Proving once again just how unserious they are about actually governing, the Minneapolis City Council actually took the time to debate and implement a policy to ban disposable coffee cups for Council members and their employees. (http://www.startribune.com/local/16201047.html)

Scott Benson, the Chair of the Health, Energy and Environment Committee (yes, Minneapolis has such a committee) put the resolution up for debate this week because some members of the Council were secretly pro-disposable. Benson, knowing that none of the Council would want to appear anti-green, forced their hand by making them actually vote on the measure.


 

by David Strom

 

Proving once again just how unserious they are about actually governing, the Minneapolis City Council actually took the time to debate and implement a policy to ban disposable coffee cups for Council members and their employees. (http://www.startribune.com/local/16201047.html)

Scott Benson, the Chair of the Health, Energy and Environment Committee (yes, Minneapolis has such a committee) put the resolution up for debate this week because some members of the Council were secretly pro-disposable. Benson, knowing that none of the Council would want to appear anti-green, forced their hand by making them actually vote on the measure.

 

This resolution is silly not only because presumably the City Council has more important things to worry about than the dishes they use to satisfy their caffeine fixes, but also because the premise of their ban is probably flawed.

Paper and Styrofoam may be disposable and thus appear to be less green than ceramic mugs, it is unclear that they actually do more harm to the environment.

Ceramic, you may recall from your summer camp days, is a pretty energy intensive product to make. According to www.treehugger.com, a website dedicated to making its readers more green, ceramic mugs use 614 times more energy to make than polystyrene cups, and almost 300 times more than paper cups. (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2004/11/ecotip_coffee_c.php)

The air pollution ratio is even worse: it takes 1800 uses, or about 5 years of every day use, for a ceramic mug to get even with a using a new polystyrene cup every day. That’s using the same mug (if you use two or three different mugs over time, then you are a terrible polluter) every day for 5 years versus using Styrofoam cups every day for 5 years.

Then of course you have water use, heating the water to clean the mug, the use of soap (Minneapolis is requiring the use of environmentally sensitive soap), and don’t forget the greater likelihood of spreading disease from requiring reusable cups.

It turns out that one of the motivating factors behind requiring the use of ceramic mugs in city hall is the fact that such mugs are common gifts to the City (one just came with a recent award).

Each of those mugs is putting a terrible strain on the environment. Perhaps rather than banning disposable cups, the city should consider banning ceramic instead?