Sunday, August 29, 2010

Paper or Plastic?

Some wards I've been in use paper cups for the sacrament, but most wards I've seen use plastic ones. I prefer the plastic ones because the paper ones taste weird to me. I started thinking one day about which one was better for the environment. That got me wondering about the possibility of reusable sacrament cups. My first thought was glass, but I also saw olive wood and stainless steel.

Caring for the environment is great, but I've often found that appealing to people's pocketbooks is the most effective way of getting people to go greener. So, I did a little bit of math.

On, paper sacrament cups can be purchased for $82.75 for a box of 6,500. Plastic sacrament cups are $60.00 for a box of 8,000.

I did some searching, and I found stainless steel cups for $52.82 for a pack of 40. Glass ones are $0.99 each.

I'm going to guess that in a typical ward, in a given week, 200 people take the Sacrament. 48 weeks per year (since there's no sacrament for stake or general conference) means that a ward would go through 9,600 disposable cups in a year.

Cost of 200 stainless steel cups: $264.10
Cost of 200 glass cups: $198.00
Cost of one year paper disposable cups: $122.22
Cost of one year plastic disposable cups: $72

So, if a ward that uses plastic cups replaces them with stainless steel, the reusable cups would pay for themselves in 3 1/2 years. If a ward that uses paper cups switches, the steel cups would pay for themselves in just over two years.

If a ward that uses plastic replaces them with glass, the cups would pay for themselves in 2 3/4 years, and a paper-using ward would break even in 1 1/2 years.

The only challenge I can see from this is how to ensure that the cups are properly sanitized between uses. It would take a bit of work to wash 200 little cups every week. (I suspect that boiling them and then letting them dry could work, since they just had water in them.) However, I can see that being a great service opportunity and spiritual experience for the young men.

Do you know of any wards that reuse? Has anyone proposed this idea to their bishop? How was it received?