For once, disposable paper cups were all the rage. We celebrated the convenience, the ease of producing thousands at a small cost, and the ability for a coffee shop to cater to hundreds of daily orders without breaking a sweat. This started a lifestyle revolution and opened a new genre of instant gratification.
Suddenly, paying $5 or more for a cup of coffee was acceptable, and coffee culture became a fashion statement. However, there is an unpleasant side to all these disposable wares.
Not All Coffee Cups Are Eco-Friendly
As fast as they dominated our lives, disposable cups were as equally quick in filling landfills with mountains of used coffee cups. But, in reality, they are not entirely degradable—the secret to their unique ability to stay dry and hold liquid lies in their inner lining. A thin layer of plastic or polyethylene lines the inside of these cups.
Statistically, the world uses about 600 billion paper and plastic cups yearly. Paper biodegrades, but plastic linings do not. Printed logos also add to the puzzle. The process involved in creating the ink for printing on paper sleeves, for example, uses fossil fuel to make the machines run and use chemicals to make the ink. Add these all up, and you have a chain reaction that magnifies the environmental impact.
This also exposes another monumental problem–the cost of other materials to recycle these products. The use of fossil fuels and water, to name a few, adds up to the environmental impact that disposable products were made to minimize in the first place.
The list goes on with other processes to get the products to customers, such as fuel used by delivery trucks, etc., but you get the point.
Different Cup Types Used in Cafes (And Why They’re Harmful to the Environment)
There are typically three types of disposable cups used in cafes: paper, plastic, and Styrofoam. However, as we grow more environmentally conscious, we find the latter two dwindling in numbers, with some coffee shops eliminating them entirely.
Paper cups are ubiquitous and are in high demand because of their price and ease of production. The most common are single-walled cups, some with grooves to minimize heat transfer to your hands, but many use a paper sleeve for this purpose. More common are double-walled cups that offer better insulation and eliminate the need for a sleeve. So whether you’re in for your usual morning coffee or the ultimate caffeine kick, sizes ranging from 8 to 20 ounces satisfy the urge.
What lies beneath? The paper coffee cup may not be as innocent even if plastic and Styrofoam are now out of fashion due to environmental concerns. As mentioned above, most have a plastic or polyethylene lining to prevent liquid from seeping. The production process uses oil and electricity, which still affects the environment.
Remember, these are throwaway items and with thousands of coffees served in your city alone, imagine how many get piled up in landfills yearly?! The harmful health effects that plastic linings pose if they leech into your drink are worth mentioning. Studies have found that in as quickly as 15 minutes, these linings begin to degrade into microplastics with a hot beverage. Imagine what a buildup of microplastics can do to your body?
The Importance of Going Green When Taking Your Coffee
All is not in vain with new alternatives to disposable coffee cups. Polylactic Acid (PLA) derived from corn is used in some designs as linings for hot beverages. In addition, sugarcane fiber-derived paper is gaining momentum as a tree paper-free alternative to cup material. Therefore, many more plant-based and sustainable materials are being introduced to many disposable wares beyond just coffee cups.
Climate change is real and is an inevitable part of our existence. However, as with any challenge, there is always hope. We appreciate the efforts to choose paper cups over plastic or Styrofoam in the past few years. We are confident it will evolve to mainstream new sustainable materials in the coming years.
As with the cycle of life, it goes full circle. If we don’t act now, even the quality of our coffee will suffer as the environment that nurtures it is affected by the disposal of wares used to serve them. This is something to think about.
Go for Safe, Reusable Coffee Cups and Coffee Sleeves
The next time you go to your favorite cafe for a cappuccino, bring your own cup. We know some cafes give discounts if you do and encourage this practice. After all, when you use your own, it makes the experience a little more special.
Explore Go Cuff, a reusable sleeve for hot or cold beverages that keep your drink’s temperature longer than traditional paper sleeves. It is made of neoprene material and provides flexibility and the dexterity that snugly fits any cup or bottle size. It works great on cold drinks too! Because it insulates so well, you don’t end up with sweaty palms or dripping cold beverages.
These are fully customizable with prints or logos for a unique look. And since they are washable and very reusable, you help make the earth breathe a little better. Check us out at tonyj10.sg-host.com.