Just How Green Are Takeaway Coffee Cups?
You wake up, and you’re in a hurry! You rush around, throw your shoes on, and you’re out the door in a flash. The worst part? You didn’t get breakfast or even a cup of coffee. Bummer. That’s ok, though! You’ll just head through Tim Horton’s to get a quick fix. If you don’t, you honestly might get fired for being a donkey.
Most mornings, you start your day with a steaming cup of deliciousness. You basically need the caffeine coffee provides just to deal with life in general. When you’re finished with your paper coffee cup, you do what most people do and probably throw it in the recycle bin.
Have you ever stopped to think whether throwaway coffee cups are recyclable? Most people don’t give it any thought, it’s paper, so it goes in the recycling bin. WRONG!
Let’s take a look at what these cups are made of, and what happens to them that will make you think twice before throwing them in the bin.
Materials Used to Make Disposable Mugs
It’s common sense to guess that those takeaway paper cups are made of exactly that – paper. Little do you know, though, that there are a lot more materials used in the making of those convenient little cups. Also included in that paper cup is polyethylene plastic, which lines the cups so that they don’t leak.
It makes sense that those throwaway cups are made with a plastic lining because you don’t want scolding hot liquid leaking out all over the place. This polyethylene plastic is also what prevents those same single-use mugs from being completely recyclable. That and the actual coffee contamination of the cup itself.
There are many more materials used in the making of these disposable cups than what people realize. Oil is used – oil that needs collecting and transporting. Chemicals needed to bleach and prepare the paper pulp for cup production are also added to the process – many of which are not recyclable! Plenty more information can be found here on these information cards.
Impacts of Paper Cups on the Planet
More than 16 billion throwaway coffee cups fill up the earth’s landfills each year! That’s an astonishing amount of waste. Even if you think you’re doing the right thing and throwing your cup into the recycle bin – it goes directly to the landfill. These convenient little cups cannot be salvaged! Below is a list of three eye-opening facts about the harmful impacts of single-use cups:
- Half of a trillion takeaway coffee cups are made every year – that’s more than 70 cups/person on the planet.
- 53,000 houses yearly could be entirely powered with the energy used to create and dispose of these cups.
- 357,000,000 is the number of precious trees that are chopped down annually to produce Starbucks’ cups alone.
This is just a small list of the terrible effects on the environment that the production of these paper cups cause.
While these facts can be quite startling at first, there is some good news with large players in the industry taking initiatives to combat the issue.
Initiatives Taken to Deal with the Trash
There is action taken by an unlikely pair to reduce the waste caused by to-go coffee cups. McDonald’s and Starbucks have decided to partner and have come up with a three-year project to research better alternatives for a recyclable cup! This is called the NextGen Cup Challenge.
Since both retailers are significant players in the production and waste that these disposable cups pose to mother nature, that’s great news!
While the initiative taken by the two restaurants is very progressive, it alone does little to curb the waste. People around the world are calling for their government to place some type of latte levy to help in reducing the negative impact that these expendable coffee cups have on the environment.
By increasing the cost of disposable cups for consumers, it is hoped that their usage will be reduced. And it seems to be working. Starbucks increased its charge on disposable cups in some of its outlets which have led to a reported 150% increase in reusable cup use. Other countries like Ireland are also considering the levy to help curb the waste.
There are other countries as well like France and Scotland that have also taken steps in the same direction to deal with the coffee cup problem:
- In 2016, France passed a law to be effective by 2020, that disposable items like takeaway coffee cups must be made from at least 50% biological-sourced materials that are biodegradable.
- In 2018 it was announced that Scotland had taken a small action to help curb the flow of this environmental catastrophe. Scotland has banned the use of throwaway coffee cups in its governmental offices!
And this is just the beginning. It’s clear that countries around the world are now aware of the problem and action is slowly being taken to deal with it. And that action is not so hard to come by. After all, it is completely in-line with government objectives all around the world to tackle climate change.
Acceptable Alternatives to Single-use Cups
You are now aware of what a wasteful product takeaway coffee cups are, and there are several ways you can help to reduce this horrible habit. This doesn’t mean that you’ll have to cut out your coffee intake – oh no! There are natural and eco-friendly ways that you can utilize for your daily coffee consumption, without sacrificing your much-needed caffeine addiction!
Below are four ways you can help:
- The only real way to cut out the coffee habit waste is to use your own coffee mug. Make your own coffee at home and use your freshly washed coffee cup. It may not be stylish, but it’s economical in more ways than one.
- Reusable cups are a no brainer. Most coffee retailers have programs that let you bring in their reusable mugs and will give you a discount! They are available for purchase at a small initial upcharge. You can also purchase your own from websites like KeepCup.
- You can buy your own biodegradable cups if you usually make your own coffee and want to utilize something expendable but recyclable.
- If you have the time, you can always opt to not buy takeaway coffee and instead have it at the cafe itself, using the mug they provide.
Even if you’re in a hurry and can’t make your own steaming cup of goodness, there are acceptable alternatives. Please don’t use those nasty single-use cups that you’re used to. If you do happen to use a takeaway coffee cup make sure to throw it in the trash, as they aren’t recyclable.
Hopefully, this article has given you some much-needed insight as to the environmental damage that disposable coffee cups cause around the world. These throwaway mugs aren’t green at all and we can all do a small part to make the world a little less dependent on takeaway coffee cups.