Technical ReportPDF Available

Reusable coffee cups life cycle assessment and benchmark

Authors:
  • NSW Department of Planning Industry and Environment
  • Edge Environment
Report for KeepCup
Reusable coffee cups life cycle assessment
and benchmark
13 July 2018
Project Delivered for:
Lou Dyer - Supply Chain
KeepCup
72 Westgarth Street, Fitzroy VIC 3065 Australia
0422 919 166 - lou@keepcup.com
Project Delivered by:
Jonas Bengtsson - CEO
Edge Environment
Level 5, 39 East Esplanade, Manly, NSW 2095, AUSTRALIA
02 9438 0100 - jonas@edgeenvironment.com.au
Revision
Revision Details
Author
Approved by
v1
First draft for KeepCup
comments
Dr Joana Almeida,
Dr Marie Le Pellec
Jonas Bengtsson
v2
Incorporation of
KeepCup’s feedback
Dr Joana Almeida,
Jonas Bengtsson
Jonas Bengtsson
v3
Update of bamboo cup
data
Dr Joana Almeida
Dr Joana Almeida
V4
Update of KeepCup lid
data
Dr Joana Almeida
Dr Joana Almeida
V5
Addressed comments of
peer-reviewer.
Dr Joana Almeida
Jonas Bengtsson
Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
Executive Summary
KeepCup is one of the world’s best-known designers,
manufacturers and sellers of reusable plastic and
glass coffee cups. The company’s mission is “to
encourage the use of reusable cups”, and in doing so
help move society away from their disposable
alternatives. To be consistent with the sustainability
focus of that mission, it is important that KeepCup
also takes steps to understand and manage the
environmental footprint of its own products.
Approach
As such, Edge Environment (Edge) was
commissioned to assess the environmental footprint
of three KeepCup designs, and compare them with:
Two single-use cups (compostable and paperboard); and
Two multi-use cups (bamboo and polypropylene).
The study quantifies and compares the cradle-to-grave impacts (raw materials, transport,
manufacture, customer use and end of life disposal) following the life cycle assessment (LCA)
methodology outlined in ISO 14040:2006. The study was conducted for KeepCups assembled in
Melbourne, Los Angeles and London for the following markets: Australia, New Zealand, Singapore
and China, North America and Europe.
The cups were compared in terms of the environmental impact to deliver one year of coffee drinking.
Light, medium and heavy use intensities were assessed, modelled as 1, 2 or 3 coffees per day
respectively, or 250, 500 or 750 coffees per year.
In-depth analysis of the environmental impact was conducted using three primary indicators: Carbon
emissions; energy use; and water use.
Additional indicators reported on acidification, eutrophication, fossil fuel depletion, land occupation and
toxicity.
This study was conducted taking a conservative approach towards KeepCup in the benchmark with its
competitors, mainly due to the lack of available data to characterise other cups in the market. For this
reason, the comparison with competitors must be seen in the light that: (i) the competitors do not
represent other specific products (e.g. brands) in the market; (ii) that the impacts of KeepCups are
more complete than the impacts of the competitors.
KeepCup’s Impacts: Usage
The total environmental impact shows that on average,
KeepCup has lower impact than the benchmark when
considering light, medium or heavy use in all markets
assessed. The results for KeepCup’s carbon footprint
were similar, coming out as 88% lower than
compostable cups and only marginally (4%) lower than
reusable bamboo cups.
These advantages are present even for light users. In that scenario – drinking one cup of coffee a day
– compostable cups’ carbon footprint overtakes that of all KeepCups after only 10 days, and after 24
days for paper cups. Considering KeepCups are typically used for years, this amounts to significant
lifetime carbon savings.
If everyone in Australia switched to KeepCups
rather than using disposable cups, the amount
of carbon emissions that would be saved in a
year would be equivalent to approximately
100,000 hours of flight time for a Boeing 747.
On average, using a KeepCup has lower
impact than using single use cups and reusable
cups made of polypropylene and bamboo.
Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
Figure 1 – Carbon footprint compar ison over time for KeepCups and disposable cups archetypes (based
on a light use profile and average of regions).
Figure 2 - Carbon footprint comparison over time for KeepCups and reusable cups archetypes (based on
a light use profile and average of regions).
KeepCup’s Impacts: Manufacturing and Assembly
Manufacturing is the second most important life cycle stage after use, which is to be expected given
the typically long lifetime and high usage rates of KeepCup’s products. Approximately 8% of a
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KeepCups vs Disposables
KeepCup Original KeepCup The Brew KeepCup The Brew Cork Paperboard Compostable
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KeepCups vs Other reusables
KeepCup Original KeepCup The Brew KeepCup The Brew Cork PP Bamboo
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Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
KeepCup’s lobbying
opportunity
KeepCup’s control
KeepCup’s lifetime carbon emissions are embodied in the cup itself, along with 11% of the energy and
1% of water use.
The most relevant parts in terms of embodied carbon emissions are:
The plastic (41%) or the glass cup (53-59%) depending on the KeepCup type;
The lid (29-35%); and
The band (14-18% for the silicon band, but only 5% for the cork band).
The assembly stage is the third most important component in the life cycle of KeepCups. Notably, the
carbon footprint of KeepCups made in the UK is 15-30% higher than of those made in Australia,
largely due to energy supplied by onsite PV panels for the Melbourne facility.
Figure 3 – Carbon footprint and impact reduction opportunity for KeepCup across its markets.
Opportunities for Lowering KeepCup’s Impacts
KeepCup has the lowest environmental impact of the cup options assessed. However, there is still
significant room for improvement, especially in influencing the main hotspot which is the use stage
influencing user behaviour through education and communication:
Washing the cups: to encourage hand washing over dishwashing, and to promote energy
and water efficiency techniques, as well as the purchase of water and energy efficient
dishwashers
1
.
Replacement of parts: KeepCup facilitates replacement of cup parts. This prevents
KeepCup users from having to buy an entirely new cup in case of damage or loss, which in
turn extends the cups’ lifespan and reduces the impact of using KeepCups.
1
The Australian government for example has relevant information in the “Your Energy Savings” and “Your Water
Servings” websites, including the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Scheme where consumers can
compare different products according to their water use.
Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
Recycling of used cups: KeepCup should always encourage recycling of their products
at their end of life to reduce the overall impact, and align with their mission to reduce
plastic wastage. This could encompass not only
educating and encouraging consumers, but also
lobbying for infrastructure to increase coverage
and scope of recycling services; and continued
consideration of recyclability in the design of
cups.
There are also several, wider opportunities for KeepCup to reduce the environmental impact of its
cups across different life cycle stages. These include:
Choice of materials: glass cups are shown to
have a higher impact than plastic cups, while the
cork band has lower carbon footprint than the
silicone band. Considering the relative small,
and at this stage uncertain environmental
difference between reusable cups of other
materials (e.g. bamboo), it is arguably in
KeepCup’s interest to explore alternative cup materials and evaluate different
combinations of parts to build the lowest impact cup.
Material efficiency: there may be potential to redesign the product to reduce the amount
of material needed, particularly for the glass cup.
Recycled materials: KeepCup should evaluate the possibility of incorporating recycled
glass (waste from the processes or post-consumer waste) as a raw material to reduce the
impact of material extraction and processing.
Energy efficiency: there is likely to be potential to reduce embodied impacts by
incorporating further energy efficiency technologies and more efficient processes into the
assembly phase. Alternative, less energy-intensive processes to those currently employed
to manufacture the cup parts could also be explored.
Renewable energy: the Melbourne facility is the only that has its own photovoltaic system,
which is shown to significantly reduce the impacts of Australian assembly vs. that
undertaken in the UK. It would therefore be sensible to consider extending the roll out of
renewable energy generation technologies to other facilities.
Shrink the supply chain: reducing the transport distance of cup parts between the point
of manufacture and the assembly plants would reduce the carbon footprint and energy
requirements of the life cycle.
We recommend that KeepCup continue
to explore better cup materials and
designs, to stay competitive in the
reusable cup market segment.
To back up its re-use and recyclability
potential, could KeepCup include pre-
paid “return to sender when you’re
done” on the box the cup is delivered
in?
Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
Communicating the Results of this Study
Following relevant guidelines in the Australia
2
, the UK
3
and the United States
4
, Edge recommends that
KeepCup base its public-facing statements on sentences such as:
“An independent life cycle assessment has demonstrated that using KeepCup has the lowest
environmental impacts compared disposable cups” rather than “KeepCup saves the
environment”.
“KeepCup offers an alternative, reusable cup with a low environmental footprint, and with no
risk of driving deforestation” rather than “KeepCup saves trees”.
While KeepCup’s products have lower environmental impacts than their key peers, there are still
actions for all stakeholders across the life cycle to reduce them. This is particularly relevant to
KeepCup’s customers, who are likely to be a relatively engaged and motivated audience.
Carbon emissions were highlighted by KeepCup at the onset of the study as one of the key impacts to
focus on and assess. This was supported by the LCA results, which showed that carbon emissions
are a big differentiator for KeepCup when comparing performance to their disposable peers. Given the
status of climate change as arguably the main environmental challenge of our time, this presents an
opportunity for KeepCup to forcefully advocate for the use and reuse of KeepCups as a means of
cutting emissions.
The carbon savings from one person that uses a KeepCup instead of single use cup for
their coffee for one year include:
205 km driven
5 trees growing for 1 year
750 LED downlights for 1 year
Communicating the results of this study would show a level of transparency on the properties of
KeepCup products and whole-of-life responsibility of KeepCup that is unmatched on the market. A
good example of this is the part replacement program and the clarity on the end of life of cup
materials. KeepCup can use its potential divulgation to generate momentum in the sector for better
clarification on what the lifespans of reusable cups and what is the end of life of different cup materials
that are tangible for consumers (e.g. the impossibility for most cup users to compost a compostable
material). These are seemingly small factors in product design and in the information that is paid to the
costumer but that enable the public to make informed and impactful decisions on their own footprint.
Another aspect of raising the bar in terms of transparency and holistic life cycle information would be
to expand cup assessments from single issue and life cycle stage focus, such as bamboo cups are
made from natural materials, to include considerations of how bamboo fibre and melamine composites
can be recycled, if at all.
Note: To claim ISO compliance with regards to LCA, this study must undergo third party expert critical
review to support a comparative assertion intended to be disclosed to the public.
2
https://www.ngina.com.au/Attachment?Action=Download&Attachment_id=184
3
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/make-a-green-claim/make-an-environmental-claim-for-your-
product-service-or-organisation
4
http://sinsofgreenwashing.com/findings/the-seven-sins/index.html
Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
Closing Knowledge Gaps
Some of the story emerging from this study remains untold. Some data on benchmark cups remain
gaps and we assumed zero impact where there was insufficient data to characterise the impacts,
meaning we have likely underestimated the impact of for example bamboo cups. It is likely in
KeepCup’s interest to work towards refining benchmark data and closing data gaps, to explore
alternative options for sourcing more specific information on raw materials and manufacturing of
bamboo cups.
