I am among the 63% of Ontarians who needs a jolt of caffeine to start their day. Late nights and early mornings as an undergraduate student made coffee a need to survive. As a result, I’ve been guilty of purchasing coffee in an infamous disposable cup.
Like many, I share the opinion that reusable coffee mugs are: expensive to purchase, inconvenient, annoying to carry around, a pain to wash and nearly impossible to remember with a busy on-the-go schedule.
Though their convenience is tempting, disposable coffee cups have been labelled by researchers as a representation of our over consumptive society, or better yet, “an obsession with convenience”.
I decided it was about time I did some research to answer the question, which is more environmentally friendly: disposable coffee cups or reusable mugs?
You may be surprised at the research and the answer.
First, I want to introduce a concept known as a “life-cycle analysis” to you. This concept looks at the entire life of a product, from production to disposal.
This includes looking at how the raw materials were extracted, the material used to manufacture a product, the energy required, how the product is used throughout its life, maintenance, and finally how it is disposed of.
It analyzes how environmentally friendly a product is.
Various life cycle analyses have been conducted on reusable coffee mugs versus disposable coffee cups.
A Canadian researcher at the University of Victoria, Martin Hocking, found that ceramic reusable mugs use 70% more energy to manufacture than all other types of materials, including disposable paper and sytrofoam coffee cups, on a per-cup basis.
I will not lie to you: on the forefront, reusable coffee mugs are much more harmful to the environment than your average single-use coffee cup because of the complexity in their manufacturing.
Reusable mugs are made of a variety of materials, such as plastic, ceramic, porcelain glass, and stainless steel. They are extremely energy intensive. In addition, the washing of the reusable mugs does not help their case, as this is a well-documented problem with reusable mugs.
The detergents and water needed to wash the mugs requires resources over time.
Hocking also found that in order for reusable mugs to win any environmental benefits, the mugs should be used until they wear out completely and reach their full end of life.
Which he estimated was after 3000 uses! This theoretically requires you to use your mug daily for 8 years straight!
According to a life-cycle comparison, it can take up to 1000 uses for a reusable mug to become more environmentally friendly than a disposable cup. This is possible, I suppose, but it also only works if you have only own one reusable mug.
Which brings me to my next point. To make matters worse, if you purchase a second, perhaps more trendy reusable mug, or if there is one lying unused and neglected in your kitchen cupboard, you may actually be doing harm to the environment.
I was curious to see how many reusable mugs are currently in my own cupboard. Guess how many I counted? Three. And to further my investigation, I decided to call my family back home. For a family of 5, we had 12 different coffee mugs between me and my two sisters.
So have you made an oath to:
- Use only one reusable coffee mug
- Donate or give away your coffee mugs if you have more than one
- Use your solo mug the full 1000-3000 times for the next eight years?
I’m not even sure if I have!
Now, let’s take a look at disposable cups, as they aren’t exactly innocent when it comes to environmental damage. The two most common types of disposable coffee cups are polyethylene cups and polystyrene cups.
Polyethylene cups consist of a chemical used to line the inside of the paper cup, allowing the product to be both water and heat resistant.
The material is composed of paper material component, from paperboard, pulp product, and bleached.
Polystyrene cups, otherwise known as Styrofoam, are composed of a chemical compound styrene, petroleum, and are formed by chemical reaction which make them moisture resistance.
Both cups require about 80% less energy to manufacture than their reusable counter parts.
However, in North America, we consume 60% of the world’s paper cups, 400 million cups are used per day, leading to 146 billion each year, at the detriment of 50 million trees, 35 billion gallons of water, and the petrochemicals used to manufacture these cups could have heated 8,300 homes for one year.
- It quickly adds up, because we use so many disposable coffee cups on a daily basis, the resources used for their production far surpasses reusable mugs.
- Annnnd, I’m not finished yet.
- Disposable coffee cups are designed for one-time use, with an average lifespan of 45 minutes, whereas reusable mugs are designed to last for 3000 times, instead of just once, which gives reusable cups the upper hand because they are designed for durability.
