No clear winners emerge from environmental analysis.
Wageningen UR will still switch to bio cups.
Potting and his fellow researchers subjected the plastic cup, the bioplastic cup (from polylactic acid) and the bio-paper cup with a bioplastic coating to an extensive life-cycle analysis. That involves examining the impact of each type of cup on the environment 'from the cradle to the grave'. Here, the 'grave' means burning, recycling, composting or anaerobic fermentation.
The results are striking. The bio cup only scores higher than its plastic cousin on two of the eleven indicators: depletion of raw materials and climate change. However, Potting says the huge variation in the results means it is not possible to draw definite conclusions as to whether plastic or bio cups are better.
Despite the unimpressive scores, Wageningen UR does eventually want to switch to bio cups. That is not just good for its image; Wageningen researchers are also actively involved in the development of bio cups. Researchers at Food & Biobased Research recently developed the first bio cup for hot drinks. However, this cup is not yet on the market.