It goes without saying – many of us adore morning coffee, be it latte, espresso, flat white or cappuccino. Some have it in a reusable cup at home while the vast majority of others will opt for a disposable option of their morning coffee as a handy way before work. But how many of us have asked ourselves a question “Are paper cups recyclable?” They are not. The most common type used for takeaway drinks cannot be recycled due to its plastic lining that prevents the paper cup from becoming saturated and falling apart. In fact, it will take about 30 years for the plastic lining to break up into fragments and around 100 years to break down entirely, but that’s only if the plastic has the perfect environmental conditions to do so. Unfortunately, right now only about 1% of disposable cups are recycled. The thing is, this plastic lining must be separated from the paper in the recycling process which makes recycling them difficult and costly. Most recycling centers are not even equipped to process them.
Let’s be honest, nobody is going to give up their coffee anytime soon, but what we have to do is to change the way we consume coffee. Having a reusable coffee cup in our bag or at the office is a great alternative to using a single-use cup. It’s now becoming more and more common for big coffee retailers to provide some incentives for customers to bring in their own reusable mug rather than using a disposable one.
But there’s another question that pops up – “Is investing in a reusable cup going to reduce our environmental footprint? Using a reusable cup indeed lowers the waste-management environmental impacts. But there’re some aspects of cup’s life cycle we quite often overlook, such as the materials/energy used to make that “solidly-built” cup as well as the soap and hot water necessary to wash it, etc. Generally speaking, manufacturing one disposable cup has a lower environmental impact than producing one reusable cup, which means it’s more eco-friendly. This is due to the fact that paper cups require much less energy than their reusable alternatives – glass or ceramic. Moreover, disposable cups are smaller, lighter, and easier to make as opposed to reusable ones, that’s no surprise. But have you thought about what happens when you use over 400 disposables in a year, doesn’t that makes a bigger impact than using only one reusable cup?
Another aspect of the environmental impact is washing. Clearly, there’re different ways to wash cups and some are considered to be more environmentally friendly than others, like washing by hand in comparison to using a dishwasher, or washing with cold water rather than with hot water. And with disposable ones there’s no energy input needed while glass or ceramic cups require washing in order to be used again which in its turn contributes to its overall environmental footprint. But again, what is also important is the number of times reusable cup is used.
Last but not least is the cost of disposal, and we mentioned about non-recyclable plastic lining of the single-use cups above. With regard to reusables, ceramic as well as glass cups can last to thousand of uses if cared for and have little to no environmental impact in landfills.
The bottom line here is that reusable cups possess a longer lifespan therefore their overall environmental effect is much lower than those of single-use cups. Most reusable cups could be recycled. Ceramic and glass cups do not pose a danger to the nature as they do not contain synthetic chemicals and they will break down over time in contradiction to the plastic lining of paper cups which do not biodegrade. In contrast, disposal of single-use cups poses a massive problem such as the cost of waste collection and the accumulation of these products in our oceans, when they are not taken to the landfill.
“So what should we do then?” you would ask. By reusing your cup for several years, the reusable option looks like the way to go. But remember – disposable coffee cups are only part of the problem. Straws, stirrers, sugar packets… it’s another issue altogether and another topic of our blog. Responsibility starts with each of us and it’s up to us to make that switch or not but the environment doesn’t have to pay.
At Greenleaf Cleaning, we’re very conscious of our environmental footprint and all our cleaners are taught how to recycle properly. If you’re looking for a London-based household/office cleaning provider, we’re more than happy to assist.
Call us today at 0800 032 6248, or drop us an email with any queries you may have – firstname.lastname@example.org.