These sorts of comments always leave me feeling a little sad. I wish I had to confidence to go and ask her, "Where is away?"
The answer to this always depends on your local council. It depends on your bin system, the plastics recycled in your area, as well as making sure it goes into the recycling bin rather than household rubbish. If these cups are used at a function at a park or the beach and put in the bin there, in my council these would go straight to landfill.
(If you live in the Western Metropolitan Regional Council in Perth and want to know more about where your rubbish goes, think about an Earth Carers course starting 11 September.)
So plastic cups come from petroleum which is transported to be processed, turned into cups, transported to a warehouse, then to a shop, then to a function, generally used by one person for that one function, thrown 'away', and either sent to landfill or perhaps recycled. This is just a very brief chain of event but I hope it give a bit of idea about the extraction of the resources, manufacture, transport, use and disposal of the cup. Remember that a lot of this transport would include vast distances perhaps to different countries for this cup to be used just once.
I think that using a ceramic mug or a glass is a much nicer way to consume a drink anyway. I still have some that I was given when I left home 20 years ago!
I have come across some great graphics talking about waste produced and energy used. Although the data is from the US with a much higher population that Australia, it still gives a good picture about the extent of the problem on this one planet.
|The Plastics Breakdown|
|Savings in a Cup|
So my questions to you, where is your 'away'? Do you know where your household waste goes? Where is your recycling sent?
If you don't know the answers to these questions, please contact your council and ask. They may even have a tour to show you your local landfill site or recycling facility.