Paper cup

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Plain paper cup
Insulated paper cup for hot drinks, cut away to show air layer

A paper cup is a disposable cup made out of paper and often lined or coated with plastic or wax to prevent liquid from leaking out or soaking through the paper.[1][2][3] It may be made of recycled paper[4] and is widely used around the world.

History[edit]

Paper cups have been documented in imperial China, where paper was invented by 2nd century BC.[5] Paper cups were known as chih pei and were used for the serving of tea.[6] They were constructed in different sizes and colors, and were adorned with decorative designs. Textual evidence of paper cups appears in a description of the possessions of the Yu family, from the city of Hangzhou.[6]

The modern paper cup was developed in the 20th century. In the early 20th century, it was common to have shared glasses or dippers at water sources such as school faucets or water barrels in trains. This shared use caused public health concerns. One notable investigation into their use was the study by Alvin Davison, biology professor at Lafayette College, published with the sensational title "Death in School Drinking Cups" in Technical World Magazine in August 1908, based on research carried out in Easton, Pennsylvania's public schools. The article was reprinted and distributed by the Massachusetts State Board of Health in November 1909.[7]

Based on these concerns, and as paper goods (especially after the 1908 invention of the Dixie Cup) became cheaply and cleanly available, local bans were passed on the shared-use cup. One of the first railway companies to use disposable paper cups was the Lackawanna Railroad, which began using them in 1909. By 1917, the public glass had disappeared from railway carriages, replaced by paper cups even in jurisdictions where public glasses had yet to be banned.[8]

Paper cups are also employed in hospitals for health reasons. In 1942 the Massachusetts State College found in one study that the cost of using washable glasses, re-used after being sanitized, was 1.6 times the cost of using single-service paper cups.[9] These studies, as well as the reduction in the risk of cross-infection, encouraged the use of paper cups in hospitals.

Dixie cups[edit]

Dixie Cup is the brand name for a line of disposable paper cups that were first developed in the United States in 1907 by Lawrence Luellen, a lawyer in Boston, Massachusetts, who was concerned about germs being spread by people sharing glasses or dippers at public supplies of drinking water. Luellen developed an ice-cooled water-vending machine with disposable cups,[7] and with another Bostonian, Hugh Moore, embarked on an advertising campaign to educate the public and to market his machine, principally to railroad companies. Professor Davison's study was instrumental in abolishing the public glass and opening the door for the paper cup. Soon, the devices, which would dispense cool water for one cent, became standard equipment on trains.

After Lawrence Luellen invented his paper cup and corresponding water fountain, he started the American Water Supply Company of New England in 1908 located in Boston. The company began producing the cup as well as the Water Vendor. In order to expand their territory, Luellen organized the American Water Supply Company of New York as well as the American Water Supply Company of New Jersey with the help of Hugh Moore. Instead of producing the cups and fountains, these subsidiary companies were charged with the sale and distribution of Luellen's products. In 1909 Luellen and Moore started the Public Cup Vendor Company in New York in order to lease their vendor machines. Their primary customers were railroads so that the devices could be implemented on passenger train cars. After many states started to ban the common drinking cup in public places, steady orders for Luellen's machine began to roll in. The success of Luellen and Moore's territorial companies inspired them to incorporate into the Individual Drinking Cup Company of New York in 1910.

Dixie Cup Company, Easton, Pennsylvania

The Dixie Cup was first called "Health Kup", but from 1919 it was named after a line of dolls made by Alfred Schindler's Dixie Doll Company in New York. Success led the company, which had existed under a variety of names, to call itself the Dixie Cup Corporation and move to a factory in Wilson, Pennsylvania. Atop the factory was a large water tank in the shape of a cup.[10]

In 1957, Dixie merged with the American Can Company. The James River Corporation purchased American Can's paper business in 1982. The assets of James River are now part of Georgia-Pacific, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, the second largest privately owned company in the United States. In 1983, production moved to a modern factory in Forks, Pennsylvania. The original factory in Wilson has sat vacant ever since. The closing of the factory also prompted Conrail to abandon the Easton & Northern railroad branch, of which Dixie Cups was the last major customer.

