It takes a huge amount of energy to produce, distribute and dispose of paper coffee cups. This has impacted our environment,
contributing to global warming and pollution worldwide. Reports indicate that less than 1% of the cups we produce are actually being recycled and although the term ‘paper cup’ sounds innocuous, it’s deceiving.
Most paper cups are lined with a type of plastic which prevents the liquid from leaking, but this very same layer also prevents them from being recycled. This means most of them end up in a landfill.
Your Paper Coffee Cup Cannot Be Recycled
Paper cups might seem like a better option but, on its own, paper cannot hold liquid so baristas pour coffee into cups lined with polyethylene, a plastic that functions as a moisture barrier. The lining must be separated from the cup before the paper portion can be recycled, explains Rachel A. Meidl PhD, a fellow in Energy and Environment in the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University.
Your Plastic Iced Coffee Cup Is An Environmental Menace
The plastic cups used for iced drinks are also problematic. Most are made from polypropylene (#5 plastic) that is not accepted in many curbside recycling programs.
Spill the Beans in San Diego is one of the coffee shops serving iced drinks in cups made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) that is recyclable (though recycling rates for PET is less than 30 percent).
Global consumer demands and reliance on natural resources means deforestation is the biggest factor in the production of paper cups. Over 20 million trees are cut down each year to produce single-use paper cups. The loss of millions of trees means less carbon dioxide is absorbed from our atmosphere and as a result, our environment becomes more polluted and our ecosystem is irreparably damaged.
More CO2 emissions
It’s estimated that the production of every four paper cups results in one pound of CO2 emissions, increasing CO2 which is exacerbated by dwindling tree numbers to re-capture it. As most paper cups end up in landfill, they subsequently release methane, a more harmful gas that CO2 that also traps heat in the atmosphere, likely contributing to global warming.
Things you can do for the environment
The good news is that small changes make a big impact and prevent further damage to the environment. Swerving the paper cup altogether and savouring your morning coffee at your local café in a real cup is one way to help. Taking the time to sit in, using one of their own mugs will eliminate any takeaway cup wastage immediately.
You could speak to your local café and ask about their cup supplier. Some companies will offset their carbon emissions produced during manufacturing. If you have to take away, try selecting biodegradable coffee cups that are lined with plant-based material so that they do not end up in a landfill. Better yet, use a reusable coffee cup that can be used time and time again.
Are you ready to make the change?