If you absolutely had no other option and had to choose between paper and styrofoam, the latter might be a better option. Although paper cups are biodegradable, they actually require more energy and natural resources during production than styrofoam cups. For hot beverages, styrofoam serves a more practical purpose, because they retain most of their heat inside the cup, while paper cups can become hot to the touch when filled with coffee or tea, with the result that one would need to put a “sleeve” on the cup.
Of course, if it’s at all possible, always try to use a thermos (for hot beverages) or an aluminum or BPA-free reusable container for carrying water or other cold beverages. Some coffee shops, such as Starbucks, will even give you a small discount (usually ten cents) on your beverage if you bring your own container.
I was actually quite suprised when I found this out, myself. As chiabia has mentioned the more eco friendly option, in this case, may be the styrofoam cup. For the most part, paper cups are not biodegradable and can take up to 20 years to completely break down!
Additionally, in the manufacturing of paper cups many more resources are being used. Approximately 12 times the amount of water, and 36 times the amount of electricity is used in producing paper cups over its styrofoam counterpart. This all adds up to one confusing decision.
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