KeepCup could consider indirectly challenging other cup providers by being completely transparent
and open about its own environmental performance and initiatives. KeepCup could even consider
putting out a challenge to other cup manufacturer to tell their story and provide their information and
data for customers and clients to make informed decisions.
KeepCup is invested in its mission to reduce waste to landfill or littering the environment. There are
data gaps in science concerning the end of life impacts of plastics, and as such methodologies such
as life cycle assessment cannot properly account for them.
KeepCup could take a proactive role in clarifying what its contribution to “the plastic problem” is by
aligning with research initiatives such as the recently launched Medellin Declaration on Marine Litter in
Life Cycle Assessment and Management, or potentially commissioning its own studies to support the
agenda.
Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
Disclaimer
The results presented in this study are based on realistic models of typical cup life cycles. As with any
model, different assumptions will lead to different outcomes. It is important to understand the working
of the model, the scope and the limitations before applying these results to other situations.
Cover image credits: Photo by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash
Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
Contents
Executive Summary .................................................................................................. 3
Disclaimer .................................................................................................................. 9
1 Introduction ......................................................................................................... 1
KeepCup life cycle assessment............................................................................. 1
Assessing and comparing cup impacts ................................................................ 1
Study goal and scope ............................................................................................. 2
2 LCA methodology ............................................................................................... 3
LCA software platforms ......................................................................................... 3
LCA scope ............................................................................................................... 4
2.2.1 KeepCup archetypes ..................................................................................................... 4
2.2.2 Benchmark cups ............................................................................................................ 4
2.2.3 System boundaries ........................................................................................................ 5
2.2.4 Functional unit ............................................................................................................... 5
2.2.5 Geographical scope ....................................................................................................... 9
2.2.6 Time boundary ............................................................................................................... 9
2.2.7 Co-product allocation ..................................................................................................... 9
2.2.8 Biogenic carbon in benchmark paper cups and bamboo cups ...................................... 10
Background data sources .................................................................................... 10
2.3.1 Exclusion of small amounts .......................................................................................... 10
2.3.2 Data requirements and quality...................................................................................... 11
3 Life cycle inventory ........................................................................................... 13
Raw materials and manufacture .......................................................................... 13
3.1.1 KeepCup ..................................................................................................................... 13
3.1.2 Benchmarks................................................................................................................. 14
Distribution ........................................................................................................... 15
3.2.1 KeepCup ..................................................................................................................... 15
3.2.2 Benchmarks................................................................................................................. 15
Use ......................................................................................................................... 15
3.3.1 Cleaning ...................................................................................................................... 15
3.3.2 Replacement of cup parts ............................................................................................ 16
3.3.3 End of life: Recycling and disposal ............................................................................... 16
4 Life cycle impact assessment .......................................................................... 17
Impact assessment methods ............................................................................... 17
4.1.1 Weighting .................................................................................................................... 17
Mandatory statements .......................................................................................... 18
5 Results and Discussion .................................................................................... 19
How does KeepCup compare to other cups? ..................................................... 19
What are the hotspots in the life cycle of KeepCups? ....................................... 23
Are there differences between KeepCups made in different places? ............... 25
What is the overall impact of all cups assessed? .............................................. 28
Implications of taking a conservative approach................................................. 30
How confident are we in these results? .............................................................. 31
Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
6 Recommendations ............................................................................................ 34
Lowering environmental impacts for KeepCup products .................................. 34
Communication opportunities and use of study in public domain ................... 35
How to improve this study Closing the Knowledge Gaps .............................. 37
7 References ......................................................................................................... 39
Appendix A - LCA standards and Approach......................................................... 41
Appendix B Life cycle inventory data ................................................................ 44
Appendix C - Background data .............................................................................. 51
Appendix D Additional life cycle impact assessment results .......................... 57
Appendix E End of life data literature research and assumptions .................. 63
Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
Figures
Figure 1 – Carbon footprint comparison over time for KeepCups and disposable cups archetypes
(based on a light use profile and average of regions). ......................................................................... 4
Figure 2 - Carbon footprint comparison over time for KeepCups and reusable cups archetypes (based
on a light use profile and average of regions). ..................................................................................... 4
Figure 3 – Carbon footprint and impact reduction opportunity for KeepCup across its markets............. 5
Figure 4 – Use of SimaPro in LCA. ..................................................................................................... 3
Figure 5 – KeepCups included in this study. ........................................................................................ 4
Figure 6 – Examples of benchmark cups. ............................................................................................ 5
Figure 7 - Life cycle of KeepCups. The white boxes indicated foreground data collected for basic
material and energy flows. The filled boxes represent modelled operations and processes.................. 6
Figure 8 - Life cycle of benchmark reusable cups made of bamboo and polypropylene. The white
boxes indicated foreground data collected for basic material and energy flows. The filled boxes
represent modelled operations and processes. ................................................................................... 7
Figure 9 - Life cycle of benchmark single-use cups made of cardboard and compostable materials.
The white boxes indicated foreground data collected for basic material and energy flows. The filled
boxes represent modelled operations and processes. ......................................................................... 8
Figure 10 – Parts of a KeepCup (not at scale): A – Lid for plastic cup, B – Lid for glass cup, C – Plug,
D – Silicone Band, E – Cork band, F – Glass cup, G – Plastic cup. ................................................... 14
Figure 11 – Climate change impacts of a year of coffee drinking under different use intensities and
different cups. Light Use = 250 coffees. Medium use – 500 coffees. Heavy use = 750 coffees. ......... 19
Figure 12 – Water use of a year of coffee drinking under different use intensities and different cups.
Light Use = 250 coffees. Medium use – 500 coffees. Heavy use = 750 coffees ................................. 20
Figure 13 – Energy use of a year of coffee drinking under different use intensities and different cups.
......................................................................................................................................................... 20
Figure 14 – Carbon footprint comparison over time for KeepCups and disposable cups (based on a
light use profile and average of regions). ........................................................................................... 21
Figure 15 - Carbon footprint comparison over time for KeepCups and reusable cups (based on a light
use profile and average of regions). .................................................................................................. 22
Figure 16 - Cradle to gate climate change impact of the three KeepCups, average across geographic
zones. .............................................................................................................................................. 23
Figure 17 - Cradle to gate water use impact of the three KeepCups, average across geographic
zones. .............................................................................................................................................. 24
Figure 18 - Cradle to gate energy use of the three KeepCups, average across geographic zones. .... 24
Figure 19 – Contribution of the life cycle stages of a KeepCup to the impact on climate change, water
depletion and energy use. This profile corresponds to one year of coffee drinking, with one coffee per
day. .................................................................................................................................................. 25
Figure 20 – Difference in carbon footprint between KeepCup’s manufactured in the three different
plants. The charts shows the impact from cradle-to-gate only, i.e. before the cups leave the factories.
......................................................................................................................................................... 26
Figure 21 – Climate change impact over the life cycle of a cup for each cup and region. ................... 27
Figure 22 – Water use over the life cycle of a cup for each cup and region ........................................ 27
Figure 23 – Energy use over the life cycle of a cup for each cup and region. ..................................... 28
Figure 24 – Weighed midpoint impacts of all assessed cups in all geographic regions. This example is
for 250 cups of coffee (i.e. 1 year of light use). .................................................................................. 29
Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
Figure 25 – Endpoint impacts of all assessed cups across different geographic regions. This example
is for 250 cups of coffee (i.e. 1 year of light use). ............................................................................... 30
Figure 26 – Range of variation in the carbon footprint of each life cycle stage for a year of coffee
drinking with 1 coffee a day (light use profile). ................................................................................... 32
Figure 27 – Cradle to grave climate change impact of reusable cups with modified lifespans (bars)
against the baseline results (dots). The scenario analysed is light use in the Australasia – Asia region.
The modified lifespans are 2 years instead of 4 for KeepCup and the bamboo cup and 1 year instead
of 30 uses for the PP cup. ................................................................................................................. 33
Figure 28 – Carbon footprint over the life cycle of an average KeepCup. ........................................... 34
Figure 29 - Checklist for green marketing. Source: Australian Competition & Consumer Commission,
Green Marketing and Trade Practices Act. ........................................................................................ 36
Figure 30 – Loss of carbon stocks in land due to LUC/deforestation. ................................................. 43
Figure 31 - Cradle to gate impacts comparison for the KeepCup Original. ......................................... 57
Figure 32 - Cradle to gate impacts comparison for the KeepCup The Brew. ...................................... 58
Figure 33 - Cradle to gate impacts comparison for the KeepCup The Brew Cork. .............................. 59
Figure 34 – Impact profile over the life cycle of KeepCups (average across all regions and cups) for
light use. ........................................................................................................................................... 60
Figure 35 – Weighted environmental impacts for glass and plastic cups (regional average). .............. 61
Figure 36 – Weighted environmental impacts for cork and silicone bands (in mPt) (regional average).
......................................................................................................................................................... 62
Tables
Table 1 – Products assessed (as specified by KeepCup). ................................................................... 4
Table 2 – Benchmark cup types. ......................................................................................................... 5
Table 3 – Number of cups required per use profile. ............................................................................. 9
Table 4 – Cups origin and key markets including in the study. ............................................................. 9
Table 5 – Data requirements. ............................................................................................................ 11
Table 6 – Data completeness map. ................................................................................................... 12
Table 7 – Data quality map. .............................................................................................................. 12
Table 8 – Difference between attributional and consequential LCA (Brander, Tipper, Hutchinson, &
Davis, 2009). .................................................................................................................................... 41
Table 9 – Inventory of Keep Cup parts. ............................................................................................. 44
Table 10 – Assembly of Keep Cup. All units per cup. ........................................................................ 44
Table 11 - Sales shares from assembly plants to their regional markets per KeepCup. ..................... 45
Table 12 – Sales shares per order type for each KeepCup leaving the Melbourne, LA and UK
assembly plants. ............................................................................................................................... 46
Table 13 – Distances by road, sea and air between KeepCup assembly plants and regional markets. A
cup will either travel by airplane or ship but not both. ......................................................................... 46
Table 14 – Washing rates of KeepCup users per cup and cleaning method. ...................................... 47
Table 15 – Water and energy use for each cleaning option. All units per cup. .................................... 47
Table 16 – Average replacement of KeepCup components per cup per year in the different markets. 48
Table 17 – Percentage of KeepCup owners that recycle KeepCup parts in different regions. ............. 48
Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
Table 18 – Benchmark reusable cup parts and materials. All units per cup. ....................................... 48
Table 19: Known inputs to the production of bamboo fibre (van der Lugt & Vogtlander, 2015). .......... 49
Table 20 - Benchmark single-use cup parts and materials. All units per cup. ..................................... 49
Table 21 – Sales shares and transport distances to each end market destinations for benchmark cups.
......................................................................................................................................................... 49
Table 22 – Background data processes. ........................................................................................... 52
Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
page 1 of 79
1 Introduction
One billion single-use hot beverage cups are sent to landfill annually in Australia alone.
