Ah coffee, the magical beverage that gets so many people through the day. Living in a big city means that you see a lot of people with coffee all the time; London has a super strong cafe culture in general, but more often during the week you’ll see busy workers on the tube, in the street or at their desk holding takeaway cups of the hot stuff. Some will go for the high street option like Starbucks, some will go for the independent cafe down the road and refuse anything but the finest and, whilst these businesses may be miles apart in many areas, there’s one thing that ties all coffee providers together. Waste. I’m sad to say it, but for most of you out there your coffee habit ain’t sustainable right now.
I think a lot of people may be surprised to hear this. Takeaway coffee cups are paper, put them into recycling and we’re good right? Alas, no. As explained here, whilst paper is recyclable the paper part of coffee cups is fused with polyethylene to make them waterproof and stop the paper getting soggy (I did always wonder how the cups stayed so dry. Turns out it’s not magic after all.) This is essentially impossible to remove in a standard recycling facility, so these cups all go straight to landfill. In the UK alone we are throwing 2.5 BILLION coffee cups in landfill every year. In fact we go through 10,000 cups in 2 minutes. I would argue this is essentially a case of greenwashing: these cups are capable of being recycled, so companies can describe them as recyclable, but the reality is they can only be recycled in specialised facilities. There are only two of these facilities in the entire UK, one has processed only a tiny amount of coffee cups, the other has never touched one. Large coffee corporations haven’t exactly lied, but they’ve happily kept their mouths shut and let people keep thinking they’re making sustainable choices when they aren’t. Greenwashing, I see you.
To add insult to injury, the cups aren’t made from recycled materials to begin with, their design means one seam of card comes into contact with the drink, so they have to be made from virgin paper pulp just to have an extremely short life span. Virgin materials for single use = CRAZY landfill and a huge carbon footprint.
It’s depressing I know. But don’t worry! There’s such an easy solution available. Reusable cups have been around for a while but they really haven’t been getting enough chatter around them in my opinion, so today I want to tell you about my two favourite options. And by the way, most cafes will charge you less for your drink if you bring your own cup as it cuts their costs. Save the planet AND save money, why wouldn’t you go for it?!
‘From manufacture through to disposal, Ecoffee Cup is a new generation of reusable takeaway cup. Created with the world’s fastest growing, most sustainable crop – naturally organic, bamboo fibre and non-GMO corn starch, Ecoffee Cup is BPA and phthalate free – and while we’re still not 100% perfect, we’re working the whole time to improve the formulation of the product’
(I chose to show this cup because it’s the most London one out there: ALL BLACK)
Ok, I’m going to hammer on about bamboo and how great it is probably for the next 50 years, but look at another cool thing made from the zero waste dream that is bamboo! Not only is this saving on waste through stopping the use of disposable coffee cups, it’s also made sustainably itself because of how great bamboo is, double win. Bamboo is also naturally sterile so the cup doesn’t affect the flavour of drinks, whilst being super light at 135 grams and resealable with a ‘drip-proof’ lid, making it super easy to have with you on the go. The cup is also dishwasher safe and should last for years. But here’s the best part, it’s also biodegradable! I had to put that in all caps because of how exciting that is. If it gets a little worse for wear you can crush it, soak it in boiling water and bury it with organic compost to start the biodegrading process. The silicone lid can be recycled with normal curb side recycling, but they’re even working on making that biodegradable. For all that, every cup is under £10. Considering most coffee places give you a discount you’re going to make that money back real fast, and have a huge impact on the environment around you.
‘We make glass reusable coffee cups. Our cups are designed to enhance your morning brew, save your taste buds and help out mother nature.’
JOCO cups are made from high quality, non-porous, borosilicate glass and are free of BPA, lead and cadmium whilst being food grade safe. Glass doesn’t affect the flavour of your drink and they’re microwave and dishwasher safe. They come with a thermal silicone sleeve to keep your hands cool, a one-way lid to prevent coffee splashing on the go and come in volumes of 8, 12 and 16oz glasses which are the same as standard takeaway cup sizes to keep baristas happy. At around the £10-£15 they’re also still pretty inexpensive for the savings. Side note, they also have a beautiful artist series range at the moment, which have been created in collaboration with local creatives and they are gorgeous.
Now these are just my favourite options, there are many others out there, but there’s a reason I wanted to talk about these two. Lots of reusable cups, whilst stopping us wasting one use cups, are made of plastic. And even when this plastic is safe or recyclable, it’s still not my favourite. I just don’t fully trust it. As much as possible I want to live in a world where plastic is not a thing, and when there are two options here that are made of other materials, why not go for them? They’re inexpensive, easy, attractive and so much better for the world around us. If even a handful of us changed our coffee habits to reusable cups that would have a massive impact, so let’s go one step further and make it the norm.
Until next time, stay magic y’all.