Disposable coffee cups have been piling up in landfills for some time now as caffeine consumption in Australia rises. Environmentalists have warned us about the potential for these convenient cups becoming a massive pollution hazard… I know what your thinking – ‘they’re paper cups right?‘ … wrong. To hold liquid, these cups contain a polyethylene plastic lining that doesn’t degrade. When you throw away your disposable coffee cup, the paper degrades and the plastic remains for hundreds of years.
Throwing disposable coffee cups into the recycling bin is an absolute nightmare for material recovery facilities. The plastic lining will still contaminate other materials in the recycling process, and there just aren’t enough cups that are 100% recyclable to make it worthwhile. the whole load will go to the landfill… When coffee cups end up in the landfill, they release methane gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas containing over 20 times the global warming potential compared to carbon dioxide.
What About Recyclable Cups?
Fully recyclable cups are available, but these products are too expensive for cafes to forfeit using the cheaper alternative. There are some manufacturers who make cups with the same wax-coated paper as milk cartons (LPB) which technically makes them recyclable… but again, it depends on what area you live in. Some states are refusing to accept ‘recyclable coffee cups’ into their facilities and chuck them in the landfill instead.
The new container deposit scheme (CDS) in Queensland offers a small refund on the milk cartons, but will not accept disposable coffee cups. People are arguing that this refund scheme should apply to other items made from the same materials as it would give an incentive to recycle properly.
But the number of coffee cups lined with LPB compared to the typical polyethylene coating is too low. The vast majority of manufacturers supplying these disposable coffee cups are using plastic coatings. If the CDS accepts coffee cups, otherwise reusable materials could be contaminated and sent to landfill.
There are so many ways to help cut down on waste!
Once you look past the ‘inconvenience’ and realise the difference we can make for the planet it becomes very easy…and it will eventually become a habit. I have been getting into upcycling lately and I am loving it! You can do so much with so little and the feeling you get when you turn what you once thought was rubbish into something beautiful is amazing.
Check out my post on upcycling COMING SOON!
You could buy a glass, ceramic or bamboo mug and take it with you to your favourite cafe. I do this all the time and they have no issue with it whatsoever, plus the cups last a lifetime. You could even stop buying coffee while your out and about and make your own. It would save you so much money and using a travel mug eliminates the problem altogether.
If you aren’t willing to change your routines and don’t really feel like trying to upcycle, then please just remember not to throw your disposable coffee cups (or the lids) into the recycling bin. A lot of people think that the lids are recyclable but they are made of polystyrene which is a non-recyclable material.
Check out my post on ‘what you can and can’t recycle on the Gold Coast’ COMING SOON