In 1969, the Dixie Cup logo was created by Saul Bass, a graphic designer known for his motion picture title sequences.

The coupon collector's problem is sometimes called the Dixie cup problem.

Germ Theory and Paper Cups[edit]

Initial interest in and movement toward the banning of public drinking cups can be traced back to the Plague of 1564 when individual communion cups were banned in European churches out of suspicion that the common cup let to the spread of illness.[2] However, scientific query into the safety of communal drinking cups was first recorded in 1901 when A. Metzger and N. C. Müller surveyed 112 physicians throughout the United States who shared health concerns related to the common drinking cup, finding that suspicions of danger were justified based on input from many of these physicians. Scientists O. Ruepke and H. Huss of New York later conducted a study of guinea pigs wherein they proved tuberculosis could be transmitted from “one mouth to another by means of a drinking glass.”[2]

Death in School Drinking Cups[edit]

Another significant discovery came in 1907, when a study done by Lafayette College professor Alvin Davison concluded that the common drinking cups which were used at most water fountains were a repository for disease-causing germs and bacteria. By analyzing over 2000 students in the Easton Public School system he saw that “the germs of diphtheria and grippe frequently remain from one to three months in the mouths of the patients after they have recovered.”[3] Davison took deposits that were present on public drinking vessels in the schools and fed them to guinea pigs. He examined fragments of these cups and estimated that they contained over 20,000 human cells and that each cell had as close to 150 germs clinging to it. After giving a sample of the cells and bacteria on the drinking cups to two guinea pigs, one died within two days and the second died a few weeks later. Davison found traces of pneumonia and tuberculosis germs in both corpses. Davison concluded that the common drinking cup was a harbor for dangerous germs that caused diseases and recommended that they should no longer be used in public spaces.

Public Response[edit]

Following this mounting definitive evidence, states began to pass bans on public drinking cups. As of February 1911, 7 states had abolished the common drinking cup and many more would follow. Moreover, “more than 40 railroads throughout the country [had] substituted the individual paper cups for the old time rusty cup familiar to everyone.”[4] Beyond bans in public places, institutions including public schools and railroad companies began to react to the pressure to curb the usage of public cups. Again as of 1911, “The public schools throughout our country are rapidly awakening to the problem. In a very large percent of our cities some form of bubbling fountain or the individual drinking cup is now used.”[4]

The publication of this information in 1911 in a major journal speaks to the wave of criticism permeating the mainstream that started the movement against public drinking cups. It was precisely this wave that the Dixie Company (as well as rival paper cup companies) positioned itself to ride and strengthen as sales began to take off.

Early Advertisements[edit]

Initial branding was centralized around the health benefits of the single use cup. Marketing techniques took advantage of the trends against public drinking cups both through distribution of leaflets warning of health concerns as well as through slogans such as “don’t be last” to encourage people to view individual use drinking cups as “the future.”

Marketing toward companies that might use Dixie Cup vending machines was also developed, and the patents of the product were emphasized. “The product is not an expense” and people will gladly pay a penny for an individual use drinking cup.[1] The product began to capture the attention of the public and marketing became the company's main objective.

Early advertisement for Dixie Cups when they were still known as Health Kups[7]
"This is the Sanitary Age" advertisement for Dixie Cups[7]

The tone of many of the advertisements created by the Dixie Cup Company took the form of embracing modern ideals and marketing towards people who wanted to improve their lives and jump on board a new trend for fear of being left behind. “This is the sanitary age -- the age of dixie cups,”[11] was used for several years with success.

A subsequent pivot towards soda fountains was made in both product line and advertising, but the central idea of individual use as more sanitary than reusable glasses persisted. An emphasis on the theme of cups being “touched only by you” was seen as an act to make the cups seem individualized.

Another early advertisement from Dixie

Manufacture[edit]

The world's largest "paper" cup in front of what was once the Lily-Tulip manufacturing company, later Sweetheart Cup Company.[12] Made of poured concrete, the cup stands about 68.1 feet (20.8 m) tall.

