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Home, Garden and Planet

Rebecca Blackburn on the trials, and triumphs of being green around the home.

How many teacups do you need?

tea cup

Credit: Wikimedia

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I have been researching the lifecycle impact of ceramic and paper cup.

And what I found surprised me - it takes 14,000 KJ of energy to source clay and manufacture a ceramic cup. Yet it only takes 539 KJ to grow timber, make paper and construct a paper cup.

This means a ceramic cup must be used about 300 times before it breaks even with a paper cup! Of course ceramic mugs are designed to be reused - many times in fact.

But it got me thinking - few people own only one mug. In fact most of us own a vast collection of mugs and teacups.

So how long would it take to break even if we accounted for all the cups we own?

A quick audit of my two-person household revealed 13 mugs and six teacups with saucers - and that's not counting the eight teacups and saucers I sold last week at a garage sale!

If each cup needs to be used 300 times to break even, collectively these 19 cups must be used 5,700 times.

That means if my partner and I drink one cup of tea each per day (mostly we drink tea at work), it would take eight years for my collection of 19 cups to break even!

How many spare cups do you have knocking about your home?