Ceramic or paper cups? Deciding which is the greenest and most environmentally friendly should be a no-brainer. Intuititively we go for the ceramic. But an article by the that intrepid green goddess Lucy Siegle, causes one to pause. She quotes an analysis that concludes that you would need to use your ceramic mug 1,600 times for it to break even, in energy terms, with paper cups. This is due to the fact that kilns use incredible amounts of energy, as do dishwashers, whereas plastic cups are recycled quite efficiently in the UK.
However with the insane growth of coffee cafes and caffein addicts, the use of coffee cups has exploded. Brit's consume 70M cups of coffee a day and in the US, Starbucks alone fills 2.3Bn cups a year. Added to this is the fact that paper cups are coated with polyethelene plastic. This makes separation, and hence recycling of the paper cups even more complicated. Starbucks has introduced a cup which is 10% recycleable, Tully's is completely compostable but available only in the USA. So it looks like carrying your own is the answer for now or cut back on the java. :: Observer Magazine.