And last but not least, is the problem of litter. To this day, I have never once seen a reusable mug on our streets, yet I cannot count the amount of times I have seen the common Tim Hortons disposable cup on streets, parks, trails, walkways, parking lots, and shorelines. This is worth taking into consideration when doing a life-cycle analyses.
With the purchase of disposable cups, our landfills fill. Our streets and oceans are littered. Emissions are continuously emitted. We contribute to and support the bigger picture problem: the never-ending throw-away society.
- the alternative is you remember your damn mug and wash it at days end.
A full commitment to reusable mugs is necessary to reap more important environmental benefits and that is habit change and reducing waste at the source.
A habit shift to reducing instead of consuming ultimately makes more sense than continuously supporting our wasteful habit, even if the upfront energy-intensive process seems worse.
So, the next time you believe you are reducing, perhaps take a minute and really think about it. Do you really need that:
- Extra cloth bag?
- Extra reusable coffee mug?
- Extra stainless steel water bottle?
- What I hope to leave with you is to critically think about what you are buying, using, and what you think you are doing to help the environment.
- My message is simple.
- Consume less and reuse more.
- Will you lug a mug?
By: Jessica Correa, M.A. Sustainability Studies- Founder, Random Acts of Green
Reusable coffee cups vs "disposable" coffee cups; a modern dilemma
Australia’s obsession with coffee has led to an extra 7,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste from disposable cups. While many may think that these ‘harmless’ paper cups are recyclable, they aren’t and here’s why.
Australia’s Love Affair with Coffee
Whether you’re a fan of the latte, cappuccino, macchiato, straight black or even the classic flat white. There is no denying Australian’s love their morning coffee on the go. While some people have reusable coffee cups handy during morning rush, the majority of coffee drinkers opt for the fast and easy “disposable” coffee cup to hold their morning brew.
While this is fantastic for both the local economy and our own mental well-being, there are some negative side effects to that morning coffee.
That Persistent Plastic Lining
Less than 1 in 400 ‘disposable’ coffee cups are recycled. The irony is that most of these ‘disposable’ or ‘recyclable’ coffee cups cannot be recycled due to their plastic lining.
In fact, the plastic lining in your morning coffee cup will outlive you! While the paper part of the cup will break down rather quickly.
- It will take it over 30 years for the plastic lining to fragment and close to 100 years to break down completely.
- That is still only if the plastic has the perfect environmental conditions to break down.
- If not, your disposable coffee cup is not going anywhere anytime soon.
A Tree for your Convenience
More than 1 billion coffee cups from 720,510 trees are made each year in Australia alone.
This isn’t including those that we import at lower prices from developing nations. These nations are destroying their own old growth forests for our convenience.
Throwing Environmental Damage to the Curb with reusable solution
Manufacturers that don’t cut corners
Manufacturers such as Biopak and EcoSoulife are trying to bring awareness to the issue of single use cups by using more sustainable materials. These materials break down without harming the environment, but they are still not widely available.
Baristas who are making a difference
While it’s not always cost effective for small businesses to use more environmentally friendly single use coffee cups. There are those that are trying to help reduce the amount of waste by employing sustainable alternatives.
Some coffee houses use single use cups that do not have a plastic lining. Many of these cafes are members of responsible cafes, which is a telltale sign that they are actively against the use of single use cups that harm the environment.
It’s now becoming more common to find coffee shops that encourage their patrons to slow down, sit in and enjoy their coffee from a reusable cup rather than the hit and run approach to their caffeine shot.
Some wonderful café’s even reward you with a free or cheaper coffee if you bring your own reusable coffee cup.
Taking matters into your own hands with reusable coffee cups
Disposable Cups vs Reusable mugs – which is best for your office?
Everyone from David Attenborough to Starbucks is saying it – we need to reduce waste to protect the environment – and with 12.7 million tonnes of plastic finding its way into the ocean each year, people are finally starting to take notice.
Although an initial proposal of charging 25p for disposable cups (known as the ‘latte levy‘) failed to get government backing, a host of major companies have begun banning single-use cups from their establishments, including the BBC, Waitrose and Network Rail. Meanwhile, coffee shops such as Starbucks are trialling their own 5p charge for disposable cups.
