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Learning Outcomes:

1. Analyze the major environmental issues related to overconsumption
2. Evaluate methods to minimize overconsumption
3. Research and describe an innovative product that helps address overconsumption

1. Select a product that is considered to be environmentally friendly either through branding or fact-based claims. Choose one that attempts to meet the following criteria:

  • Minimize or lower impact(s) on the environment when created / manufactured, used, and/or disposed of when compared to an existing product.
  • Contributes to a “circular materials economy” instead of a linear materials economy.

2. Create a one-page infographic, summary, flow diagram, smart-art or mindmap to describe:

  • How your selected environmentally friendly product helps address environmental issues associated with overconsumption and consumerism.
  • How your selected product is claimed to be an environmentally superior option to similar existing products in one or more stages of their lifecycle (e.g. resource use, manufacturing, transport, consumption, end-of-life).
  • How this product, or the system it is embedded within, can be improved to reduce environmental impacts throughout it’s entire lifecycle.

Environmental Footprint

Difference Between the Reusable Plastic Coffee Caps and the Disposable Ceramic Coffee caps: How Disposable Coffee Cups contribute to a circular economy.

A circular economy is one  which minimizes the use of resources through the process of reuse, recycling and through the subsequent reduction of resources in the processes of production. The input and output processes are efficiently managed to reduce the losses to the environment in terms of energy and resources -both financial resources and those related to energy and time (Kirchherr, Reike & Hekkert, 2017) .

Despite high interests in the environmental effects of reusable as compared to disposable cups, very few guidelines in their use have been institutionalized to support the fact that reusable or disposable coffee  cups have very negating effects to the environment. Generalized and narrow studies, that have been performed, tend to support the use of disposable cups without giving thorough consideration to the environmental impact of these. The assessment of the varied differences between the life cycle impact related to the use of reusable ceramic cups and the subsequent use of single-use disposable cups is ,therefore, important (Padrino et al., 2017).

The end of life of disposable coffee cups is considerably easier as compared to the ceramic coffee cups. Not only can the plastic disposable coffee cups be easily destroyed, but they can also be effectively removed from the environment after they have been used. In complete contrast, it is not very easy to deal with the ceramic cups. The footprint of the disposable coffee cups is also lower as compared to that of the ceramic coffee cups whose destruction through incineration and other methods is usually difficult in the first place (Papadopoulou et al., 2018)

In addition to the environmental footprint that is left behind by the ceramic cups, it is worth noting the differences that exist in recycling. It is much easier to recycle the disposable plastic cups as compared to the reusable ceramic coffee cups. Not only is it not possible to recycle the ceramic reusable coffee cups but the rate of recycling of glass is actually lower than that of plastic disposable. It is estimated, in the United States for instance, that only fifteen percent of the glass containers are recycled on an annual basis. Glass is specifically left for landfills. However, the amount of space, destruction and pollution of the environment from glass is very high as compared to that from  plastic disposable cups which can be recycled. Disable cups meet the aspect of a circular economy to a great extent (Santala, Weins, & da Silva, 2017).

Recycling Rate

The use of the disposable cups is highly effective in the conservation of the energy and resources. While reusable coffee cups may require continuous cleaning and sterilization, the plastic disposable cups are used only once and discarded. The profits in terms of time and effort contribute significantly to the profitable use of the disposable cups. In complete contrast, there is a waste of time and resources with the ceramic cups. Ceramic cups not only need detergent for use but also have an hygiene factor connected to them. In the presence of communicable diseases, it is possible for an infection to easily spread from one person to another through the use of ceramic cups (Schmid,  Harder, & Pešková, 2018).

Without water in an environment, disease such as cholera and typhoid may easily spread from one person to another. The association of a disease burden with the type of cup used means that the associated wastage of resources in terms of time and money are high in cases of ceramic cups. The disposable cup, is thus highly beneficial to the when used as compared tot the reusable cup ( Tibbett’s,  (2015).

