A paper cup is a disposable cup made out of paper and often lined with plastic or wax to prevent liquid from leaking out or soaking through the paper. It may be made of recycled paper and is widely used around the world.
Based on these concerns, and as paper goods (especially after the 1908 invention of the Dixie Cup) became cheaply and cleanly available, local bans were passed on the shared-use cup. One of the first railway companies to use disposable paper cups was the Lackawanna, which began using them in 1909. By 1917, the public glass had disappeared from railway carriages, replaced by paper cups even in jurisdictions where public glasses had yet to be banned.
Paper cups are also employed in hospitals for health reasons. As reported by France, in 1942 the Massachusetts State College found in one study that the cost of using washable glasses, re-used after being sanitized, was 1.6 times the cost of using single-service paper cups. These studies, as well as the reduction in the risk of cross-infection, encouraged the use of paper cups in hospitals.
They were introduced in 1907 by Lawrence Luellen, a lawyer in Boston, Massachusetts, who was concerned about germs being spread by people sharing glasses or dippers at public supplies of drinking water. Luellen developed an ice-cooled water-vending machine with disposable cups, and with another Bostonian, Hugh Moore, embarked on a campaign to educate the public and to market his machine, principally to railroad companies. Professor Davison's study was instrumental in abolishing the public glass and opening the door for the paper cup. Soon, the devices, which would dispense cool water for a cent, became standard equipment on trains.
The Dixie Cup was first called "Health Kup", but from 1919 it was named after a line of dolls made by Alfred Schindler's Dixie Doll Company in New York. Success led the company, which had existed under a variety of names, to call itself the Dixie Cup Corporation and move to Easton, Pennsylvania.
Dixie merged with the American Can Company in 1957. It is now part of a subsidiary of Koch Industries, the largest privately owned company in the United States.
Cups for cold drinks could not be treated in the same way, as condensation forms on the outside, then soaks into the board, making the cup unstable. To remedy this, cup manufacturers developed the technique of spraying both the inside and outside of the cup with wax. Both clay-coated and wax-coated cups disappeared with the invention of polyethylene (PE) coated cups; this process coverers the surface of the board with a very thin layer of PE, not only waterproofing the cup, but also welding it together.
As expanded polystyrene cups do not break down at all in the environment, and will still be blowing around the country side in a 100 years, it may seem a logical choice to use paper cups, but since PE coated paper cups create disposability problems in the environment (PE does not biodegrade in the environment) it could take several years for the majority of the paper cup to break down leaving just the PE which represents less than 5% of the original product by weight.
PE coated cups are being replaced by biodegradable bio-plastic coatings (Ecocontainer) which biodegrade when disposed. In this the entire cup becomes an environmentally friendly option as opposed to the case where only paper being a bioproduct was biodegradable.Although from a environmental point, composting / biodegradability should be a last option, and recovering fibres to remake into more paper products, or recovering energy should be the 1st two options.
As with all environmental studies, great care should be taken to look at environmental aspects of any product, this may get very confusing, as interested parties can create huge rafts of information, that seem to benefit a particular product. In general terms there is no one product that will fit all applications, and it is for the consumer to weigh up the benefits to the environment and there business of each product.