But is this really the best option for offices and businesses? We decided to take a deeper look at the differences between disposable and reusable cups, to determine which one is really the more eco-friendly option for your business.
Can they be recycled?
While technically single-use paper cups can be recycled, the truth is they very rarely are.
Due to the plastic polythene lining, they must be collected separately from other waste and taken to one of 3 plants across the UK that are able to separate the plastic and paper, so the paper can be recycled. Of the 2.
5 billion paper cups disposed of every year, less than 1% are recycled. The rest end up as discarded litter on our streets, in ever-growing landfill sites, or even making their way to the sea.
What’s the carbon footprint?
Disposable cups are usually made from “virgin paper”, which is freshly produced paper, straight from the tree. This means trees are felled for the sole purpose of producing single-use cups, that could well end up in landfill sites after one latte.
However, once the production process is complete the carbon footprint of disposable cups can be kept reasonably small. Lightweight and easy to store, far more paper cups can be transported than ceramic mugs by the same vessel of transport. Once they have been used they don’t require any further washing and therefore the energy consumption stops there.
What are the advantages?
Because single-use paper cups don’t require washing it will save your company money on energy bills, as well as saving your employees’ time.
On the subject of saving money, paper cups are far cheaper to replenish than ceramic mugs. If ceramic mugs are in an environment where there is a high risk of them getting lost or broken, it could end up costing you a fortune to keep replacing them.
Reusable Cups & Mugs
Can they be recycled?
Eco-Friendly Coffee Cups: 4 Great Sustainable & Compostable Hot Cups
Have you ever felt guilty about using disposable coffee cups?
Well, you wouldn’t be alone, and not without good reason either.
After all, our morning cup of joe is supposed to help us take on the day – not destroy the planet.
And yet, consumers go through an estimated 600 billion paper and plastic cups per year worldwide, according to USA Today. While some of these cups may be recycled, most are not.
The better approach may well be to drink only from environmentally friendly coffee cups and support those manufacturers who produce them and coffee shops that serve them.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the big problems disposable hot cups cause and which sustainable alternatives you can choose instead.
Cups & Straws Cause Massive Environmental Pollution
People in the US use 500 million plastic straws per day, which translates into 175 billion of non-biodegradable pieces of plastic littered into our waterways and landfills each year.
Straw use may well be another story (find eco-friendly alternatives here), but it’s part of the same issue caused by our disposable habits. Maintaining our current disposable coffee cup status quo isn’t a sustainable solution when taking figures into account.
Disposable Plastic Cups Cannot Be Recycled
Go-Green Disposable Cups Range | Event Cup Solutions
Therefore, despite the fact these are disposable glasses, we still offer disposable cups that are 100% recyclable.
At the start of the production process, our Go-Green disposable cups are made from rPET (post-consumer waste such as water & soda bottles) and at the end of their single use, they can be recycled – maybe not back into the production of a new disposable cup or glass like their reusable polycarbonate equivalent – but at least 100% of the cup is being used over and over again.
Whilst we will always support the use of reusable cups for festivals and events, we realise that disposable cups and glasses are still in the marketplace and that’s why we offer them.
And, of course, whilst the overriding reason for not using disposable cups is very much centred around the environment, there is also the useability factor to consider. Big beer brands, in an ideal world, do not want their beer to be served in flimsy, cheap disposable cups as this is not the brand image they want to portray.
Disposable cups for large scale events
For large beer brands, it’s all about consistency of product delivery – in other words, they want their product to be served in exactly the same way, wherever you are.
Cheap disposable cups, however, are a world apart from a pint glass in a pub, for instance.
That’s why although the disposable cups might be the cheapest option, they are certainly not the usual preferred option for the large beer brands who will almost always gravitate towards polycarbonate or polypropylene reusable cups.
If you need to improve the sustainability of your disposable glasses and cups for your event or venue or, better still, move towards an eco-friendly reuse plastic cups model, don’t hesitate in contacting our experts here online at Event Cup Solutions today. We are passionate about how our reusable festival cups, reusable stadium cups and reusable event cups can be used across the country, not only to improve things for the environment but also as a profit generating scheme for the event organisers.