Single-use cups, often use for take-away drinks, are commonly made of either polystyrene or
biopolymer foams, lined paperboard or biopolymers. These materials are not typically
recycled, and while biopolymer cups are often compostable, facilities rarely exist to do so and
most end up in landfill.
KeepCup was born from a concern about the environmental footprint of the use of disposable
cups in a Melbourne café. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the environmental footprint
of KeepCup products is of high interest for the company. While sustainability is central to
KeepCup’s mission, its environmental credentials are also a crucial market differentiator, and
a lever for helping to disrupt the take-away market.
Since 2009, KeepCups has sold over three million cups across 65 countries, with warehouses
in the United Kingdom and United States. Customers can be individuals buying a cup from a
retailer or online, or businesses using KeepCups as a branded product for their company
employees or clients.
Questions remain, however, over the environmental performance of KeepCup’s reusable
cups compared with other reusable cup types and single-use cups, when assessed across
the full life cycle. Many of KeepCup’s customers are highly engaged on environmental issues
and are therefore thought to be interested in and sensitive to this issue.
This study assesses the environmental impacts from the manufacturing, use and disposal of
KeepCups to identify hotspots and opportunities to reduce impacts. The results, alongside a
comparison with other conventional cups, aim at further supporting KeepCup’s environmental
claims.
This study is conducted using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), which is the leading
standardised method to measure the environmental impacts of a product over its lifetime,
including raw material extraction, manufacture, distribution, use and disposal.
The target audience for this study includes key clients (e.g. corporations, universities,
government) and the wider public and private consumers. A key objective is to present the
study and results on two distinct levels:
Practical and plainly explained for use in external communications, sales and
marketing.
Rigorous and transparent in terms of method, data and interpretation, satisfying
demanding scientific scrutiny if required.
KeepCup life cycle assessment
The first part of the study aims at understanding the main environmental hotspots and
improvement opportunities in KeepCup’s global supply and distribution chain. The study
assesses three KeepCup products: the “Original” plastic cup, the “Brew” glass cup and the
“Cork” edition – a glass cup with a cork band. It covers the cups three key markets: Europe,
Australia/Asia and the United States.
Assessing and comparing cup impacts
The second part of the study benchmarks KeepCup’s environmental performance with four
competing product archetypes. The benchmark cups include:
Two single-use cups – disposable paper cup with plastic lid and compostable
cups; and
Two reusable cups – bamboo based cups and polypropylene cup with plastic lids.
Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
page 2 of 79
Study goal and scope
KeepCup commissioned Edge to undertake a comparative study of the environmental
credentials of various cup options using LCA. The purpose of the study is to:
Establish the method and data for the development of LCA tools for KeepCup;
Profile the key environmental impacts of KeepCup product life cycles in key
markets;
Provide KeepCup with a critical assessment of the environmental performance of
their products;
Identify life cycle opportunities for improvement and recommendations for use of
KeepCups to minimise environmental impacts; and
Benchmark conventional cup types against KeepCup with consideration of their
properties and functions.
The scope of the study includes:
LCA of three KeepCup products: The Original, the Brew and the Cork edition;
Three markets: Australia, Europe, and the United States.
Benchmark LCA using generic data of four conventional cups:
o Two single-use cups: paper cup with plastic lid, compostable cups; and
o Two reusable cups: bamboo based cups and polypropylene cup with plastic
lids.
The LCA of the three KeepCups are based on a 12-month period of typical
manufacturing and operations; and
Assessment of multiple environmental impacts using best practice international
data and assessment methods.
This report describes:
The LCA method used;
The life cycle stages of the cups studied;
The data on raw materials, manufacturing inputs, distribution and use of the cups;
Comparative results for each cup type, showing their environmental impact during
their assumed lifespan;
Sensitivity analyses exploring key parameters and methodological choices; and
Interpretation of the results and recommendations for further actions and
communication of the results.
The study intends to support comparative assertions intended to be disclosed to the public
Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
page 3 of 79
2 LCA methodology
LCA is an internationally standardised analytical framework for identifying and quantifying the
impact of resource use and emissions (e.g. greenhouse gases) from the “cradle” to the
“grave” of a system. The general impacts to be considered include resource depletion, human
health and ecological consequences. For example:
Emissions of greenhouse gases affecting human health and causing loss of
ecosystem services through the effects of global warming and climate change;
Depletion or pollution of scarce freshwater resources necessary for human
consumption, food production systems and to sustain ecosystems; and
Use of finite resources such as fossil fuels limiting the available pool for future
generations.
The study follows the ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 guidelines, that is, it:
Identifies the goal and scope of the cups and life cycle to be reviewed;
Identifies the energy, water and materials used, pollution emitted and waste
generate through the life cycle, by life cycle stage;
Assesses the potential resource use, human and ecological impacts of those uses
and emissions, acknowledging the uncertainties and assumptions used;
Compares those impacts for the selected cups; and
Highlights any significant results and implications.
Considering the study compares KeepCup with competing products, for ISO compliance the
study and comparative results must be critically reviewed before public disclosure.
Details on the methodology and on the LCA standards that inform it are provided in Appendix
A.
LCA software platforms
The life cycle model was created in a leading international LCA software tool SimaPro® (PRé,
The Netherlands). SimaPro® is a platform that links LCA background databases with
environmental impact assessment methods, making it possible to calculate impacts from an
inventory model (see Figure 4).
Figure 4 – Use of SimaPro in LCA.
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LCA scope
2.2.1 KeepCup archetypes
KeepCup manufactures plastic cups with silicone bands, glass cups with silicone bands and
glass cups with cork bands (Figure 5). All three types of cups were assessed for their 12 oz
(340 ml) version (see Table 1). The lifespan of the cups indicated was estimated by
KeepCup.
Table 1 – Products assessed (as specified by KeepCup).
Cup
Cup Material
Band Material
Typical uses5
The Original
Polypropylene
Silicone
Multiuse – 4 years
The Brew
Tempered glass
Silicone
Multiuse – 4 years
The Brew Cork
edition
Tempered glass
Cork
Multiuse – 4 years
The Original
The Brew
The Brew Cork
Figure 5 – KeepCups included in this study.
2.2.2 Benchmark cups
Edge and KeepCup screened the market for KeepCup’s main competing cups and shortlisted
the four cups described in Table 2 and presented in Figure 6. These cup archetypes do not
represent any specific products on the market as they were modelled with data available from
mixed third-party data sources. The lifespan of the reusable cups indicated was estimated by
KeepCup.
Data requirements and inventory for benchmark cups are given in Section 3.1.2.
5
Includes replacement of parts. See Table 16 for replacement rates.
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Table 2 – Benchmark cup types.
Cup
Material
Typical uses
Bamboo cup
Melamine and bamboo
Multiuse – 4 years
PP cup
Polypropylene
Multiuse – 30 uses
Compostable cup
Polylactic acid
Single-use
Paperboard cup
Paperboard with
polyethylene lining
Single-use
Bamboo cup
PP cup
Compostable cup
Paperboard cup
Figure 6 – Examples of benchmark cups.
2.2.3 System boundaries
For every KeepCup and benchmark, the LCA includes raw materials and energy required to
manufacture the cups, deliveries, washing (if reusable) and disposal at end of life. Diagrams
describing the cups’ life cycle are provided in Figure 7 to Figure 9.
Due to higher data quality, KeepCup was modelled with higher level of detail and includes
transport between component manufacturer and assembly plants and replacement of parts
(Figure 7). Benchmark cups were modelled after data retrieved from third party sources, such
as manufacturers websites. These publicly available data are limited and formed a more
incomplete inventory. The exclusions do not refer to processes that are out of scope but
rather processes that could not be quantified due to lack of data. Details on exclusions is
provided in section 3. Data quality and completeness are discussed in section 2.3.2.
2.2.4 Functional unit
To compare the life cycle environmental impacts of the cups, a common functional unit is
required. The functional unit chosen for this project is one year of coffee drinking.
To that end, the available data has been sourced, then normalised to determine the number
of cups needed to provide the uses required, the material inputs and outputs for that number
of cups, and their total impacts.
Three use intensities were defined depending on the number of coffees drank per day
Light use: 1 coffee per day, 250 coffees per year
6
.
Medium use: 2 coffees per day, 500 coffees per year.
Heavy use: 3 coffees per day, 750 coffees per year.
The lifespan of the cups was kept constant regardless of the number of uses. This is because
how often a cup is used is not the only use-related factor influencing lifespan. There is also
how the cups are handled and cared for, how they are transported and stored, etc.. There is
no depth in currently available data to differentiate the lifespan further.
6
Assuming 250 working days.
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Figure 7 - Life cycle of KeepCups. The white boxes indicat ed foreground data collected for basic material and energy flows. The filled boxes represent model led
operations and processes.
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Figure 8 - Life cycle of benchmark reusable cups made of bamboo and polypropylene. The white boxes indicated foreground data collected for basic material and
energy flows. The filled boxes represent modelled operations and processes.
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Figure 9 - Life cycle of benchmark single-use cups made of cardboard and compostable materials. The white boxes indicated foreground data collected for basic
material and energy flows. The filled boxes represent modelled operations and processes.
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Table 3 shows the number of cups required per year for each use intensity scenario. For
reusable cups (i.e. KeepCup, bamboo and PP), a portion of the cup or cups is allocated to
each year of service. For example, 0.250 or 25% of a KeepCup is used per year, assuming
the typical life span is 4 years.
Table 3 – Number of cups required per use profile.
Cup
Light use
Medium use
Heavy use
KeepCup #1 Original
0.250
0.250
0.250
KeepCup #2 Brew
0.250
0.250
0.250
KeepCup #3 Brew Cork
0.250
0.250
0.250
Bamboo cup
0.250
0.250
0.250
PP (Polypropylene)
8.33
16.7
25.0
Compostable cup
250
500
750
Paperboard Cup
250
500
750
2.2.5 Geographical scope
The geographical scope of the study follows the cup production and dispatch to the customer
from Melbourne/Australia, Los Angeles/USA and London/UK (Table 4).
Table 4 – Cups origin and key markets including in the study.
Origin
Markets
Melbourne, Australia
Australasia and Asia (Australia, New Zealand, Singapore
and China)
Los Angeles, USA
North America (Canada and USA)
London, United Kingdom
Europe
2.2.6 Time boundary
The data sourced from KeepCup was generally for the calendar year 2016. Raw data was
based on KeepCup’s estimates and measurements for production practices, product
specification sheets, and surveys of cup users.
2.2.7 Co-product allocation
The cup life cycle produces several co-products with economic value, including:
Retired cups or cup parts; and
Packaging for recycling.
Each of these co-products can be inputs into other product life cycles, e.g. recycled into
production of new cups or other products; therefore, there’s normally an allocation of impacts
according to their economic value. However, in this study, retired cups or cup parts were not
considered because they are recycled internally (allocation not necessary); while the value of
recycled packaging was considered negligible (See Appendix A).
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2.2.8 Biogenic carbon in benchmark paper cups and bamboo cups
Forests are an important sink for carbon in this cycle because they help to offset carbon
dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases that would otherwise contribute to climate
change.
