At school this past year, I would feel a flutter of environmental guilt every time I used a styrofoam (polystyrene for you international types) cup, which was often. Someone posited to me that, as we were in a country where water resources were scarce (Israel), it was more responsible to use a disposable cup than to use water to wash a re-usable cup, especially because of the potentially negative effect of adding soap to the water supply.
My question is, which of the following options is truly best for, or least damaging to, the environment? Does the answer change if water is in short supply in the country?
- Using a paper cup and throwing it away
- Using a styrofoam cup and throwing it away
- Using a plastic cup and recycling it
- Using a glass and washing it with water and soap
Instinctively, I’d assume that throwing away either a paper or styrofoam cup is more damaging than either of the other two options, though I don’t really know, but I wonder about the other two.
Also, does putting soap into the water supply through dishwashing actually have a deleterious effect on the environment, or was that a mistaken premise?