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The Problem With Plastic Cups

disposable coffee cups

The Problem With Disposable Coffee Cups

500 billion disposable cups, including disposable coffee cups are consumed every year worldwide... our seas are drowning in plastic, and our landfills are choked with unnecessary non-compostable waste. It's not a good situation. Around the world governments, agencies, businesses and the general public are taking action to curtail plastic waste, and to clean up our world.

In the UK, the government announced in 2017 new plans for a plastic tax, which if enacted, could totally change the catering supplies sector for us all. Especially in terms of disposable coffee cups. The introduction of a 5p charge on single-use plastic carrier bags, was attributed as being the cause of an 85% drop in the use of plastic bags, and has prompted calls from some areas to bring in charges on various other items - including disposable coffee cups.

Disposable cup products are driven by the demand for fresh drinks, both hot and cold in the takeaway market which is increasing steadily year on year. By 2030, it is estimated that 6.3 million tons of plastic waste in the UK will have a significant portion of it contributed by plastic food packaging waste - including plastic cups.

For example, NHS trusts in England have purchased around 600 million disposable cups since 2013 – which is a rough equivalent of more than 300,000 disposable cups per day.

For those of you thinking that Styrofoam cups are a great alternative - think again. Styrofoam is notoriously uneconomical to recycle, and difficult to process without real innovation in the technologies required. Because of the light, but high volume nature of Styrofoam, the way that Styrofoam waste is reported is often skewed (they favour weight measurements), so getting accurate figures on the waste output of this 'plastic cup' choice is difficult. Once in landfill, this type of plastic is here for around 500 years, toxic when burnt, and often blows away before being buried.

"99.75% of disposable coffee cups are NOT recycled."

In the link above, the BBC states that recycling of your disposable coffee cups is difficult - and this is true. Because most non-plastic disposable coffee cups have a special plasticised lining that makes them able to hold liquids for a long period of time - which needs to be separated from the paper section in order for it to be recycled.

This means that recycling disposable cups is a nightmare to achieve, and ensures that it generally doesn't happen.

What do disposable cups mean to your customers?

An article in the The Guardian from 2016 gave some insight into customers reactions to using disposable cups. On being charged extra for disposable cups:

  • "...what it might make me do is remember to bring my own refillable cup more often."
  • β€œIt would probably push me to finally get a reusable cup as I do try to be environmentally aware.”
  • "The ideal situation would be to find a cup that is recyclable or carry a reusable one.”

The third example given there is truly indicative of the issue - plastic is the problem. Cut out the plastic from your disposable coffee cup, and you have a sustainable and profitable solution. But biodegradable 100% recyclable disposable cups don't exist do they? Think again.

disposable coffee cups

Take a look at the range of 100% recyclable disposable cups we have on offer in our online shop, and give your customers what they REALLY want...


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