In the LCA of land-based products, the use of land and its attributes is part of the life cycle.
Hence, LCA can include, and in some cases shall include, shifts in carbon stocks in soil and
biomass that are the responsibility of the product being analysed. Losses in carbon stocks
due to land-use change (LUC) imply the emission of CO2 when forests are not harvested
sustainably. In this study, it was assumed that all trees and crops grown for cup materials are
grown sustainably and don’t result in emissions from land use change or deforestation (More
details in Appendix A).
Background data sources
We used ecoinvent v3.2, the world’s leading database with several thousand Life Cycle
Inventory (LCI) datasets. ecoinvent is developed and provided by the Swiss Centre for Life
Cycle Inventories. For processes taking place in Australia, we used data from the Australian
Life Cycle Inventory (AusLCI) database, which included representative practices of the
Australian industry and energy mixes.
Data used for the purposes of modelling was selected based on the following criteria:
Relevance: Information from appropriate sources, data and methods in relation to
the primary product data was used.
Completeness: Data was used if it provided a significant contribution to the
products’ life cycle impacts.
Consistency: Only data that enabled meaningful comparisons in life cycle impact
assessment (LCIA) information was used.
Accuracy: Only accurate data was used to reduce bias and uncertainty as far as
is practical.
Transparency: Published data was used as far as practical to disclose
information to allow third party scrutiny.
These data sources are further detailed in Appendix C.
2.3.1 Exclusion of small amounts
This study has been conducted with the attempt to capture and include all inputs and outputs.
It is, however, common practice in LCA/LCI protocols to propose exclusion limits for inputs
and outputs that fall below a threshold percentage of the total impact. These impacts can be
smaller than the error range associated with the inventory data itself. Exclusion of small
amounts in background data used in this study follows the standard approach of ecoinvent
modelling.
Exclusion of small amounts in the foreground data consisted not on a cut-off delineation but
on system boundary setting. Impacts associated with capital equipment and buildings are
typically insignificant in LCIs. For this project, capital equipment and buildings were excluded
from the assessment scope, as previous studies (Frischknecht, et al., 2007) have
demonstrated their immateriality.
The impacts of employees are also excluded from inventory impacts on the basis that if they
were not employed for this production or service function, they would be employed for
another. It is also difficult to accurately determine the proportion of overall employee impacts
to allocate to their work at KeepCup and benchmark cups.
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2.3.2 Data requirements and quality
The data quality requirements for the study were set to the following:
The data sourced from KeepCup shall be representative of the year 2016 and be
assumed to reasonably represent the typical operations of the Australian, US and
UK factories the foreseeable future beyond this period.
The foreground data shall be sourced from KeepCups’ manufacturing.
The background data shall be sourced from nationally relevant databases or
adapted to regional conditions as far as practical.
The background data shall be representative of contemporary technology and
practices.
The data requirements for the LCA are summarised in Table 5.
Table 5 – Data requirements.
Data related to
cups
Data source
Data quality
Source and
quantities used for
manufacturing and
repairing cups
KeepCup staff
Manufacturer
publicly available
data
KeepCup: Good (primary
data)
Benchmarks: Good. (extended
literature research and
laboratory test of bamboo cup
composition)
Transport mode
and distance (fuel
consumption)
KeepCup staff
ecoinvent 3.2
standard market
mix distances
KeepCup: Good (primary
data)
Benchmarks: Unknown or not
applicable.
Material use,
energy, emissions,
waste and
recycling
KeepCup staff
ecoinvent 3.2
standard
processes
KeepCup: Good (primary
data)
Benchmarks: Low (unknown
specific operations,
assumptions-based)
Transport modes
and distance
KeepCup staff
KeepCup: Good (primary
data)
Benchmarks: Average
(assumed same end markets
as KeepCup for comparability)
Frequency and
type of washing
Energy and water
use to wash cups
Survey by
KeepCup staff
ecoinvent 3.2.
standard fuel
consumptions
KeepCup: Good (primary data
from public survey)
Benchmarks: Average (not
applicable to disposables and
reusables assumed same as
Keep Cup for comparability)
Secondary use
and waste
disposal
Scenarios
developed by
Edge
KeepCup: Good (primary data
from public survey)
Benchmarks: Good (extended
literature research)
The heat maps in Table 6 and Table 7 show the gaps in data availability and in data quality,
respectively.
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Table 6 – Data completeness map.
Raw material
requirements
and provision
Manufacture
and Assembly
energy
Manufacture
and Assembly
wastage
Deliveries
Replacement
of parts
Washing
regime
Recycling/
Composting
rates
KeepCup
Bamboo cup
PP cup
Compostable cup
Paperboard cup
No data
Incomplete
Complete
Table 7 – Data quality map.
Raw material
requirements
and provision
Manufacture
and Assembly
energy
Manufacture
and Assembly
wastage
Deliveries
Replacement
of parts
Washing
regime
Recycling/
Composting
rates
KeepCup
Bamboo cup
PP cup
Compostable cup
Paperboard cup
Low
Average
High
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3 Life cycle inventory
This section describes the data, data sources, assumptions and quality, for both the raw
materials and the processes used at each stage of the cup life cycle.
The following sections specify the inventory for KeepCup and its benchmarks. All LCI data is
provided in Appendix B. Background unit processes for all inputs and outputs are provided in
Appendix C.
Raw materials and manufacture
This section outlines the main material, energy and transport inputs and outputs of the life
cycle stages from extraction of raw materials to the cup assembly gate. This includes the
extraction of resources from nature and man-made materials, their transformation into the
materials used in the cups, the manufacture of the cups and cup parts and their assembly, if
applicable. Intermediate transport is included as:
Resources from nature to raw materials – market averages, embedded in
background data;
Raw materials to cup parts - market averages, embedded in background data;
Cup parts to assembly (for KeepCup only) – actual transport distances and modes
from supplier to KeepCup’s facilities.
3.1.1 KeepCup
Cup parts
KeepCups are designed in modules: a lid with an over-mould, a plug to seal the lid opening, a
cup, and a band which can be silicone or cork-based (see Figure 10). The detailed
composition of the parts for 12oz The Original, The Brew and The Brew Cork cups are
provided in Table 8 of Appendix B.
The manufacture of lids, silicone bands and plastic cups is done by injection moulding of the
materials. The glass cups are blown moulded and the cork bands are press moulded.
The lid, plug and plastic cups are produced in Australia, while the silicone band and glass cup
are produced in China, and the cork band in Portugal.
Assembly
The parts are packed into cardboard boxes and then transported to plants in Melbourne, Los
Angeles in the USA or London in the United Kingdom, where the cups are assembled and
packed into retail boxes. The transport distances between part production site and assembly
sites are provided in (
Table 10). Overland distances were estimated on GoogleMapsTM (Google, 2017). Sea
distances were calculated on sea-distances.org (Sea-Distances.org, 2017).
The LA and UK assembly plants use grid electricity, but the Melbourne plant has its own
photovoltaic system. The inventory also considers the wastage of parts due to defect or
breakage, as well as the disposal of wasted parts. Wastage rates vary between 0.1% and
0.6%, depending on the part and material (
Table 10).
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Figure 10Parts of a KeepCup (not at scale): A Lid for plastic cup, B Lid for glass cup, C
Plug, D Silicone Band, E Cork band, F Glass cup, G Plastic cup.
3.1.2 Benchmarks
The main data source for benchmark cups is research conducted by Edge into product
specifications, since there was not access to primary data directly from the manufacturers.
Data was retrieved from third-party environmental performance studies, manufacturer’s
websites and third-party online stores. Parts, materials and quantities are presented in Table
18 and Table 20.
The life cycle database used to model the material supply (ecoinvent) contains average
transport distances of products in the market. For instance, ecoinvent data for plastic will
include an average distance for plastic between the points of manufacture and
transformation.
Modelling assumptions
The following assumptions were made to fill in data gaps in the inventory of cup materials:
The same lid to cup mass ratio of the compostable cup applied to the cardboard
cup and the PP cup;
The same lid to cup and band to cup mass ratio of The Original KeepCup applied
to the bamboo cup;
The bamboo cup and the PP cup are manufactured by injection moulding;
3% of the cardboard’s cup weight is polyethylene for the lining.
These assumptions reflect the author’s own judgement.
Exclusions
The following data is present in the KeepCup inventory but excluded from benchmark life
cycle models due to lack of information:
Manufacturing energy of the disposable cups;
A B
C
D E
F
G
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Assembly energy of the reusable cups;
Wastage rates and wasted outputs during assembly;
Packaging for transport (secondary packaging);
Intermediate transport steps between manufacture of cup parts and cup
assembly, if applicable (e.g. cup part production and assembly at the same
location).
Distribution
3.2.1 KeepCup
KeepCups are distributed to several destinations in three main markets from the assembly
plants:
Melbourne to Australia, New Zealand and Asia;
Los Angeles to North America;
And London to Europe.
The sales share of each cup from an assembly plant to the different destinations in its
regional market is given in Table 11 to Table 21. A main city was considered per market as
the endpoint to the shipping. Small transportation steps (plant to port/airport and local
distribution) were excluded.
The shipping uses overland truck transport and air shipping (online and samples only) or sea
shipping (remaining sales). The shares of sale types leaving each assembly plant are also
provided in Table 12.
The distances of each distribution route were estimated on GoogleMapsTM (Google, 2017)
and on sea-distances.org (Sea-Distances.org, 2017). The average distance and
transportation mode for each regional market were then calculated as a weighted average
across sales types (included the different transport methods) and across destinations (Table
13).
3.2.2 Benchmarks
Because there was no first-hand data on the distribution of benchmark cups, the same
destination markets were assumed. The assumed departure point for distribution for all cups
is in China and Taiwan. These countries were suggested by the literature review as most
likely provenances of either the cups or their raw materials.
The shares going to each market are the average of the three KeepCups, since they compete
equally against all versions of KeepCup in this study. Cups were assumed to travel by road
and ship (conservative assumption). The distances travelled by each mode are provided in
Table 21.
Use
3.3.1 Cleaning
KeepCup collected data on washing habits of KeepCup users through an open survey with
2,430 respondents. The survey aimed to determine the share of users that adopt machine
washing, rinsing or handing washing as the usual cleaning method for their KeepCup (Table
14). KeepCup assumed that figures for The Original and The Brew are the same, while the
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machine-washing rate is lower for The Brew Cork owners since the cork band is mostly
recommended to clean up by hand
7
.
The washing rates for The Original/The Brew cups were applied to the bamboo and the PP
cups.
Data on the energy and water use of each cleaning option was collected from literature and is
provided in Table 15.
3.3.2 Replacement of cup parts
KeepCup users have the option to replace retired cup parts. Part replacement was included in
the inventory (rates indicated in Table 16).
3.3.3 End of life: Recycling and disposal
KeepCup collected recycling rates data through an open survey with 2,430 respondents
(Table 17).