Contact us today – we’ll be delighted to hear from you! And, it helps in your decision making process, we can send you some samples of our Go-Green disposable cups along with perhaps some reusable cup options to help you understand the associated benefits. Whatever your event requirements, we’d be delighted to assist you here at Event Cup Solutions and we’re confident that we’ll be able to work together towards a more sustainable future.
Your reusable coffee cup could be worse for environment than a disposable one, according to an expert
- Many of us give ourselves a pat on the back for remembering our reusable coffee cup.
- However, the average person is not using their cup enough times before forgetting about it or throwing it away, according to Caroline Wood, a PhD researcher in food security at the University of Sheffield.
- A reusable cup would need to be used between 20 and 100 times in order to have lower emissions than a disposable cup, she writes in a piece for The Conversation.
Sharing the full story, not just the headlines
- This is because more greenhouse emissions are released when making a durable product, and also because they need to be washed between uses.
- Despite the surge in popularity for reusable cups they only make up five per cent of total sales.
- “The unavoidable truth is that it simply isn’t convenient for people on the run to remember their cup, carry it around and wash it out between uses,” Ms Wood wrote.
Created with Sketch.
Created with Sketch.
In the protest that started a movement, Greta skips school to sit outside of the Swedish parliament in Stockholm in order to raise awareness of climate change on 28 August 2018 Greta speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 25 January Greta stages a protest at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 25 January Greta speaks at the House of Commons in London on 23 April Greta addresses to the occupation at Marble Arch in London on 21 April Greta meets the pope on a visit to Rome Greta speaks at the senate in Rome on 18 April Greta addresses a debate of the EU Environment, Public Health and Food Safety committee at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 16 April Greta receives the Special Climate Protection Award at the German Film and Television awards in Berlin on 30 March Greta attends a children's climate protest in Berlin on 29 March Greta addresses a children's climate protest on 1 March in Hamburg Greta attends a meeting for the Civil Society For rEUnaissance at the EU Charlemagne Building in Brussels on 21 February
Single-use coffee cups have become emblematic of our disposable modern culture.
Due to a thin plastic lining, paper recycling mills cannot process standard coffee cups, most of which are sent to landfill or incinerated.
There are only three recycling facilities in the UK which can process paper cups and hardly any of the 2.5 billion we throw away in the UK each year make it to one of these centres.
- But even recycling cups comes with its own problems.
- “It consumes a lot of energy, generates greenhouse gas emissions through transporting the cups to the correct facility and can be inefficient due to contamination from incorrect disposal,” said Ms Wood.
- “Once you take into account all the environmental costs incurred throughout a coffee cup’s production, use and disposal, it may be a better option in some areas to take used cups to a local energy-for-waste plant rather than transporting them long distances to be recycled,” she said.
What is the best eco-friendly and reusable coffee cup on the market? | Living
Sustainability is the word on everyone's lips, however, we seem to forget about our environmental concerns as soon as we need our coffee fix. We plough through 2.5 billion of takeaway cups every year in the UK alone and less than 1% of those are recycled.
Consumer behaviour must change and using reusable over recyclable cups seems to be the best way to tackle this issue. To make the transition easier, we have selected the best eco-friendly and reusable coffee cups on the market.
The KeepCup: the original reusable cup
It started over ten years ago in a Melbourne café with a simple idea: keep it and use it again. Coffee shop owners Jamie and Abigail Forsyth concerns were growing as they were witnessing the volume of disposable cups being consumed.
In 2007, following unsuccessful trials of existing reusable cups, they decided to create their own: the KeepCup.
Made of glass, it is designed by baristas for baristas and allows people to enjoy better and waste-free coffee on the go. “In 2009 we created the solution to a problem,” say the founders.
“In 2019 we are leading the charge to ensure the world no longer needs, wants or uses disposable coffee cups.”
Today, KeepCups are used in more than 65 countries around the world. Its users divert millions of disposable cups from landfill every day, and through their actions, inspire others to do the same.