The base paper for paper cups is called "cup board", and is made on special multi-ply paper machines. It has a barrier coating for waterproofing. The paper needs high stiffness and strong wet sizing. The cup board grade has a special design for the cup manufacturing processes. The mouth roll forming process requires good elongation properties of the board and the plastic coating. A well formed mouth roll provides stiffness and handling properties in the cup. The basis weights of the cup boards are 170–350 g/m2.[13]

To meet hygiene requirements, paper cups are generally manufactured from virgin (non-recycled) materials.[citation needed] The one exception to this is when the paper cup features an extra insulating layer for heat retention, which never comes into contact with the beverage, such as a corrugated layer wrapped around a single-wall cup.

Waterproofing[edit]

Originally, paper cups for hot drinks were glued together and made waterproof by dropping a small amount of clay in the bottom of the cup, and then spinning at high speed so that clay would travel up the walls of the cup, making the paper water-resistant.[citation needed] However, this resulted in drinks smelling and tasting of cardboard.

Cups for cold drinks could not be treated in the same way, as condensation forms on the outside, then soaks into the board, making the cup unstable. To remedy this, cup manufacturers developed the technique of spraying both the inside and outside of the cup with wax. Clay- and wax-coated cups disappeared with the invention of polyethylene (PE)-coated cups; this process covers the surface of the board with a very thin layer of PE, waterproofing the board and welding the seams together.

In 2017, the Finnish board manufacturer Kotkamills launched a new kind of cup (food service) board which uses no wax or plastic for waterproofing, and thus can be recycled as part of the normal paper and board waste stream, biodegraded, or even composted in small quantities.[14]

in 2017, the Newport Beach CA company Smart Planet Technologies, launched "reCUP" for the UK market, a recyclable paper cup using a polyethylene and mineral-blended coating, that is engineered to be recycled through traditional paper recycling systems.[15]

Printing on paper cups[edit]

Originally paper cups were printed using rubber blocks mounted on cylinders, with a different cylinder for each colour. Registration across different colours was very difficult, but later flexography plates became available and with the use of mounting systems it became easier to register across the colours, allowing for more complex designs. Printing flexographic has become ideal for long runs and manufacturers generally use this method when producing over a million cups. Machines such as Comexi are used for this, which have been adapted to take the extra large reels that are required by paper cup manufacturers. Ink technology has also changed and where solvent-based inks were being used, water-based inks are instead being utilised. One of the side effects of solvent-based inks is that hot drink cups in particular can smell of solvent, whereas water-based inks have eliminated this problem. Other methods of printing have been used for short runs such as offset printing, which can vary from anything from 10,000 to 100,000 cups. Offset printing inks have also been developed and although in the past these were solvent based, the latest soya-based inks have reduced the danger of cups smelling. The latest development is Direct-printing, which allows printing on very small quantities, typically from 1,000 cups, and is used by companies including Brendos ltd offering small quantities in short lead times. Rotogravure can also be used, but this is extremely expensive and is normally only utilised for items requiring extremely high quality printing like ice cream containers.

Environmental impact[edit]

Recycling[edit]

Most paper cups are designed for a single use and then disposal. Very little recycled paper is used to make paper cups because of contamination concerns and regulations. Since most paper cups are coated with plastic (polyethylene), then both composting and recycling of paper cups is uncommon because of the difficulty in separating the polyethylene in the recycling process of said cups. As of 2016, there are only two facilities in the UK able to properly recycle PE-coated cups; in the absence of such facilities, the cups are taken to landfill or incinerated.

A UK-based business group James Cropper have developed the world's first facility for the effective recycling of the estimated 2.5 billion paper coffee cups used and disposed of by British businesses each year, and have become one of 14 international companies to formally join the Paper Recovery and Recycling Group (PCRRG).

James Cropper's Reclaimed Fibre Facility was opened by HM The Queen in July 2013, and recovers both the plastic and paper from the cups; ensuring nothing is wasted from the recycling process.[16] Although paper cups are made from renewable resources (wood chips 95% by weight), paper products in a landfill might not decompose, or can release methane, if decomposed anaerobically.

