Hello lobby4lovers 🙂
Last week I touched on the effect Plastic has on the Planet, and mentioned two ways to raise your plastic-awareness. You can read Part 1 HERE.
Today, I continue down that path and bring your attention to a common everyday item that we think is recyclable, but is not.
Please welcome the big bag takeaway coffee Cup (boo hoo)
Takeaway (or ‘to go’ for my US readers) coffee cups are generally made from 1 of 2 materials:-
- Paper-based cup with plastic lid
- Polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) cup with plastic lid
- In Australia, an estimated 3 billion coffee cups are sold each year
- In the US, that number is estimated to be 50 billion
- The majority of which end up in landfill, or litter in rivers, parks and the ocean
The low down on takeaway coffee cups
Let’s start with the paper-based cups.
Ever wondered what makes your paper-based coffee cup waterproof? Unfortunately, it involves plastic. These cups contain a polyethylene (plastic) lining, which renders them non-recyclable.
It requires a specialised recycling facility to remove the plastic inner and recycle the paper component of the cup, however these facilities are few and far between.
In addition to the plastic lining, the paper component involves harvesting of trees and pulping, which is bad news for the planet.
And the final nail in the coffin is that when we put these into recycling bins they often end up contaminating other recyclable materials and the whole lot are sent to landfill. Ugh!
Then we have the styrofoam cup.
Styrofoam (foamed polystyrene) is not recyclable because it breaks down so slowly.
Styrofoam is composed of 95% air, which makes it highly mobile and likely to escape from garbage bins and landfill. It also tends to flake and travel long distances, which, as you can guess, is an environmental nightmare.
Styrofoam in landfills will still be there 500 years from now. Which is insane! Outside of landfill it ends up polluting the environment and killing wildlife, birds, and marine life.
Don’t panic, you don’t have to quit coffee! I have done a bit of research into this, and there are alternatives. Nothing is perfect, it seems, but these reusable cup alternatives are better than billions of single-use cups ending up in landfill every year.
My personal alternative
After looking around for weeks and finding nothing great, I discovered an excellent alternative when I took the kids to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary during the recent school holidays.
It’s a reusable cup made from Rice Husks. And the good news is that the coffee tastes good. The cup itself is also designed and made in Australia, which is even better news for me.
Like I said, there is no perfect solution as of yet, but this solution is vastly better. The cup itself has a melamine feel and is designed to last for a minimum of 4 years. It is not recyclable at the end of its lifespan, but it is biodegradable and breaks down over a 4 year period in landfill.
The Lid and holder are made from silicone (usually made in China), and they are not recyclable. These online stores who sell them generally state that the silicone element can be recycled with household waste-which is just marketing-speak for landfill, because household waste = landfill.
Still, buying 2 of these reusable cups versus hundreds of the paper-based cup every year is undeniably better for the Planet.
Where can you buy them?
My cups were made by Three Green on the behalf of the Koala Sanctuary, but I have found an online supplier called EcoSouLife, who also have a range of bamboo and rice husk products to choose from.
These eco products are biodegradable, and typically made from vegetable waste such as corn starch, bamboo and rice husks.
They are also heat resistant, dishwasher safe and fully reusable.
Supply and Demand
I’m a firm believer in the laws of supply and demand. As long as we demand, they will supply. Conversely, if we stop demanding non-recyclable cups and demand an alternative, they will supply.
In Australia, there is an organisation called Responsible Runners who have created a responsible-cafes-program in which customers can claim a discounted coffee for using a reusable cup for takeaway coffee or tea.
Australians, if you haven’t already, check it out!
I hope that this post about Coffee Cups has been informative and provided food for thought. Do you have anything to add? Let me know in the comments.
Bianca @lobby4love ✌️❤️
Knowledge is power
Applying knowledge is empowerment
Sharing knowledge empowers others
~ Bianca Bowers