A closer look at the real cost of a cup of coffee… plastic waste
In any part of the world, the word “coffee” is most often associated with productivity – it’s the life juice that gets us going and performing our best during the work day. Environmentalists warn, however that there is a rapidly growing (and potentially dangerous) problem in the works.
Despite the fact that disposable coffee cups typically appear to be biodegradable (they are made of what looks to be cardboard), these cups usually have a plastic makeup (this layer is even found in cups labelled as “recyclable”) that simply doesn’t go away – ever.
Far from productive, we know. The ripple effects of this situation have far-reaching implications, and are likely to cost us in a big way down the road. From the rising costs of sanitation, health hazards and medical expenses to the impact of global warming (a result of attempts to burn or otherwise eliminate this stubborn waste), we’re plunging ourselves into an abysmal future, one latte at a time.
But, whose responsibility is it? Consumers will say it’s up to the coffee sellers, and they will, of course, point the finger at consumers. The reality is that it’s a two-party tango, and the problem couldn’t exist without both willing participants. Manufacturers could stop selling disposable coffee cups, but consumers could also stop buying them, demanding reusable coffee cups instead.
Don’t think it’s that big of a problem? Consider this: after plastic bottles (and we all know how big of an issue those are), coffee cups come in second for the largest contributor to litter waste. The silver medal isn’t bad when it comes to the Olympics of which products are going to lead to the end of mankind.
In Australia alone, it’s been estimated that over 60,000 kilograms (from nearly 1 billion disposable cups used) end up in a landfill each year. (Yes, that’s approximately 15 fully grown elephants.) Speaking of elephants, you’re probably familiar with the number one rule regarding the ivory industry: if you don’t buy it, there is no market for it.
The same principle can be applied to the coffee industry, where consumers carry a lot of power and influence by choosing where to spend their money (and where not to).
What can consumers do?
It goes without saying that if everyone brought their own reusable coffee cups and travel mugs that the problem could easily be diminished. That future starts with you, one informed consumer at a time. You can purchase suitable, responsible and environmentally considerate products from Payless Promotions here.
Several advantages exist to this thoughtful approach, including:
● The sustainability of your coffee’s temperature
● Less risk of burning yourself or having the paper cup fail
● No risk of the hot fluid leaching plastic from the inside of the cup (another reason they add the plastic layer is to prevent the coffee from eating through the paper)
● And the knowledge that your cup is sanitized (most paper cups will be handled numerous times after manufacture, without washing, before they are given to you)
Another big factor you might be interested in is reduced costs (many coffee sellers, such as convenience stores, cleverly add a fee for the paper cups they offer). Don’t believe us? Try asking for one of those paper cups for free to use for some tap water.
Does the business offer “recyclable cups?” Just because something promises to be biodegradable, doesn’t mean it actually is under most (or less than ideal) conditions. Some recycling centres don’t even accept coffee cups marked as recyclable, sending them to a landfill instead. Even compostable coffee cups often share this fate, but you, as the consumer, would never know it because this happens long after you’ve tossed the cup.
What’s most likely to happen is that your harmless Frappuccino or espresso leads to a belly full of plastic for some unsuspecting marine animal.
Choose, instead, to bring your own coffee mug with you. This may reduce your risk of cancers (from hazardous materials used inside disposable cups) as well as other health ailments.
What can coffee providers do?
Coffee providers have a role to play in this, too. They can offer (as many already do) environmentally friendly alternatives to consumers. Travel mugs, such as those offered by Payless Promotions on our website, can be custom-fashioned with branding that will bring the coffee provider more business.
It’s not just about giving each customer something to remember you by, but giving them something nice that they can carry with them wherever they enjoy their coffee, potentially sparking conversations about your brand. (This works even better if you offer perfectly brewed, delicious coffee.)
One such provider of responsible alternatives is Keep Cup, who offers unique, attractive and branded reusable coffee cups. These cups increase the portability of coffee while saluting the environment.
These barista-standard reusable cups from Keep Cup are unbreakable and lightweight, and can be custom-designed right on the company’s website. Designed to fit perfectly under the coffee machine’s grouphead as well as in your vehicle’s cupholder, they match the convenience of disposable cups without the added guilt.
Start today, change tomorrow
If you’re reading this article while drinking a delicious cappuccino from a disposable coffee cup, we won’t hold it against you. But, start immediately and see how your decision can impact the decisions of those around you. Whether you’re a coffee customer or a coffee provider, the things you do (even if you don’t mention them) will be noticed by others in your sphere of influence.
Simple changes can go a long way, and if you’re looking for a noble reason to get – or give – something really cool, this is it. Consumers can gift personalised, branded coffee cups or travel mugs to loved ones and colleagues. Businesses can leverage an excellent marketing and branding tool.
Let’s add a touch of personality and customisation to the coffee industry, saving ocean life, and eventually, humans in the process.