A Newport Beach, CA company, Smart Planet Technologies has developed a process for modifying the polyethylene coating on paper cups and folding cartons so they are engineered for recyclability. Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, CA has begun a program to use cups made with this technology to capture and sell the fibers to fund scholarships for their students.[17]

In 2017, the Finnish board manufacturer Kotkamills launched a new kind of cup (food service) board which uses no wax or plastic for waterproofing, and thus can be recycled as part of the normal paper and board waste stream, biodegraded, or even composted in small quantities.[14]

The manufacture of paper usually requires inorganic chemicals and creates water effluents. Paper cups may consume more non-renewable resources than cups made of polystyrene foam (whose only significant effluent is pentane).[18][19]

Paper vs plastic[edit]

A life cycle inventory of a comparison of paper vs plastic cups shows environmental effects of both with no clear winner.[20]

Polyethylene (PE) is a petroleum-based coating on paper cups that can slow down the process of biodegrading of the paper it coats.

Polylactic acid (PLA) is a biodegradable bio-plastic coating used on some paper cups. PLA is a renewable resource and is certified compostable, which means that when it biodegrades, it does not leave behind any toxic residues.[21] Although PLA-lined cups are the only paper cups which can be composted fully, they can contaminate the waste stream, reportedly making other recycled plastics unsaleable.[22]

All paper cups can only be recycled at a specialised treatment facility regardless of the lining.[23]

A number of cities – including Portland, Oregon — have banned XPS foam cups in take-out and fast food restaurants.[24]

Emissions[edit]

A study of one paper coffee cup with sleeve (16 ounce) shows that the CO2 emissions is about 0.11 kilograms (0.24 lb) per cup with sleeve – including paper from trees, materials, production and shipping.[25]

Habitat-loss trees used[edit]

The habitat loss from one 16 ounce paper coffee cup with a sleeve is estimated to be 0.09 square meters (0.93 square feet).[dubious ][26][unreliable source?] Over 6.5 million trees were cut down to make 16 billion paper coffee cups used by U.S. in 2006, using 4 billion US gallons (15,000,000 m3) of water and resulting in 253 million pounds (115,000,000 kg) of waste. Overall, US Americans use 58% of all paper cups worldwide, amounting to 130 billion cups.[16][unreliable source?][27][unreliable source?]

Lids[edit]

A paper coffee cup with a plastic lid and "splash stick"

Paper cups may have various types of lids. The paper cups that are used as containers for yogurt, for example, generally have two types of lids: heat-seal foil lids used for small "single serving" containers, and 150–200 ml (5–7 US fl oz) plastic press-on, resealable lids used for large "family size" containers, 250–1,000 ml (8–30 US fl oz), where not all of the yogurt may be consumed at any one time and thus the ability to re-close the container is required.[28]

Hot drinks sold in paper cups may come with a plastic lid, to keep the drink hot and prevent spillage. These lids have a hole through which the drink can be sipped. The plastic lids can have many features including peel back tabs, raised walls to protect the foam of gourmet hot drinks and embossed text.[29] In 2008, Starbucks introduced shaped plastic "splash sticks" to block the hole, in some of their stores, after customer complaints about hot coffee splashing through it.[30][31]

See also[edit]

Note on Dixie Cup Collection at Lafayette College[edit]

The Dixie Cup Collection was gifted to Lafayette College by Louise Moore Pine, who was the widow of Hugh Moore, founder of the company, in 1993. It comprises preserved business records from the early days of the company all the way until modern times. The records include correspondence between Hugh Moore and other executives in the company, financial accounts, and advertisements. These records span all the way back to 1907 and until as recent as 2008. This is a massive collection consisting of more than 60 boxes of files and various Dixie products. Various other employees of the company have contributed to the collection since its inception, making the archive an ever growing entity. The collection was curated by Pamela Murray and Diane Windham Shaw, and to date limited research and scholarly production has been conducted using this expansive archive.

