The Truth About Your Coffee Cup

Coffee on the run has seem to become the social norm in the last few years with some cafes and even coffee houses catering only to takeaway customers. We know there is a direct effect on the environment from the increase in waste but did you know there is a direct effect on your health?

The Facts

As many as 4 billion coffee cups are used each year in the Netherlands generating over 280,000kgs of waste and the sad truth is, despite what people think, they aren’t recyclable (1).

Coffee cups are lined with a film of polyethylene (the same stuff used to make plastic bags and plastic water bottles). This plastic lining prevents the coffee leaking through the paper cup. It’s this lining that deems them unfit for the recycling process. To top it off, this polyethylene releases methane gas when sent to landfill, a greenhouse gas 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide (1).

But what about the biodegradable or compostable ones?

Whilst it’s a step in the right direction, these cups require commercial composting systems to break them down.
The term ‘biodegradable’ coffee cup is also misleading, as the theory behind this process is yet to be scientifically proven (3).

But I only have one per day?

Just 1 cup of take-away coffee per day = 365 cups per year. If you’re a fan of the long black, that’s 730 coffee cups per year as they give you two for “insulation”. YIKES.

I’ll admit that when I sat down and did the math, I was completely taken aback. Was it really worth creating all this environmental damage for a very short, insignificant 10 minutes (the amount of time it takes to drink a coffee)?

What is the effect on your health?

We want to avoid using plastic all together but the big no no is using plastic when it’s heated, think of that water bottle left in the sun when exercising, putting hot leftovers into a plastic contained and you guessed it… pouring a steaming hot coffee into a coffee cup lined with plastic (4).

What can you do?

SLOW DOWN – One of the problems with the modern world (and our digestion) is that we don’t focus on the food when we consume it. As a result, our body CANNOT prepare digestion accordingly, the mind continues racing and we only put MORE stress on our system with food or drink coming in and our digestion being caught off guard. The solution? Take 10 minutes of your day and grant yourself permission to sit down at your local café, sip your coffee in a coffee mug, and watch the world go by. Now, before you tell me you don’t have time, start small, do this 2 times a week (that’s 2 x 52) saving 110 coffee cups (or 220 coffee cups for long black drinkers) per year – sounds worth it right.

BUY A RE-USABLE CUP – These are an incredible way to reduce your impact on the environment and avoid the plastic nasties.

Some of the ones we recommend are:

Neon Kactus

Kinto

Keep Cup

For the tea drinkers:

Solecup

 

References

1.University of Queensland, ‘Coffee Cups’. Available here.https://sustainability.uq.edu.au/

2.Musgrave, D & Winder, C 2013, ‘Should We Avoid Eating Hot Food from Plastic Bowls and Dishes’, ABC Health & Wellbeing. Available here.

3.Whyte, S 2015, ‘Takeaway coffee cups piling up in landfill as Australia’s caffeine habit soars’, ABC. Available here

4. Hananeh WM, Al Rukibat R, Jaradat S, Borhan Al-Zghoul M. Exposure assessment of bisphenol A by drinking coffee from plastic cups. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2021;72(1):49-53. doi: 10.32394/rpzh.2021.0146. PMID: 33882786. Available here.