As coffee drinkers/suppliers we have an environmental responsibility to do what we can to look after the beautiful world we have been blessed with. The environment is becoming more and more in need of some TLC. Something we can all do to make a big a difference is to change our coffee habits.
The UK coffee market is booming, with 3bn cups sold a year, 2.5bn of which are estimated to be in a disposable cup. This is a huge 7m cups disposed of daily, with only 1 in 400 being recycled. Due to the success of the plastic bag charge recently rolled out across the UK, there is now an increased public expectation for waste reduction. These shocking stats could push us to having to pay extra for the convenience of a disposal cup too.
We bulldoze over 350,000 trees for the paper used for coffee cups in the UK alone. With the rate that we are drinking coffee, we may be drinking faster than the trees can regrow! Also, what is often overlooked is the production of the plastic lids.
Recycling, not as effective as you thought!
Although coffee companies boast of having cups made of fully recyclable materials, once the cup has been used they are usually deemed as a contaminant. There seems to be gap in communication between the coffee industry and the waste industry.
The waste company Biffa have advised they do not include coffee cups in their dry mixed recycling as the paper mills “do not like coffee cups as it contaminates good recovered fibre”. A recycled cup’s journey from the recycling bin is not what you might expect. It is likely to be picked out of the stream of plastic, paper and glass as a contaminant and sent to a landfill or exported. If it does happen to make it through the recycling plant and arrives at the mill, it will be singled out there and removed.
There are alternative options, such as biodegradable coffee cups, which if widely used would open more opportunities with waste management.
What can we do?
There are a range of things we can all do, whether you run a coffee shop, offer coffee to guests or are a drinker yourself.
- Get yourself a reusable cup – at your desk, on the go, in the car.
- Sit in and have your coffee – use the time to have a break to enjoy your coffee.
- Office coffee machine – you don’t even need to buy a fancy new reusable cup, just use a mug!
- Disposable cup really needed? – be responsible and recycle it.
- Offer reusable cups at the counter – sell these to your customers.
- Recyclable cups – research and source cups that can be more widely recycled.
- Discount use of reusable cups – some coffee shops offer this already. Shop saves on cups, customers save a few pennies, plus it helps the environment - everyone wins!