What Happens To Disposable Coffee Cups After Use?

When most of us go for our caffeine fix at a local coffee shop whether it be at the morning rush or our afternoon pick me up, none of us really think about the cup we are drinking from. Is it compostable, biodegradable etc. In fact, most people do know whether the disposable coffee cup they drank from is recyclable or eco-friendly. This lack of concern and awareness has led to an increasing amount of waste. Reports show that it could take several decades for just the UK’s disposable coffee cup waste to actually degrade and decompose!

Over 50 billion coffee cups are used throughout the world every year and the UK contributes to 2.5 billion of those. Currently less than 1% of these cups are actually being full recycled which just isn’t enough. Considering that almost 50% of aluminium cans are recycled and almost 60% of plastic bottles, our coffee cups are falling drastically short!

The Coffee Cup Problem

The vast majority of coffee cups that are used in the UK can’t actually be recycled which a lot of people don’t realise. Many of us use these coffee cups and we assume that they will be recycled but this unfortunately is not what happens.

Currently, the majority of disposable coffee cups that are used in the UK are made from a chemically treated paper. The chemical that is used is polyethylene which the cups are treated with in order to make them waterproof and be able to withstand the hot liquid. The treatment involves a process whereby the paper and the polyethylene (plastic) makes it very difficult for the cups to be recycled. There are just a few facilities in the UK that can actually separate the paper and the plastic in the cups, thus the vast majority end up in landfill.

Due to this lack of recycling and from the increased demand for coffee cups, the volume of raw materials has increased to now over 100,000 trees per year, just to supply these cups and this volume isn’t sustainable around 99% end up in landfill!

Disposable Coffee Cup Solution

The task is to create a coffee cup that can be fully recycled and composted so that we reduce the waste of cups going to landfill and the amount of trees that need to be grown each year just to sustain the current consumption levels.

The introduction of fully biodegradable coffee cups is proving to be one method that is effective in reducing the amount of coffee cups going to landfill. Biodegradable coffee cups can be broken down quickly on their own into natural materials without being harmful to our environment. Therefore, even if these cups don’t end up being recycled or composted with general food waste then there is at least the assurance that these coffee cups will breakdown quickly when in landfill.

We are beginning to see more and more coffee chains move away from the standard disposable cups to the biodegradable cups. This will make a huge difference to the amount of waste ending up in landfill and put less reliance on growing so many trees.

What You Can Do As A Consumer

For most businesses that use coffee cups, it isn’t likely to be at the top of their priority list that is to use recyclable or biodegradable options. However, we need to move away from using those cups that end up in landfill and don’t decompose quickly.

Opt for a coffee chain that uses recyclable or biodegradable coffee cups or better still one that allows you to use a reusable coffee cup as that is even less waste to build up!

Many of the large coffee chains are backing the use of a reusable coffee cups by offering incentives for consumers. Some are applying a disposable coffee cup fee, however, I don’t think this is the best option, instead switch to recyclable cups – use this as a marketing tool and offer money off for using a reusable cup or give a reusable cup away for free.

Produced by: The Paper Cup Factory – thepapercupfactory.com/

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