When it comes to our environmental impact on the world around us, most people talk about the large amount of plastic we use – packaging, bottles and carrier bags to name just a few. If you’re an avid coffee fan, however, you might like to think about the damage you’re doing going into your local café and ordering a latte to go.
Billions of cups of coffee are purchased in stores like Starbucks and Costa, as well as smaller businesses, every year and those cups are simply thrown away.
In the USA alone, 146 billion cups of coffee are consumed annually. Many of these cups are made from Styrofoam, a product which is not easily recycled. Put this in landfill and it will still be there 500 years from now.
Normal disposable coffee cups can be just recycled, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. Cups that contain coffee residue are often taken out of the recycling process because it is too costly, then sent to landfill where they are left to either degrade or are incinerated.
The other big problem is that our store-bought coffee cups are composites – they’re made of both paper and plastic. While the paper is easy to recycle and safer for the environment, the plastic needs to be removed and dealt with separately. That makes dealing with coffee cup garbage expensive.
What Are the Coffee Companies Doing?
After pressure from a several environmental bodies and reports in newspapers, the big coffee companies are beginning to act. Costa recently introduced a recycling scheme in the UK, working with a local waste management firm. This came after it was revealed that only 1 in 400 coffee cups make it to recycling.
While this is certainly going to help, there are many smaller coffee outlets and cafes that are not following the example of their bigger competitors. The issue is that they simply don’t have the money to cater for this kind of recycling.
It’s something that outlets such as Starbucks and Costa are now beginning to embrace and experiment with. Some businesses are giving a discount if you bring your own cup to fill with your favorite caffeine hit. It’s something any café, however small, can do. Others are producing reusable cups for their customers which has had varying success.
What You Should Do
It’s up to consumers to really change things. After all, it only takes a small amount of effort to carry your own cup around with you and there are plenty of options out there. The next time you pop into your local café, there’s really no reason why they shouldn’t fill up your own cup if you ask nicely.
If you work in an office, it’s probably time that you changed that coffee vending machine for something eco-friendly. Estimates suggest that the average office coffee addicted employee could well get through over 500 cups a year.
Let’s face it, making the change to taking your own cup into your local coffee store is not going to cause anyone sleepless nights. What it could do, if we all take part, is reduce the waste that this industry produces each year.