Different End of Life (EOL) options were modelled for KeepCup cups and its benchmarks
based on waste management statistics in Australia, Europe and North America
8
. It was
assumed that the cups would be used and disposed of in commercial properties or public
spaces, such as offices, shopping centres, or train stations.
Each EOL process includes the energy and material inputs required to dispose of or recycle
the cup waste, as well as any direct emissions arising from the waste processing.
The LCI includes an end of life scenario of each material in each broad geographical region.
The end of life scenario is defined by the uptake rate of recycling, composting, landfill and
waste to energy. These rates were estimated through a literature review and correspond to
the fate of waste disposed by the public, mostly household waste. This excludes pathways
available to industrial waste, which often offer more options. For instance, composting is often
not available to household waste but it can be part of waste management services in other
settings.
The process of landfilling includes the operations and emissions during the products
residence time in landfill. The release of biogenic carbon of paper and bamboo cups and of
cork bands in landfill was included as per the corresponding AusLCI or ecoinvent processes.
Recycling and waste to energy conversion include the sorting and pre-processing of waste,
but exclude the actual conversion into a new product, which was considered to fall in the
boundaries of another life cycle.
7
“Soft cloth and water”
8
See Appendix E for the background research.
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4 Life cycle impact assessment
This LCA step converts the inventoried data into flows of resources and pollutant releases
into measurable and communicable impact indicators. Life cycle impact indicators translate
quantities of such flows into substances and those substances are grouped according to the
impacts they cause and standardised against a reference substances.
For example, 1 kWh of electricity used in the life cycle emits several types of greenhouse
gases in different amounts. The greenhouse gases are aggregated in reference to the
impacts cause by carbon dioxide (CO2, the reference substance) and added up to form the
climate change impact indicator.
Impact assessment methods
The environmental impact assessment was based on leading international assessment
methods with a well-established and recognised scientific models. The life cycle impacts
reported are:
Climate change: based on the International Panel for Climate Change 100-year
global warming potentials
9
- indicates the cumulative effect of greenhouse gas
emissions on the climate.
Energy use
10
- indicates the cumulative non-renewable and renewable energy use
across the life cycle.
Water use, based on water depletion indicator
11
- indicates the cumulative water
uses across the life cycle. This indicator does not reflect impact on water
availability.
The full suite of ReCiPe indicators at at the characterisation and weighted level.
The ReCiPe method is an internationally well accepted method covering a wide range of
environmental issue. It is recognized as a leading and comprehensive approach to calculate
life cycle environmental impacts. ReCiPe was developed in the Netherlands by a consortium
including the University of Leiden, the Dutch environmental authorities and private
consultancy.
4.1.1 Weighting
Some of the results presented and used in support of the analysis are weighted
12
. This
means that the different impact indicators that ReCiPe includes are normalised into unitless
impacts and then affected by a weight. The weight reflects the relative importance that each
environmental impact has been given by a group of experts.
Weighting is useful in analysing hotspots and trade-offs in life cycles, even though it adds
subjectivity to the results.
9
Hierarchist ReCiPe (v1.12) midpoint method.
10
Cumulative energy demand method.
11
Hierarchist ReCiPe (v1.12) midpoint method.
12
The set of weights are not the original weights of the ReCiPe method, but were retrieved from an
Australia-specific study (Bengtsson, Howard, & Kneppers, 2010).
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Mandatory statements
ISO 14044 does not specify any specific methodology or support the underlying
value choices used to group the impact categories; and
The value-choices and judgements within the grouping procedures are the sole
responsibilities of the commissioner of the study (e.g. government, community,
organization, etc.).
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5 Results and Discussion
How does KeepCup compare to other cups?
The charts in Figure 10 to Figure 12 report on the greenhouse gas emissions, water use and
energy use of KeepCups and benchmark cups for one year of using. The results are
averaged across the three markets. Three scenarios are shown: 250 coffees per year (light
use), 500 coffees per year (medium use) and 750 coffees per year (heavy use). This data
includes making, transporting, washing and disposing of cups, and excludes the preparation
of beverages.
The key findings of this comparison are:
A year of drinking coffee from KeepCups has lower life cycle greenhouse gas
emissions, energy use and water use than doing so in single-use cups in terms of
energy use and climate change. However, due to water consumption in washing,
single-use cups have lower water use impact, specifically when recommended
hand-wash, such as for KeepCups with cork bands.
Although with significant gaps and based on assumptions, KeepCups’ life cycle
greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and water use are lower than PP cups’
(due to PP’s shorter lifespan) and slightly lower than bamboo cups’, depending on
the KeepCup and the region.
Bases on the data that was available for this study, using the KeepCup Original
and the KeepCup Brew Cork seems to carry lower climate change and energy
use impacts than using the other assessed reusable cups, bamboo and PP. The
reason why The Brew doesn’t show the same trend is the glass cup and the fact
that it was assumed to be washed in the dishwasher more often than The Brew
Cork.
Figure 11Climate change impacts of a year of coffee drinking under different use intensities
and different cups. Light Use = 250 coffees. Medium use 500 coffees. Heavy use = 750 coffees.
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
45
50
Kee p Cup - Th e Brew Cork
Kee p Cup - Th e Orig in al
Kee p Cup - Th e Brew
Bam boo c up
PP cu p
Pap er cup
Compostable cup
kg CO2 eq
Light us e Medium use Heavy use
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Figure 12Water use of a year of coffee drinking under different use intensities and different
cups. Light Use = 250 coffees. Medium use 500 coffees. Heavy use = 750 coffees
Figure 13Energy use of a year of coffee drinking under different use intensities and different
cups.
-
0.20
0.40
0.60
0.80
1.00
1.20
1.40
Keep Cup - Th e Brew C ork
Keep Cup - Th e Origin al
Keep Cup - Th e Brew
Bamb oo cup
PP cup
Pape r cup
Compostable cup
m3
Light use Medium us e Heavy use
0
100
200
300
400
500
600
700
800
Kee p Cup - Th e Brew Cork
Kee p Cup - Th e Orig inal
Kee p Cup - Th e Brew
Bam boo cup
PP cup
Pap er cup
Compostable cup
MJ
Light us e Mediu m use Heavy use
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Figure 14Carbon footprint comparison over time for KeepCups and disposable cups (based on a light use profile and average of regions).
0
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Accrued carbon footprint (kg CO2eq)
Days (use&wash once a day)
KeepCup Original KeepCup The Brew KeepCup The Brew Cork Paperboard Compostable
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Figure 15 - Carbon footprint comparison over time for KeepCups and reusable cups (based on a light use profile and average of regions).
0
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Accrued carbon footprint (kg CO2eq)
Days (use&wash once a day)
KeepCup Original KeepCup The Brew KeepCup The Brew Cork PP Bamboo
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The timelines in Figure 14 show the accrued carbon footprint of the different cups in function
of the number of coffees drank. This chart shows breakeven points when the initial impact of
Even though reusable cups have a higher manufacturing impact, the cumulative greenhouse
gas emissions of manufacturing and disposing of single-use cups for each coffee dose, leads
to higher impacts on climate change over time.
After 24 days, all KeepCups have a lower impact than a paper cup every day with only one
coffee a day. After 10 days, one use per day, all KeepCups have a lower impact than
compostable cups (Figure 13)
What are the hotspots in the life cycle of KeepCups?
The charts in Figure 16 to Figure 18 shows the carbon footprint, energy use and water use of
an average KeepCup across the three assembly sites, at the factory gate.
The main driver of the climate change impact of a KeepCup at the factory gate is
manufacturing the cup, from 29% to 38% of the total carbon footprint. The second main driver
is the lid.
The glass cup has an life cycle greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and water use
significantly higher (>50%) than the plastic cup in terms of climate change impact and energy
use.
The silicone band has an impact close to twice the impact of the cork band when looking at
climate change and energy use. However, the water use of making a cork band is lower than
that of making a silicone band.
As a result of these differences in materials and their origins, The Original KeepCup has
lower carbon footprint and energy use, followed by The Brew Cork. The Brew Cork requires
less water than the other two KeepCup types.
Figure 16 - Cradle to gate climate change impact of the three KeepCups, average across
geographic zones.
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Figure 17 - Cradle to gate water use impact of the three KeepCups, average across geographic
zones.
Figure 18 - Cradle to gate energy use of the three KeepCups, average across geographic zones.
0
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Manufacture is a small part of the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and water
use of KeepCups. The charts below show the contribution to the carbon footprint, water use
and energy use of the different stages of a KeepCup’s life cycle: making the cup, delivering it
to the market, using it and disposing of it. These figures are the average for all KeepCups and
all three assembly plants.
Figure 19 shows that the use stage, which includes washing and replacements, is the biggest
impact driver in a year of coffee drinking with KeepCups: 91% of the footprint, 99% of the
energy use and 88% of the energy use.
By contrast, manufacturing and assembly constitute 7% of the footprint, 1% of the water use
and 10% of the energy use.
Figure 19Contribution of the life cycle stages of a KeepCup to the impact on climate change,
water depletion and energy use. This profile corresponds to one year of coffee drinking, with
one coffee per day.
In sum, the main impact of the KeepCup life cycle lies away from KeepCup’s direct control:
use phase. However, the manufacturing stage has the second biggest impact on the
KeepCup’s life cycle greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and water use.
Are there differences between KeepCups made in different
places?
If we exclude usage and look only to the point the cups are packed and ready for delivery,
cups made in different assembly plants have very similar footprints (Figure 20)
Cups made in LA have slightly higher footprint, due to the differences in the electricity mix
and the transportation of parts. The largest difference between two keep cups made in
different locations is 3%. It makes therefore sense to globally speak of environmental impact
of KeepCup at the factory gate.
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Figure 20Difference in carbon footprint between KeepCup’s manufactured in the three
different plants. The charts show the impact from cradle-to-gate only, i.e. before the cups leave
the factories.
Looking at the whole life cycle (Figure 21, Figure 22 and Figure 23 below), there are slight
differences in the impacts of KeepCups used in different regions. Because the use stage is so
important, this is mostly due to the impact of the energy produced in each region and required
to clean each cup in the way each cup is washed.
For instance, the reason why the Australian-made Brew Cork has a lower impact than the
other cups used in that market is because it needs to be hand washed, which means there is
no coal-based electricity involved in the washing to run the dishwasher. Because the
electricity mix in the other regions is relatively cleaner, there are less embedded emissions in
the energy required for washing. Hence, it matters less how the cup is washed. This can be
seen in the small difference between The Original in North America and The Original in
Europe.
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Figure 21Climate change impact over the life cycle of a cup for each cup and region.
Figure 22Water use over the life cycle of a cup for each cup and region
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The Or ig inal
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made
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made
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Figure 23Energy use over the life cycle of a cup for each cup and region.
What is the overall impact of all cups assessed?
The charts in Figure 25 and Figure 25 display the overall impact of drinking one coffee per
day during one year different world regions.
The first chart shows a range of impact categories weighted according to their relative
relevance. This chart demonstrates that:
The impact on climate change is the foremost issue in all cups’ life cycles.
