Paper cups as toxic as plastic ones when they end up in nature: Study

Paper cups as toxic as plastic ones when they end up in nature: Study

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New Delhi, August 26 (IANS) Paper cups are no alternatives to plastic cups to avoid toxic chemicals, as the latte coffee you take with you in a paper cup (along with paper lid) can also harm living organisms if it ends up in nature.

Reports of plastics pollution contaminating all parts of the Earth and in all living things has accelerated a shift to alternative materials.

However, paper cups are just as toxic as plastic cups.

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden show this in a study testing the effect of disposable cups made of different materials on the larvae of the butterfly mosquito.

“We left paper cups and plastic cups in wet sediment and water for a few weeks and followed how the leached chemicals affected the larvae. All of the mugs negatively affected the growth of mosquito larvae,” said Bethanie Carney Almroth, professor of environmental science at the University of Gothenburg.

Paper that is used in food packaging material needs to be treated with a surface coating. This plastic protects the paper from the coffee in your hand. Nowadays, the plastic film is often made of polylactide, PLA, a type of bioplastic.

Bioplastics are produced from renewable resources (PLA is commonly produced from corn, cassava or sugarcane) rather than fossil-fuels as is the case for 99 per cent of plastics on the market.

PLA is often regarded as biodegradable, meaning that it can break down faster than oil-based plastics under the right conditions, but it can still be toxic, according to the study published in the journal Environmental Pollution.

Bioplastics do not break down effectively when they end up in the environment, in water.

“There may be a risk that the plastic remains in nature and resulting microplastics can be ingested by animals and humans, just as other plastics do. Bioplastics contain at least as many chemicals as conventional plastic,” said Almroth.

“Some chemicals in plastics are known to be toxic, others we lack knowledge about. Paper packaging also presents a potential health hazard compared to other materials,” the authors wrote.