stop using single use coffee cups
The convenience of single-use disposable coffee cups has made them a popular choice for coffee drinkers around the world.
However, the environmental impact of these cups is immense, with devastating effects on marine ecosystems.
In this blog, we will explore the environmental and marine impact of single-use disposable coffee cups and examine the scientific research behind it.
Single-use disposable coffee cups are made from a combination of plastic and paper.
The paper used in these cups is often coated with plastic or wax to prevent the cup from leaking, and the plastic lid adds to the environmental impact.
In general the cups are not recyclable due to the plastic lining, and only a small percentage are actually recycled.
Here in Australia there is an example of an Upcycling scheme called Simply Cups. They arrange for collected coffee cups to be upcycled into new sustainable products.
Greenhouse gases & carbon footprint
The production of disposable coffee cups also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. The manufacturing process of the paper and plastic, as well as the transportation and disposal of the cups, releases harmful gases into the atmosphere.
A study conducted by the University of Victoria found that the carbon footprint of a single-use disposable coffee cup is 0.11 kg CO2e per cup. This may seem like a small number, but it adds up quickly, considering the billions of cups used each year.
The impact of single-use disposable coffee cups is not limited to landfills and the atmosphere.
The cups also have a devastating effect on marine ecosystems. According to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, around 8 million tons of plastic waste end up in the oceans every year, and disposable coffee cups are one of the major contributors to this problem.
The plastic lining of the cups takes many decades to break down, and during that time, it can be ingested by marine life.
A study by the University of Plymouth found that the plastic lining of disposable coffee cups can break down into smaller pieces, known as microplastics. Microplastics can be ingested by marine life and enter the food chain. This can have a devastating effect on marine ecosystems, as it can lead to bioaccumulation and biomagnification of toxins.
Human Health Concerns
The adverse impact of single-use coffee cups is not limited to the environment and marine ecosystems, as these cups can also have an impact on human health.
The plastic lining of these cups can release harmful chemicals such as BPA and phthalates, which can leach into the hot beverage and be ingested by the consumer.
These chemicals have been linked to health problems such as cancer, developmental problems, and reproductive issues.
A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that exposure to BPA and phthalates from food packaging can have negative effects on human health.
Alternatives to Single-use Coffee Cups
Fortunately, there are many alternatives to single-use coffee cups that are both eco-friendly and better for human health.
Here's a list of alternatives to consider:
Bring your own reusable coffee mug or cup when you go to a coffee shop. Most coffee shops allow customers to bring their own cups, and some even offer discounts for doing so.
Invest in a portable coffee maker, such as an AeroPress, Picopresso or Cuppamoka, to make your coffee on the go. You can then pour your coffee into a reusable mug or cup.
Make your coffee at home and bring it with you in a reusable travel mug or thermos.
If you have the time, opt for dine-in instead of takeout when you visit a coffee shop.
Choose a coffee shop that offers ceramic mugs for customers who dine-in.
If you have time to sit and enjoy your coffee at a coffee shop, ask for a ceramic mug instead of a disposable cup.
Bring your own travel mug when traveling, so you can make your own coffee and avoid using disposable cups.
If you forget your reusable cup, choose a coffee shop that offers recyclable cups, made from materials such as paper, sugarcane or wheat straw, which can be recycled.
Some coffee shops offer a cup exchange program, where customers can return their used cups for cleaning and reuse (do a google search to identify a scheme near you). Simply Cups is Australia’s first coffee cup recycling program. They have over 1,500 collecting cup locations and have collected over 31m cups for upcycling projects.
Choose coffee shops that offer plant-based cups made from materials like bamboo or corn starch.
When you get a coffee to go, refuse the lid and sip your coffee from the cup.
Some coffee shops offer biodegradable cups made from materials that break down more quickly in landfills.
Encourage others to bring their own reusable cups and spread awareness about the negative impact of single-use disposable coffee cups on the environment.
We must stop using single-use coffee cups and promote the use of alternatives like reusable cups to reduce the environmental impact of our coffee consumption.
Single-use cups contribute to the growing plastic waste problem and are not usually biodegradable, leading to pollution and harm to wildlife. They can also have a negative impact on human health.
It is important to take action and make sustainable choices to protect our planet.