Depletion of fossil fuel is an issue that stands out in all cups, particularly those
that are plastic based: PP cup and The Original KeepCup.
Using compostable cups stand out for their toxicity impact to terrestrial, freshwater
and marine environments and well to humans. Using paper cups results in a
significant demand for agricultural land and impacts freshwater and marine
ecotoxicity, has well as toxicity to humans.
0
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The Or ig inal
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made
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Figure 24Weighed midpoint impacts of all assessed cups in all geographic regions. This
example is for 250 cups of coffee (i.e. 1 year of light use).
The indicators reported in Figure 25 reflect damage that all impacts assessed in this LCA
have on human health
13
, ecosystem and resource reserves.
The biggest concerns hailing from using disposable cups are split between damages to
human health and to resource stocks. This relates to the recurrent need to replace and
process materials after single usage and the emissions of pollutants associated with those
activities.
The main issue in the life cycle of reusable cups, including KeepCup, is resource depletion,
due to energy and material use.
These findings corroborate that using disposable cups are more impactful than reusable
cups, and that using KeepCups is overall impact-leaner than all other cups.
13
This does not include direct health effects to users of the cups (e.g. exposure to BPA).
050 100 150 200
Bamboo cup light use {AU Asia}
Bamboo cup light use {EU}
Bamboo cup light use {NoAm}
Compostable c up, light use {AU | Asia}
Compostable c up, light use {EU}
Compostable c up, light use {NoAm}
Keep Cup - The Brew Cor k, light use {AU | Asia}
Keep Cup - The Brew Cor k, light use {EU}
Keep Cup - The Brew Cor k, light use {NoAm}
Keep Cup - The Brew, light use { AU | Asia}
Keep Cup - The Brew, light use { EU}
Keep Cup - The Brew, light use { NoAm}
Keep Cup - The Original, light use {AU | Asia}
Keep Cup - The Original, light use {EU}
Keep Cup - The Original, light use {NoAm}
Paper cup, light use {AU | Asia}
Paper cup, light use {EU}
Paper cup, light use {NoAm}
PP cup light use {AU Asia}
PP cup light use {EU}
PP cup light use {NoAm}
mPts
Climate change Oz one dep let ion Te rrestr ial acidi fication
Fr eshwater eutro phica tion Marine eutrophication Human tox ic ity
Photochemical oxidant formation Particulate matter formation Ter restr ia l eco toxici ty
Fr eshwater ecotoxicity Marine ecotoxicity Ionising radi ation
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There are small differences between the same cup used in different regions, but no pattern to
single out a trend in regional impacts.
Figure 25Endpoint impacts of all assessed cups across different geographic regions. This
example is for 250 cups of coffee (i.e. 1 year of light use).
Implications of taking a conservative approach
Whenever needed, the assumptions made on this study have been conservative towards
KeepCup:
Pessimistic estimations on KeepCup’s life cycle, such as durability, recycling and
distribution; and
0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 1.2 1.4 1.6
Bamboo cup light use {AU Asia}
Bamboo cup light use {EU}
Bamboo cup light use {NoAm}
Compostable c up, light use {AU | Asia}
Compostable c up, light use {EU}
Compostable c up, light use {NoAm}
Keep Cup - The Brew Cor k, light use {AU | Asia}
Keep Cup - The Brew Cor k, light use {EU}
Keep Cup - The Brew Cor k, light use {NoAm}
Keep Cup - The Brew, light use { AU | Asia}
Keep Cup - The Brew, light use { EU}
Keep Cup - The Brew, light use { NoAm}
Keep Cup - The Original, light use {AU | Asia}
Keep Cup - The Original, light use {EU}
Keep Cup - The Original, light use {NoAm}
Paper cup, light use {AU | Asia}
Paper cup, light use {EU}
Paper cup, light use {NoAm}
PP cup light use {AU Asia}
PP cup light use {EU}
PP cup light use {NoAm}
Pts
Human Health Ecosystems Resources
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Assuming zero impact for life cycle stages or data gaps with high uncertainty,
such as manufacturing impacts, on the benchmark cups.
Thus, the results and findings from the study should be framed as statements of trends rather
than of absolute results, to not provide a false sense of accuracy.
How confident are we in these results?
Two aspects come to play in the robustness of these results: data fitness and uncertainty.
Data fitness, or quality, for all cups covered in this study is described in Section 2.3.2. We can
conclude from it that:
The profile of KeepCups is robust because data is complete and of good quality
(first hand production data and surveys);
The profile of the benchmark cups is of variable robustness, because data had to
be collected from third-party sources and the life inventories are incomplete;
The lifespans of the reusable cups are based on estimates;
The most robust results on the benchmark cups pertain to single-use cups, since
these have a simpler, better documented manufacturing processes and life
cycles; and
Because the profiles of other reusable cups are based on weak data, it cannot be
confidently affirmed that the indicative results of lower impact are sufficiently
confident to communicate publicly.
Uncertainty refers to all the variation in the data, regardless of its quality, that we overcome
by using averages to represent our model. For example: distribution of a KeepCup in Europe
includes travel distances as short at from London to domestic markets to from London to
Finland; this range is represented in the model as a weighted average of the sales volumes
that reach each market.
The variability in the results per life cycle stage is shown in Figure 26. The error bars indicate
the lowest and highest possible footprint of each life cycle stage. The variability in the
footprint of the cups is driven by the different materials (glass vs plastic cup and cork vs
silicone band). In the assembly, it depends on the location. These two aspects have been
discussed in the previous sections.
Most variability falls out of KeepCups direct control, as it sits in the washing of the cups (use
stage). The best-case scenario is if all cups were rinsed. The worst-case scenario is if all
cups were sold in Victoria (where electricity is mostly coal-based) and all KeepCup users
opted for dishwashing them. This is an unlikely burden to fall on KeepCups, as their market is
diverse enough to include lower-carbon electricity grids and because KeepCup users prefer
different cup-cleaning habits.
The sensitivity analysis presented is merely illustrating the extreme ranges of impact from
individual use, to guide where most effort, from a scientific life cycle perspective, should be
focussed – consumer behaviour, grid electricity transformation and advocacy for renewable
energy and energy efficiency in washing equipment.
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Figure 26Range of variation in the carbon footprint of each life cycle stage for a year of coffee
drinking with 1 coffee a day (light use profile).
The chart below (Figure 27) shows the influence of the lifespan estimates on the comparison
between cups. The bars show the cradle to grave climate change impact for 250 uses in
Australasia and Asia calculated with modified lifespans relative to those used in the study.
The lifespan of KeepCups and the bamboo cup were reduced to 2 years, from four. The
lifespan of the PP cup is increased from 30 uses to 250 uses.
The variation in impact does not overlap with the variation in lifespan because usage
(washing) rather than manufacture and disposal contribute the most to the climate change
impact of these cups. Halving the lifespan of the KeepCups and the bamboo cup leads to a
cradle to gate climate change impact increase between 5% and 9%. Increasing the lifespan of
the PP cup by 89% decreases the same impact by 37%.
These figures also suggest also that the comparative assertions made in the previous
sections are only fickle if KeepCup has largely overestimated the lifespan of certain cups in
relation to each other.
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Figure 27Cradle to grave climate change impact of reusable cups with modified lifespans
(bars) against the baseline results (dots). The scenario analysed is light use in the Australasia
Asia region. The modified lifespans are 2 years instead of 4 for KeepCup and the bamboo cup
and 1 year instead of 30 uses for the PP cup.
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Bamboo cup PP cup
Climate change impact (kg CO2eq / 250 serves)
Sensitivity analysis Baseline
5% increase
7% increase
9% increase
6% increase
37% decrease
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KeepCup’s lobbying
opportunity
KeepCup’s control
6 Recommendations
Lowering environmental impacts for KeepCup products
The main impacts of KeepCup fall outside the company’s control – i.e. during the use stage.
While this limits KeepCup’s influence to some extent, there is still an important opportunity to
advocate for better outcomes in that stage. The manufacturing of parts and assembly are the
second and third most important impacts and both are more within KeepCup’s control (Figure
28).
Figure 28Carbon footprint over the life cycle of an average KeepCup.
Cup materials and parts:
Choice of materials: as observed, glass cups have a higher impact than plastic
cups, while the cork band has lower carbon footprint than the silicone band.
Considering the relative small and at this stage uncertain environmental difference
between reusable cups of other materials (e.g. bamboo), it is arguably in
KeepCup’s interest to explore alternative cup materials, evaluate different
combinations of parts to build the lowest impact cup, and communicate the
differences to the consumers, providing them with the opportunity to choose
according to their material and environmental preferences.
Recycled materials: to evaluate the possibility of incorporating recycled glass
(waste from the processes or post-consumer) as a raw material to reduce the
impact of material extraction and processing.
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Assembly:
Energy efficiency: to incorporate energy efficiency technologies or techniques to
reduce the amount of energy consumed during assembly.
Renewable energy: now, the Melbourne plant is the only that has its own
photovoltaic system, and its impact associated with the assembly is considerably
lower than for example the UK. KeepCup could consider the possibility of
incorporating renewable energy in its other plants.
Use stage:
The use stage has the higher environmental impact of KeepCup, so it is very important for the
company to influence consumer behaviour through education and communication. The areas
to be addressed should be:
Cleaning of the product: To encourage hand washing over dishwashing can
reduce the use of energy in the household. In order to maintain a low water use
when handwashing, KeepCup should also encourage water efficiency techniques,
such as avoiding rinsing or using a sink plug instead of letting the tap run
continuously
14
;
To promote the use of water and energy efficient dishwashers: Australia has
the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS), which allows consumers to
compare the water efficiency of different products
15
.
Replacement of parts: the replacement of parts instead of disposing a KeepCup
could increase the life of the product and therefore reduce the need for new raw
material extraction and energy use in the manufacturing and assembly processes.
KeepCup should encourage this replacement among its consumers, providing
them with information on the relevance of the practise and facilitating the process
of obtaining new parts.
Recycling of the product: KeepCup should always encourage an increase in
recycling of their products in order to reduce the overall impact, and also since the
company has the mission to reduce waste plastic. Educating consumers on the
importance of recycling is key for KeepCup, as well as having the adequate
infrastructure and logistics to stack and recycle the product.
Repurposing KeepCups: The obvious implication of the modular nature of
KeepCups, is that KeepCup users not wanting to replace faulty or damaged parts
can still use functioning cup parts. Encouraging users to repurpose viable cup
parts would decrease the impact from disposal.
Communication opportunities and use of study in public
domain
KeepCup should consider commissioning a third-party critical review of the LCA study before
the results are used to support a comparative assertion intended to be disclosed to the public
in order to ascertain compliance with the appropriate ISO standards.
