88 billion disposable paper cups per year.
Back at it with the scary statistics!
And I'm only talking about the paper ones here..
If you're a coffee drinker like me, think about how many times you've ordered a take-away coffee in a disposable cup. I'm guessing it's more than you can remember, right? Let's all try to keep that number as close to 0 as possible, starting NOW! Can I challenge you to that? But before I do, let me convince you why you should accept my challenge!
Apart from the fact that these paper disposable cups are adding to the enormous amount of waste on this planet, an obvious consequence of their existence is the loss of trees. Millions of trees are cut down each year to manufacture coffee cups. Can you imagine? That's like a couple of huge, beautiful jungles being cut down, just so we can drink a coffee on the go.. Sad! Not only that, but we've all learned that trees play a crucial role in the absorption of carbon dioxide, so with the loss of trees comes a carbon absorption incapacity. Sca-ry! We can't live without trees guys, so let's try to spare them!
Can't you throw them in the paper bin to be recycled?
Technically, the cups are recyclable, which is why most people throw them in the paper bin to be recycled. If you're one of those people: STOP! They might be made of paper, but most of them are polyethylene-lined ( = plastic!). That, plus the fact that the cup has been holding liquid, makes it (almost) impossible to recycle. Standard recycling mills can't separate the plastic lining from the cup. You would have to take them to special recycling plants and use special facilities to be able to recycle them. But the truth is that it just doesn't happen - less than 1% of them are actually recycled. That means that 99% end up in landfills, rotting away with other garbage, producing methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas. Ieuw.
Conclusion of this paragraph? Lots of companies falsely put 'recyclable' on their coffee cups, but from now on, you'll never be fooled again: hooray!
What about cups that say 'biodegradable' or 'compostable'?
Luckily, there are alternatives such as biodegradable cups with a plant based lining instead of a plastic one! Companies, such as Biopak are also offering PLA (polylactic acid) bioplastic cups, where the lining is made of cornstarch and is compostable and biodegradable. I can't deny that this is a good thing, but all the efforts are lost when we don't have the right garbage can to throw it away in. The biodegradable cups should be thrown in the compost waste bin with other compostable materials, such as food waste. They can be composted in a commercial compost facility (and not in your household compost!). But the problem is that most of the time, when we're on the go, consuming our take-away coffee, there's no compost bin to be seen.. So we end up throwing it away in the 'rest' garbage can, which means the cups end up in landfills and will not biodegraded as they're supposed to. That sucks, man. The effort's there, but now our surroundings need to adapt as well!
If you have a fixed routine going to work, for example taking the train, bus, etc. everyday and you know you'll be ordering a take-away coffee at one point: bring your own cup! More and more places are offering a small discount when you bring your own, which I think is a great initiative! I finally got my hands on a Keepcup in December, when one of my best friends gifted me one for my birthday! I've been hooked ever since ;) I would definitely recommend one of these!
If you're somewhere unexpectedly and you're really craving a coffee, I get it, it's ok to cheat once in a while. But have you ever thought of going topless? If you're not really in hurry and you have time to drink your coffee on a bench (or whatever), consider refusing the lid. It's useless single-use plastic and you'll probably burn your tongue while drinking through the lid rather than just drinking directly from the cup. When I forget my Keepcup (yes, I obviously forget things sometimes), this is what I do to feel a bit less guilty for being a forgetful human being.
So, who's up for the challenge? Invest in a reusable coffee cup or just bring a mug and let's reduce the amount of single-use coffee cups we use!
From the desert with love,