The KeepCup come in six different sizes and can be entirely customized – from the band and lid to the plug – allowing you to do your part for the environment with a very unique and personalised cup.
The rCUP: the world’s first reusable coffee cup made from used paper cups
Cornwall-based Ashortwalk is the award-winning design company behind the rCUP. Led by former Dyson designer and inventor Dan Dicker, Ashortwalk was founded from a desire to create meaningful products from recycled materials, a short walk from the sea.
Their most recent brainchild is the rCup, the world’s first reusable coffee cup and travel mug made from recycled paper coffee cups.
They work with Simply cups, who collect the paper cups which are then turned into the reusable Rcup – a proof that global waste can be tackled through collaboration.
A cup that is made from waste, helps recycle waste and reduces waste. “Our cup is the only one that is made from the single use cups that are still being used in coffee shops and cafes every day,” say the founders.
In addition to being 100% leak proof, the rCUP is fully insulated and can keep your coffee warm for about an hour and a half.
The rCUP comes in two sizes, 8 and 12 oz and in a wide selection of colours, from mustard, green and teal. Its 360-degree drinking experience for full aroma and push open – push close lid will become your best allies while on the go.
The Huskup: the reusable cup made from rice husk, not plastic
Here’s a way to do coffee, but better. This functional, beautiful and reusable cup uses an abundant waste material – rice husk. UK-based Huskup is made from the outer shell of a grain of rice, so it’s a natural byproduct of rice milling.
Rice husk – a natural and robust material that would otherwise be burnt at the mill – is strong, high in silica and has short tough fibres that are naturally resistant to moisture, making the cup plastic and toxin free.
Melamine and BPA free, the Huskup can last for years if treated well and will simply biodegrade at the end of its life. From earth to earth.
The Huskup comes in 12 original designs and various colour combinations. Huskup will soon be launching four original Harry Potter cups starting at £11.95.
The Ecoffee cup: the cup made of organic bamboo fibre
Brighton-based Ecoffee cup created a reusable takeaway cup made with naturally organic, bamboo fibre and non-GMO corn starch.
David McLagan, founded Ecoffee Cup in Brighton in 2014 after learning that single-use cups were not being recycled and that billions of them were ending up in landfill each year.
Made with natural bamboo fibre, the Ecoffee Cup is BPA and phthalate free and can last for years if treated nicely. Once it has reached its end of life, it can be simply crushed, soaked in boiling water and buried with organic compost. Ecoffee Cup is currently working on making the food grade silicone lid and sleeve biodegradable too.
The cup comes in four different sizes and in dozens of colourful patterns. The Ecoffee cup is also available in over 20 countries.
The Weducer: the cup made from recycled coffee grounds
Berlin-based Kaffeeform came up with an innovative and sustainable material using recycled coffee grounds and renewable raw materials to create the reusable cup made of coffee.
Go green with reusable coffee cups
Like most college students, I need a coffee from Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts to start my day. But I can’t ignore the twinge of guilt I feel every time my order is called out, and I grab my paper or styrofoam cup from the counter — knowing it will be thrown away as soon as I’m finished guzzling down the coffee.
People in the United States drink 400 million cups of coffee per day, making it the world leader in coffee consumption. And because most people don’t opt for a reusable cup, we throw away 25 billion styrofoam coffee cups every year.
If you buy just one coffee or tea in a disposable cup every day, you’ll end up creating about 23 pounds of waste in one year.
Styrofoam is convenient for packaging and insulation, but its environmental hazards outweigh its benefits.
Many materials used to make styrofoam are toxic, and the emissions released from its factories cause air pollution, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Additionally, research by the Cleveland State University states that styrofoam is non-biodegradable, non-sustainable and the waste often reaches the ocean, polluting the seabed and killing animals who swallow it.
I know my current habits are contributing to this environmental damage. But I plan on changing that with a solution I think is easy enough for everyone to try: investing in reusable cups.
I always carry my reusable water bottle around with me so I don’t have to buy one in between classes. But the only reusable coffee cup I have is for Wawa, which saves me money every time I go there to refill.