It is also important for KeepCup to consider the Australian Competition & Consumer
Commission, to comply with legislation regarding environmental claims. A summary of the
points the company should focus on is presented in Figure 29 below. For the UK, the
14
Australian Government (n.d.). Use water efficiently. Available at:
http://yourenergysavings.gov.au/water/water-home-garden/water-efficiency-home/use-water-efficiently
15
Database available: https://wels.agriculture.gov.au/wels-public/search-product-load.do?src=menu
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Department for Environmental Food & Rural Affairs has a similar checklist, while in the USA
the “Seven Sins of Greenwashing” are very popular (Appendix D).
According to those institutions, Edge recommends that KeepCup use statements such as:
“An independent life cycle assessment has demonstrated that using KeepCup
has the lowest environmental impacts compared with functionally equivalent
alternatives” rather than “KeepCup saves the environment”.
“Drinking one cup of coffee a day – compostable cups’ carbon footprint overtakes
that of all KeepCups after only 10 days, and after 24 days for paper cups.
Considering KeepCups are typically used for years, this amounts to significant
lifetime carbon savings.”
“If everyone in Australia switched to KeepCups rather than using disposable
cups, the amount of emissions that would be saved in a year would be equivalent
to over 100,000 hours of flight time for a Boeing 747 in terms of greenhouse gas
emissions
16
.” rather than “KeepCup are climate friendly”.
Figure 29 - Checklist for green marketing. Source: Australian Competition & Consumer
Commission, Green Marketing and Trade Practices Act.
How and where to communicate will also be important for KeepCup. International consumer
studies suggest that claims on a product are very important, in fact in 2014, 51% of
Millennials reported checking the product packaging for sustainability claims before making a
purchase
17
. Although a claim is a great start, the same study suggests that it needs to be
accompanied by a marketing strategy to reinforce the message and make sure it is reaching
the desired market.
There is a broad scope of opportunities to communicate and help deliver the improvement
opportunities confirmed in this study. Edge suggests considering the following communication
platforms/media:
Website content, fact sheets and calculators for consumers seeking in-depth
information.
16
Carbon Independent (2015) http://www.carbonindependent.org/sources_aviation.html
17
Nielsen, 2014. The Sustainability Imperative. New insights on consumer expectations.
ü Avoid using terms like ‘safe’ and ‘friendly’ and unqualified pictures or graphics. At
best they are unhelpful and encourage skepticism; at worst they are misleading.
ü Spell out exactly what is beneficial about a product in plain language that consumers
can understand.
ü Link the environmental benefit to a specific part of the product or its production
process, such as extraction, transportation, manufacture, use, packaging or disposal.
ü Make sure any claims you make about your product can be substantiated. Think
about how you would answer a query regarding the environmental benefits you are claiming about
your product. For example, what scientific authority could you use to justify the basis of your claim?
ü Explain how a product’s characteristic is beneficial to the environment. For example,
explain that a phosphate-free product is less damaging in river systems because phosphate
promotes algal growth, which can clog up rivers.
ü Avoid giving the impression that your product is completely environmentally
benign if it is not.
ü Use the claim only in an appropriate context or setting. For example, do not claim that a
product is not tested on animals if it is a product that would never be tested on animals anyway.
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In cup box information brochure for new and existing clients to appropriately use
the cup, with a focus on their choices in cleaning the cup specifically.
Media release to reach and reinforce the message with new and existing clients
and audiences.
Events planning and guidelines for life cycle optimised beverage solutions.
Environmental certifications through for example Good Environmental Choice
Australia (GECA), Cradle to Cradle, or other suitable eco-labelling programme.
Café owner and barista manuals and guidelines to educate and empower them to
do the right thing by the environment.
Conference presentations and dissemination of the work through academic
journal articles.
Advocacy on public policy and procurement guidelines to influence decision
making and planning for infrastructure and regulatory upgrades and changes.
Sales presentations and material for sales staff to ensure they optimise the
opportunity to hit the right sustainability strategy and targets owned by your
customers.
In preparing this report, we considered the
guidelines by the Australian Competition and
Consumer Commission (ACCC), and other
guidelines on environmental marketing. Although the
results are robust and defensible, they are complex,
and care needs to be taken when placing them in
the public domain.
If these results are to be used for any comparative
assertion in the public domain (e.g. that plastic cups
are better than paper cups), they require critical peer
review. We have therefore taken care to prepare this
report for peer review, including compliance with
ISO 14040, the international benchmark for this type
of assessment.
How to improve this study Closing the Knowledge Gaps
Some of the story emerging from this study remains untold. Some data on benchmark cups
remain gaps and we assumed zero impact where there was insufficient data to characterise
the impacts, meaning we have likely underestimated the impact of for example bamboo cups.
It is likely in KeepCup’s interest to work towards refining benchmark data and closing data
gaps, to explore alternative options for sourcing more specific information on raw materials
and manufacturing of bamboo cups in particular.
KeepCup is invested in its mission to reduce waste to landfill or littering the environment.
There are data gaps in science concerning the end of life impacts of plastics, and as such
methodologies such as life cycle assessment cannot properly account for them.
KeepCup could take a proactive role in clarifying what its contribution to “the plastic problem”
is by aligning with research initiatives such as the recently launched Medellin Declaration on
Marine Litter in Life Cycle Assessment and Management, or potentially commissioning its
own studies to support the agenda.
There is also an opportunity for the coffee cup market to provide more data and details on the
respective life cycles of cups. KeepCup is through this report attempting to catalyse more
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transparency by disclosing their information and LCA, and to provide very conservative
representations for the rest of the market.
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Pladerer, C., Meissnet, M., Dinkel, F., & Dehoust, G. (2008). Comparative Life Cycle
Assessment of various Cup Systems for the Selling of Drinks at Events .
Österreichisches Ökologie-Institut, Carbotech AG and Öko-Institut e.V. Deutschland.
Vienna: Österreichisches Ökologie-Institut.
Plastics Europe. (2016, 10 20). Plastics - the Facts 2016. Retrieved from
http://www.plasticseurope.org/Document/plastics---the-facts-2016-
15787.aspx?Page=DOCUMENT&FolID=2
Sea-Distances.org. (2017). Sea Distances. Retrieved from https://sea-distances.org/
Siebert, S. (2016). Bio-Waste Recycling in Europe Against the Backdrop of the Circular
Economy Package. Bochum: European Compost Network.
van der Lugt, P., & Vogtlander, J. (2015). The environmental impact of industrial bamboo
products. International Network for Bamboo and Rattan, TU Delft and MOSO
International. Beijing: International Network for Bamboo and Rattan.
Western Water (2015). Fact sheet: Kitchens. Retrieved from:
http://www.westernwater.com.au/files/assets/public/documents/fact-sheets-and-
brochures/saving-water/business-kitches-fact-sheet.pdf
Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
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Appendix A - LCA standards and
Approach
There is a range of complementary or otherwise largely compatible LCA standards and
guidelines available. The leading initiatives are set out below, in order of generality.
ISO14040 and ISO14044
ISO14040 describes the principles and framework for the LCA. It does not describe the LCA
technique in detail, nor does it specify methodologies for the individual phases of the LCA.
ISO14044 specifies requirements and provides guidelines for LCA: definition of the goal and
scope of the LCA; the LCI phase; the LCIA phase; the life cycle interpretation phase;
reporting and critical review of the LCA; limitations of the LCA; relationship between the LCA
phases; and conditions for use of value choices and optional elements.
Footprint or market effectAttributional and consequential LCA
LCA can be applied to answer one of the following questions at a time:
What is the footprint of my product based on the current life cycle; or
What is the effect on the additional offer/demand of a certain product in the
market?
Given KeepCup’s requirements, our analysis looks to answer the first question, which is
known as an attributional perspective of LCA –an accounting based method looking at the
here and now. This is a standardised modelling approach that assesses a product against its
interaction with the environment, based mainly in physical exchanges.
An alternative pathway to LCA modelling is the consequential approach, which is best suited
to answer questions such as “what is the effect on the additional offer/demand of a certain
product in the market?” In consequential LCA, market models are employed to establish
displacement and substation sequences in the market.
See Table 8 for a summary of the four main differences between the two approaches.
Table 8 – Diff erence between attributional and consequential LCA (Brander, Tipper, Hutchinson,
& Davis, 2009).
Attributional
Consequential
Application
Understanding the total
emissions directly associated
with a life cycle
Understanding the change in
emissions resulting from a purchasing
or policy decision that leads to a
change in output of a product
System
boundary
Processes and flows directly
involved in the life cycle
Processes and flows directly and
indirectly affected by the marginal
output of the life cycle
Data and
uncertainty
Balanced relationships between
flows, low uncertainty
Modelling of market effects, high
uncertainty
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Allocation to waste products
The co-product approach allocates environmental impacts to both the cup and the co-product
life cycle, in proportion to their economic value.
In this study, we did not allocate/share any of the environmental impacts to the co-products
resulting from cup manufacturing, because co-products are recycled internally (allocation not
necessary).
The ratios of economic allocation for recovered waste products was screened for recycling of
plastic, composting of compostable materials and energy recovery:
Allocation of impacts to recycled plastic considered losses from the plastic
recycling stream (not all plastic is recycled, there is a loss in each life cycle the
plastic is recycled) and the decrease in value (recycled plastic is worth less than
virgin plastic/resin). This resulted in an allocation of 21% of the burden to the
scrap.
Allocation of impacts to compost from compostable cups assumed the price of
compost to be $0.4/kg and the price of the cups to be $0.12. This is a
conservative approach that uses the lowest compostable cup price (that of
compostable cups, rather than bamboo cups) which decreases the impacts of the
cups. A 54% mass loss during composting was assumed. The resulting allocation
factor to compost is 3%, which was considered negligible.
Also negligible is the value of low grade heat generated from waste combustion.
The estimation considered a thermal energy production rate of 8.15 MJ/kg from
plastic which is sold at $0.01/MJ.
The cups life cycles include the negative impacts associated with waste generated, including
recycling operations and used materials disposed in landfill.
Treatment of biogenic carbon
Trees and bamboo have a natural ability to concentrate and store carbon. Through
photosynthesis, plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Carbon accounts for around 50%
the dry weight of a tree. When trees and bamboo are harvested, and manufactured into
products such as fibres or pulp, this carbon remains stored for the life of the product, and can
continue to reside in the wood for a considerable time once the product’s service life ends,
depending on how it is disposed. Only when a tree or wood product decays or is burned does
the carbon return to the atmosphere. When plant-based products degrade in landfill, it takes
hundreds of years to break down into both carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), resulting
in a temporary carbon sink, removing CO2 from the atmosphere. This temporary removal of
carbon dioxide from the atmosphere results in a delay of climate warming impact. In this
study, cups are considered short-lived products and LCA guidelines do not recommend
including temporary storage due to methodological uncertainties.
When timber is harvested outside a sustainable forestry scheme (e.g. compliant with the
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification requirements), it can be assumed that
deforestation occurred and that the biomass stock in the forest will not be replenished. This is
due to a land use (e.g. forest to cropland) or due to poorly managed land use (e.g. forest can
regrow but not fully). In either case, there is a change in the carbon stock of that area and the
lost carbon is accounted for as a CO2 emission (see Figure 30).
Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
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Figure 30Loss of carbon stocks in land due to LUC/deforestation.
The carbon that is lost is the carbon stock of the removed biomass. Part of that carbon stock
is preserved in the wood product during its lifetime. A share of that stock, however, is
assumed to be immediately lost through biomass burning and degradation.
If, on the other hand, timber is harvested sustainably, it can be assumed that there is a cycle
with carbon neutrality, the carbon lost through harvest is re-absorbed through re-growth. Only
the emissions from biomass that is immediately burned/degraded are considered.
In this study, it was assumed that all trees and crops grown for cup materials are grown
sustainably and don’t result in emissions from land use change or deforestation.
Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
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Appendix B Life cycle inventory data
KeepCup
Table 9 – Inventory of Keep Cup parts.
KeepCup
Component
Mass
(kg)
Materials
The Original
Lid
0.021
Low density polyethylene
Plug
0.006
Low density polyethylene
Cup
0.049
Polypropylene
Band
0.014
Silicone #7
Retail Box
0.026
Cardboard - Forest Stewardship
Council certified
Insert Brochure
0.004
100% recycled paper – Forest
Stewardship Council certified
The Brew
Lid
0.018
Synthetic rubber – thermoplastic
oleifin and high density
polypropylene blend
Lid over-mould
0.009
Thermoplastic rubbers
Plug
0.006
Low density polyethylene
Glass Cup
0.220
Tempered soda lime glass
Band
0.014
Silicone #7
Retail Box
0.025
Cardboard - Forest Stewardship
Council certified
Insert Brochure
0.004
100% recycled paper – Forest
Stewardship Council certified
The Brew - Cork
Lid
0.018
Synthetic rubber – thermoplastic
oleifin and high density
polypropylene blend
Lid over-mould
0.009
Thermoplastic rubbers
Plug
0.006
Low density polyethylene
Cup
0.220
Tempered soda lime glass
Band
0.014
Cork, glue
Retail Box
0.025
Cardboard - Forest Stewardship
Council certified
Insert Brochure
0.004
100% recycled paper – Forest
Stewardship Council certified
Table 10Assembly of Keep Cup. All units per cup.
Input/Output
Unit
The
Original
The
Brew
The Brew -
Cork
Parts in
Lid
p
1.001
1.001
1.001
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Input/Output
Unit
The
Original
The
Brew
The Brew -
Cork
Plug
p
1.001
1.001
1.001
Cup
p
1.001
1.062
1.062
Band
p
1.021
1.021
1.003
Retail Box
p
1.003
1.003
1.003
Insert Brochure
p
1.003
1.003
1.003
Boxes for parts
kg
0.032
0.021
0.030
Melbourne
Assembly
Electricity (PV)
kWh
0.0009
0.0009
0.0009
Transport of parts (truck)
kgkm
15.9
31.7
32.5
Transport of parts (ship)
kgkm
159
2,475
2,756
Los
Angeles
Assembly
Electricity (grid)
kWh
0.1
0.1
0.1
Transport of parts (truck)
kgkm
15.9
31.7
32.5
Transport of parts (ship)
kgkm
2,037
3,632
4,213
United
Kingdom
Assembly
Electricity (grid)
kWh
0.05
0.05
0.05
Transport of parts (truck)
kgkm
15.9
31.7
32.5
Transport of parts (ship)
kgkm
3249
6439
7053
Waste
Plastic (recycling)
kg
0.000
0.000
0.000
Glass (recycling)
kg
0.000
0.014
0.014
Cork (landfill)
kg
0.000
0.000
0.000
Paper and cardboard
(recycling)
kg
0.033
0.021
0.030
Table 11 - Sales shares from assembly plants to their regional markets per KeepCup.
Origin
The Original
Sales
share
The Brew
Sales
share
The Brew -
Cork
Sales
share
Melbourne
NSW/Sydney
35.8%
VIC/Melbourne
36.4%
VIC/Melbourne
30.7%
VIC/Melbourne
34.6%
NSW/Sydney
24.2%
China/Shanghai
26.7%
WA/Perth
13.6%
China/Shanghai
16.7%
NSW/Sydney
17.3%
QLD/Brisbane
12.3%
QLD/Brisbane
12.1%
New Zealand
16.0%
Singapore
3.70%
WA/Perth
10.6%
QLD/Brisbane
9.33%
Los
Angeles
USA/Texas
31.9%
USA/California
35.2%
USA/California
62.8%
Canada/BC
26.4%
Canada/Alberta
32.4%
Canada/ Alberta
16.3%
USA/California
22.2%
USA/Washington
21.1%
USA/Washington
15.1%
Canada/Alberta
11.1%
USA/NY
5.63%
USA/NY
3.49%
USA/Washington
8.33%
USA/Wisconsin
5.63%
USA/Texas
2.33%
UK
UK
45.9%
UK
60.9%
UK
60.0%
Germany
14.9%
Finland
13.0%
Germany
18.7%
Netherlands
17.6%
Germany
13.0%
Slovakia
9.33%
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Origin
The Original
Sales
share
The Brew
Sales
share
The Brew -
Cork
Sales
share
Spain
10.8%
Ireland
7.25%
Czech Republic
6.67%
Finland
10.8%
The Netherlands
5.80%
Ireland
5.33%
Table 12Sales shares per order type for each KeepCup leaving the Melbourne, LA and UK
assembly plants.
Origin
The
Original
The Brew
The Brew -
Cork
Melbourne
Online/ Samples
8%
17%
14%
Cafes/Retails & Distributors
31%
61%
81%
Branded - Cafes/Retails &
Distributors
18%
0%
0%
Branded - Corporate
42%
22%
5%
Los
Angeles
Online/ Samples
8%
29%
13%
Cafes/Retails & Distributors
45%
64%
81%
Branded - Cafes/Retails &
Distributors
0%
0%
0%
Branded - Corporate
47%
7%
6%
UK
Online/ Samples
13%
12%
12%
Cafes/Retails & Distributors
59%
65%
86%
Branded - Cafes/Retails &
Distributors
3%
0%
0%
Branded - Corporate
25%
23%
2%
Table 13Distances by road, sea and air between KeepCup assembly plants and r egional
markets. A cup will either travel by airplane or ship but not both.
Origin
Distance travelled
by airplane (km)
Distance
travelled by
ship (km)
Melbourne
714
1,078
-
-
2,725
3,113
1,376
2,000
6,070
7,115
8,064
9,617
2,575
2,759
Los
Angeles
2,373
-
2,217
-
1,725
-
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Origin
Distance travelled
by airplane (km)
Distance
travelled by
ship (km)
-
-
3,698
-
3,940
-
2,753
-
UK
-
-
736
696
379
391
1,260
1,309
1,939
2,324
1,446
-
1,115
-
Table 14Washing rates of KeepCup users per cup and cleaning method.
Cup
Machine wash
Rinse
Hand wash
The Original
17%
16%
67%
The Brew
17%
16%
67%
The Brew Cork
5%
20%
72%
Table 15Water and energy use for each cleaning option. All units per cup.
Method
Input
Amount
Assumptions and references
Dishwashing
Water (l)
0.3
Assumed 15l/load and 50 cups/load (Gall,
2016)
Electricity (kWh)
0.025
Assumed 1.23 kWh/load and 50 cups/load
(Gall, 2016)
Handwashing
(warm)
Water (l)
0.5
Assumed a tap debit of 14.6 l/min and a 2
second rinse (Western Water, 2015).
Natural gas
heating (MJ)
0.084
Assumed natural gas needed to heat water
from 25° to 65°
Rinsing
(cold)
Water (l)
0.5
Assumed a tap debit of 16.5 l/min and a 15
second rinse (Australian Government,
2017)
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Table 16Average replacement of KeepCup components per cup per year in the different
markets.
Component
Australasian and
Asian markets
North American market
Lid
0.006
0.004
Plug
0.007
0.006
Cup
0.001
0.005
Glass Cup
0.004
0.002
Band
0.003
0.003
Cork Band
0.012
0.005
Table 17Percentage of KeepCup owners that recycle KeepCup parts in different regions.
Component
Australasian and
Asian markets
North American market
Lid
50%
50%
Plug
50%
50%
Cup
50%
50%
Band
0%
0%
Cork Band
0%
0%
Benchmark cups
Table 18Benchmark reusable cup parts and materials. All units per cup.
Cup
Component
Quantity
Unit
Materials
Reference
Bamboo
Cup
Lid
0.008
kg
Silicone
Loughborough
University, 2017
Cup
0.099
kg
Melamine resin
(56.6%),
bamboo fibre
(36.2%) and
pigments and
fillers18 (7.2%)
Alternativa3, 2017
Lab testing
Band
0.018
kg
Silicone
Channel
Distribution, 2017
Retail gift box
0.045
g
Cardboard
Ecoffee Cup, 2017
Plastic
cup
Lid
0.014
kg
Polypropylene
Pladerer,
Meissnet, Dinkel,
& Dehoust, 2008
Cup
0.042
kg
Polypropylene
18
Titanium dioxide and calcium carbonate.
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Table 19: Known inputs to the production of bamboo fibre (van der Lugt & Vogtlander, 2015).
Input
Amount
Unit
Petrol for plantation machinery
0.20
MJ
Electricity
0.93
kWh
Transport
15.11
km
Table 20 - Benchmark single-use cup parts and materials. All units per cup.
Cup
Component
Quantity
Unit
Materials
References
Compostable
cup
Lid
0.004
kg
PLA
BioPak, 2017
Cup
0.013
kg
Paperboard with
PLA lining
Cardboard
Lid
0.003
kg
Polystyrene
Assumption
Cup
0.009
kg
Paperboard with
polyethylene
lining
Dinkel,
2004Meissnet,
Dinkel, &
Dehoust, 2008;
Table 21Sales shares and transport distances to each end market destinations for benchmark
cups.
Destination
Sales
share
Distance travelled by
truck (km)
Distance travelled by
ship (km)
NSW/Sydney
8.7%
-
8,045
VIC/Melbourne
11.4%
-
9,095
WA/Perth
2.7%
-
6,719
QLD/Brisbane
3.8%
-
7,302
Singapore
0.4%
-
3,356
China/Shanghai
4.9%
-
780
New Zealand
1.8%
-
9,390
Canada/BC
2.97%
3,844
10,964
Canada/Alberta
6.74%
1,004
9,847
USA/Texas
3.86%
2,007
10,964
USA/California
13.55%
-
10,964
USA/Washington
5.02%
4,246
10,964
USA/NY
1.03%
4,491
10,964
USA/Wisconsin
0.63%
3,304
10,964
UK
18.8%
-
9,390
Germany
5.2%
-
19,085
Netherlands
2.6%
-
18,757
Spain
1.2%
-
16,312
Finland
2.7%
-
20,744
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Destination
Sales
share
Distance travelled by
truck (km)
Distance travelled by
ship (km)
Slovakia
1.1%
665
15,070
Czech Republic
0.8%
855
15,070
Reusable cups life cycle assessment and benchmark
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Appendix C - Background data
The following background data source