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ "Takeaway Cups For Hot Drinks". innsupplies.com. Retrieved 2015-02-19.
  2. ^ Kennedy, Garry: Dixie Cup entry, Apollo Glossary, NASA. Retrieved 2012-02-06.
  3. ^ "Paper Products & Dispensers". Toiletpaperworld.com. Retrieved 2007-06-09.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Raloff, Janet (2006-02-11). "Wind Makes Food Retailers Greener". Science News.
  5. ^ Tsien, Tsuen-Hsuin (1985). "Paper and Printing". Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, Chemistry and Chemical Technology. 5 part 1. Cambridge University Press: 38. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ a b Joseph Needham (1985). Science and Civilisation in China: Paper and Printing. Cambridge University Press. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-521-08690-5. At this time tea was served from baskets made of rushes which held... a set of several tens of paper cups (chih pei) in different sizes and colors with delicate designs
  7. ^ a b c d "Dixie Cup Company History". Lafayette College Libraries. August 1995. Archived from the original on 2011-11-12.
  8. ^ White, John H. (1985) [1978]. The American Railroad Passenger Car. 2. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 432. ISBN 978-0-8018-2747-1.
  9. ^ Beulah France (February 1942). "Uses for Paper Cups and Containers". The American Journal of Nursing. 42 (2): 154–156. doi:10.2307/3416163. JSTOR 3416163.
  10. ^ Former Dixie Cup Factory, Wilson, Pa (photograph)
  11. ^ "Whistlin' Dixie: Marketing the Paper Cup, 1910-1960". sites.lafayette.edu. Retrieved 2019-05-18.
  12. ^ Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation, Springfield-Greene County Library, Springfield, Missouri
  13. ^ Savolainen, Antti (1998). "6". Paper and Paperboard Converting. Papermaking Science and Technology. 12. Finland: Fapet OY. pp. 170–172. ISBN 978-952-5216-12-7.
  14. ^ a b "Suomalainen yritys teki sen – kahvin, rasvan ja oluen kestävät muovittomat ihmepahvit lähtevät maailmalle: "Kiinnostus on valtavaa"" [A Finnish company made it - plastic-free miracle board that can withstand coffee, fat and beer: "We have received huge interest"]. YLE. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  15. ^ "Smart Planet Technologies commercially launches reCUP in UK". Packaging News. 2017-12-05. Retrieved 2018-01-06.
  16. ^ a b "Paper Cups = Unsustainable Consumption". aboutmyplanet.com. Archived from the original on June 6, 2008. Retrieved February 6, 2008.
  17. ^ OCC will use recyclable cups to help fund new scholarship
  18. ^ Don R. Hansen & Maryanne M. Mowen (2005). Management Accounting: The Cornerstone of Business Decisions. Thomson South-Western. p. 503. ISBN 978-0-324-23484-8.
  19. ^ Chris T. Hendrickson; Lester B. Lave & H. Scott Matthews (2006). Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Goods and Services: An Input-output Approach. Resources for the Future. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-933115-23-8.
  20. ^ Hocking, M. B. (1 February 1991). "Paper Versus Polystyrene: A Complex Choice". Science. 251 (4993n): 504–5. Bibcode:1991Sci...251..504H. doi:10.1126/science.251.4993.504. PMID 17840849.
  21. ^ "Composting". Retrieved 2013-10-15.
  22. ^ "Sustainable bio-plastic can damage the environment". Retrieved 2017-06-21.
  23. ^ "Paper Cup Recycling". Retrieved 2012-02-01.
  24. ^ Helfrich, M. William; Sanders, Justin Wescoat (2003-08-13). "The Coming Cup-tastrophe". The Portland Mercury.
  25. ^ "Report of the Alliance for Environmental Innovation" (PDF). edf.com. Retrieved Feb 6, 2008.
  26. ^ "ecological effects of a paper cup". ecofx.org. Retrieved February 6, 2008.
  27. ^ Spitzer, Nina. "The impact of disposable coffee cups on the environment". Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  28. ^ Adman Y. Tamime & Richard K. Robinson (1999). Yoghurt: science and technology. Woodhead Publishing. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-85573-399-2.
  29. ^ "The Rise of the Plastic, Disposable Coffee Cup Lid". The Atlantic. 9 May 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  30. ^ "Starbucks splash stick says no to sploshing". USA Today. 14 March 2008. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  31. ^ Johnson, Steve (11 March 2016). "Solving the mystery of Starbucks little green sticks". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 21 April 2016.

Bibliography[edit]