Coffee: The Issue with Disposable Cups

Getting a cup of coffee in the morning is apart of many peoples daily routine, but several of us don't do this at home and instead choose the convenience of grabbing a cup at the local coffee shop. This however, has far reaching consequences for the environment because a large majority of coffee shops use disposable cups that aren't biodegradable and billions of these non-biodegradable coffee cups end up in landfills.

Now, you may be wondering but aren't these cups made of cardboard? And t answer to that is yes but these cups commonly have a plastic film on the inside to protect the cup from the hot liquid you put inside it and this plastic film makes the entire cup non-biodegradable. This creates an unfortunate issue because this means that you have people throwing these cups in the recycling even though they can't be recycled. The consequences of this is that not only can these cups contaminate loads of recycling but this also puts pressure on the waste management system and the environment.

So what can you do about this? For one, you can make sure that if you use these non-biodegradable cups that you throw them in the trash instead of the recycling so that they don't impact waste management negatively. You can also use re-usable cups instead of coffee cups and many places offer a cup credit in return for doing so. On a larger scale you can support legislation that can lead to ways of incentive-vising the use of reusable cups. There are currently countries that are looking into ways to do so like charging extra for non-biodegradable. But, there are other ways that can help raise this percentage that don't cost anything like having environmental messages in cafes, having reusable cups available in cafes, or having cafes distribute free reusable cups.

A recent study done in the UK tested these to see what their impact on cup usage was:

  • 25p charge on cups lead to a 3.4% increase in reusable cups
  • Environmental message lead to a 2.3% increase in reusable cups
  • The availability of reusable cups lead to a 2.5% increase
  • Distribution of free reusable cups lead to a 4.3% increase


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