UBC Undergraduate Research

An investigation into reusable coffee mugs Chang, Albert; Craig, Daniel; Leclerc, Josh; Tianyu, Fang; Nikaein, Niv


In order to stock the green vending machine, reusable and disposable coffee cups should be evaluated based on a triple bottom line assessment which contains environmental, social and economic factors. The scope of the report incorporates evaluating paper, ceramic, plastic and stainless steel as potential materials for the transportable coffee mug as well as the vending machine energy consumption. In this evaluation, energy consumption over the life-cycle of each material is assumed to be the main player. The methods utilized in this analysis are gathered from academic articles and trusted web resources. Each of the materials mentioned above is examined throughout the report. Paper cups create a lot of waste since they are only capable of one use. With proper initiatives, their consumption can be reduced, however these initiatives will be difficult to implement. The ceramic mug‟s life-cycle is found to be energy taking and have low durability which makes it an unpopular option for the vending machine. Plastic mugs have various user benefits in terms of insulation and ergonomics but were found to be potentially harmful due the release of Bisphenol A which can negatively impact reproductive health. Stainless steel mugs have long-term durability and do not pose any potential health hazards; however, they have high energy consumption and CO₂ emissions. If reusable mugs are to be sold from vending machines in the new Student Union Building, they should be made of stainless steel. However, in order to ensure the feasibility of selling reusable mugs, further research should be conducted regarding public perception of reusable mugs, the reasons why individuals choose not to use them and potential ways to make them more attractive to customers. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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