To be honest, these reusable containers were simply a cost-cutting method before I realized the bigger picture: they’re good for the environment, too.
Now that I know most of the styrofoam thrown away today will still be present in landfills 500 years from now, I believe it’s time to carry around my reusable cup more often.
Dunkin’ Donuts offers an annual promotion in the summer that allows you to buy a reusable plastic cup and receive a discount on your medium iced coffee or tea each time you bring it back for a refill. And your Starbucks beverage costs 10 cents less when you bring your own cup.
Coffee drinkers should consider taking advantage of these savings, while helping our planet through their actions.
Patrick Kenney, a freshman neuroscience major who routinely carries a reusable cup, agrees it’s not only a money-saving habit, but a green one.
“I think it is cheaper…and it is more eco-friendly,” Kenney said. “I do it myself because it helps me save money, and it helps me prevent the use of plastic and paper cups, which are bad for the environment.”
Some students may argue that recycling their paper Starbucks cups makes up for their short-lived use, but that’s not the case. According to a CNN report, the plastic lining within the cup that keeps it from getting soggy adds nearly 20 years to the decomposition process.
Bridget Fisher, a junior marketing major and the president of Students for Environmental Action, works at Saxbys. She said it is “disheartening” to see how many students come in each day who seem unaware of the environmental hazards caused by their coffee cups.
“What’s even worse is most of these cups are just being thrown away, which goes to a landfill,” Fisher said. “Our country is so dependent on disposable products, it often isn’t thought about.”
Fisher made the commitment to avoid using plastic-lined cups years ago. She said she hasn’t found it inconvenient at all.
“You don’t even need to spend money on a thermos,” Fisher said. “Most of the stuff I use to carry around water or coffee is a marinara sauce jar or other household item.”
Fisher’s makeshift thermoses prove that we have no excuse to ignore the downfalls of using paper and styrofoam coffee cups.
Switching to using a reusable cup or container is a simple, cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to buying and disposing of plastic or styrofoam cups. This small change can have a huge ripple effect on the environment.
I know my actions now will ultimately affect the future, so I will put forth my best effort to be conscious of how wasteful I am — you should try it out, too.
Go for the reusable, not the disposable, when it comes to coffee cups et al
The study proposes that economic actors in the “to go” sector use reusable cups as a rule rather than on demand only. In addition, coffee and other hot beverages sold in reusable cups should be less expensive than disposable cups. The report also says that cup lids account for a high share of energy and pollution.
This is why it would make sense to not supply disposable lids with reusable cups. The Blue Angel award criteria for reusable cup systems should be applied to reusable cups. The money in the littering fund should be used to clean up public areas and for information campaigns.
Any party introducing disposable cups onto the market must pay into the fund.
According to the study, these measures could reduce the consumption of disposable cups by 50 percent within three years. Should such ambitious goals not be agreed with players in the market, steps should be taken to implement legally binding requirements.
Environmental footprint of disposable vs returnable cups: All disposable cups either have a plastic coating or their lids are made entirely of plastic. If cups are discarded into nature instead of the waste bin, more and more plastic will also end up in soil and water.
The environment also suffers because the production of cups consumes energy and raw materials. Reusable cups – whether dispensed by the shop or brought by the customer – have a lighter footprint when in fact reused, both in terms of life cycle assessment performance and the generation of waste.
The more often a cup is used the better its environmental footprint. The study calculates that a circulation rate of 10 or more would pay off. It is not necessarily the material of the cup that is decisive in the assessment of their environmental impact but how they are washed.
For optimal environmental balance reusable cups should be sold without disposable lids and washed using green electricity.
Disposable cups as waste: Disposable cups are among the ten disposable plastic products most often found as waste on Europe's beaches and in its seas. This is a clear sign for high levels of input to the environment, which is problematic beyond just seas and oceans.
The waste management sector itself has problems coping with the amounts of paper cup waste in the “to go” market segment, which amounts to up to 15 percent of the volume of waste bins in the urban environment.
That is a volume of 400,000 m³ per year and equivalent to the contents of nearly eight million 50-litre waste bins.