As opposed to the ceramic coffee cups that employ a linear approach to the use of environmental resources and even during production, the disposable cups employ a circular economy approach. It is clear from the above discussion, that the ceramic cups are not only difficult to destroy once in the environmental, but also have a high environmental impact. On the other hand, the disposable cups can be used once again as input products for the manufacture of other products like chairs, other disposable cups, plastic drums for holding water, plastic buckets among others hence promoting the open looped circular economy approach in their production stages.

The ceramic coffee cups produce a linear based approach, which to some extent is not profitable to the environment. Approaches that do not contribute to sufficient input and output do not support the approaches of the circular economy and contribute to immense loses for the environment and from the product in general. Production costs are seen to reach a stipend and yet the profits are minimal due to lower levels of consumption. Environmental resources, on the other hand, are consumed to heightened levels with the exception of profit from such use. For instance, is clear to observe that ceramics need a lot of costs to both extract the raw material from the environment so as to obtain the glass material that can be used. However, this glass material ends up becoming a loss to the environment to an extent (Rustagi, a Pradhan & Singh, (2011).

Energy Consumption


It is better, therefore, to use disposable coffee cups since they contribute to the circular economy and have a lower environmental impact as compared to the ceramic coffee cups. Ceramic coffee cups contribute to the over consumption of environmental resources at the expense of the people. The open looped approach of the disposable coffee cups, give them more vitality and effectiveness as compared to the reusable ceramic coffee cups.


                                                                            Diagram part.

Plastic or polyester can be effectively used as a means to deal with overconsumption through recycling. Plastic cups can be effectively recycled such as shown in the diagram to increase the raw material for forming of other products plastic products.

Why disposable cups are better than ceramic cups.

Disposable cups can be easily recycled and reused in the manufacture of other products. However, it is not easy to recycle glass products. Most of the glass products make up eighty one percent of the landfills. The products from landfills is in most cases from glass. This means that the potential loss of environmental space, that could have been used to perform other activities is necessary.

How the production process can be used to reduce degradation of the environment.

Proper recovery and reuse is necessary so as to protect the environment. It is necessary that plastics are properly reused. Recovery and reuse reduces the carbon footprint of plastic and its related products.


Caniato, M. (2017). Assessment and Design of Local Regulation in Solid Waste Management in Low-and Middle-Income Countries. In The Political Economy of Local Regulation (pp. 277-286). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Kirchherr, J., Reike, D., & Hekkert, M. (2017). Conceptualizing the circular economy: An analysis of 114 definitions. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 127, 221-232.

Padrino, B., Lara-Serrano, M., Morales-delaRosa, S., Campos-Martín, J. M., Fierro, J. L. G., Martínez, F., ... & Puyol, D. (2018). Resource recovery potential from lignocellulosic feedstock upon lysis with ionic liquids. Frontiers in bioengineering and biotechnology, 6.

Papadopoulou, E., Vaitsas, K., Fallas, I., Tsipas, G., Chrissafis, K., Bikiaris, D., ... & Vorgias, K. E. (2018). Bio-economy in Greece: Current trends and the road ahead. The EuroBiotech Journal, 2(3), 137-145.

Rustagi, N., Pradhan, S. K., & Singh, R. (2011). Public health impact of plastics: An overview. Indian journal of occupational and environmental medicine, 15(3), 100.

Santala, I., Weins, N. W., & da Silva, C. L. (2017, June). GLOBAL TENDENCIES IN WASTE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERING CIRCULAR ECONOMY PRINCIPLES. In Forum Internacional de Resíduos Sólidos-Anais (Vol. 8, No. 8).

Schmid, S., Harder, D., & Pešková, M. B. (2018). Nudges to Reduce Waste. In Nachhaltige Unternehmensführung (pp. 421-441). Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden.

Tibbett’s, J. H. (2015). Managing marine plastic pollution: policy initiatives to address wayward waste. Environmental Health Perspectives, 123(4), A90.

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