 12 million disposable cups are consumed annually in the first and second German professional football leagues. Biodegradable disposable cups made of polylactic acid (PLA) are increasingly being used as a supposedly environmentally friendly alternative to refillable reusable cups.
In fact, disposable cups made of PLA or other plastics have no overall environmental benefits compared to reusable cups. Even after just 5 refills, the use of reusable cups pays off compared to plastic disposable cups.
Reusable cups are resource efficient. Reusable cups are often refilled, saving valuable raw materials. Disposable cups made of PLA or other plastics waste resources because they are only used once.
Reusable cups protect the climate. Reusable cups cause significantly less CO2 emissions over their entire life cycle than disposable cups. This also applies to the comparison with PLA disposable cups, whose carbon footprint is heavily burdened by the agricultural production of the PLA raw material.
Reusable cups avoid waste. Reusable cups prevent the generation of unnecessary waste due to their frequent reuse. Disposable cups become waste as soon as they are used for the first time. They are usually not collected separately and recycled, but burned instead. This also applies to PLA cups, which are not normally composted despite the theoretical possibility.