Tuesday 19 July 2016

The impact of disposable coffee cups

Since I work from home I don't use disposable cups on a daily basis. Today though heralds the end of the school term for my children which means six weeks of regular trips out. We're quite good at planning our food and drink to cut down on costs both financially and environmentally. You can't plan for everything and sometimes you need to grab a drink in a takeaway cup. Whilst I always make sure I dispose of them cups carefully it still bothers me that something goes through such a long manufacturing process only to used for such a short period of time before being sent to landfill. If you use a lot of disposable cups have a look at today's guest post.

“As a society, we're becoming increasingly conscious of the environment. We make greener choices on a daily basis, like switching off lights and recycling, but how much impact does our daily takeaway coffees have? Here, we look at how disposable cups have impacted the environment and what the future holds.

Recycling disposable coffee cups

Walk down any British high street and you'll see a plethora of people brandishing disposable coffee cups. However, did you know that only one in 1,000 takeaway coffee cups get recycled in the UK? While you may think that this is down to a lax attitude to recycling, it's actually a result of a general inability to recycle them.

A paper cup is made up of paper, which is coated in plastic to strengthen it and make it fit for purpose. This makes recycling difficult, as the plastic has to be separated from the paper before it can be re-purposed. There are just two recycling plants in the UK that can do this. These are located in West Yorkshire and Cumbria so, depending on where you live, your paper cups may not be being recycled and could have made their way to landfill sites.

So what are the other options? If you are popping to your local café, why not take your own travel mug? Instead of throwing them out after use, you can simply wash and reuse them. However, this option isn't for everyone.

Rather, look for outlets that serve their produce in biodegradable cups. This type of disposable cup is much kinder to the environment, as they are designed to be broken down naturally when they reach the landfill. Some options are better than others. Take biodegradable tableware for example. They are made from bagasse, which is considered a waste product in itself, making them an even greener option.

The future

While it's impossible to know what the future holds, recent developments could be a sign of things to come. As a nation of coffee lovers, it's likely that additional specialist recycling plants will open across the UK, especially when you consider the government's recycling targets.

Likewise, with the pressure on businesses to deliver strong corporate social responsibility policies, we can expect to see a shift in the types of disposable cups available in food outlets, as we move closer to green ways of living and working.”

Do you use disposable coffee cups? Have you ever thought of their environmental impact? 


  1. I do use disposable cups when out and about but more regularly I make my coffee at home and drink from a mug or take it with me in a flask. It's true, we do need to be aware of what we throw away, and use recycle bins where provided.

  2. I try not to for the reasons you have explained - but it can be difficult. It's hard to remember to bring your own cup - sort of like bags for the super market (which I do now!)

  3. I don't drink tea or coffee so thankfully don't have to take a travel mug with me.....but I would consider that if I could. Maybe they could do a reduced price for people who take their own mugs as an incentive to help reduce the waste.

  4. I don't ever buy take out tea or coffee so it's doesn't really affect me. But we do try & recycle a lot and use things like bamboo cups and table wear when out.

  5. This is why I have bio degradable products for my coffee and my girls bottles! It's better for the planet!

  6. I don't drink from disposable cups, I'm never in the position to for some reason. I guess I just never buy take away drinks.

  7. We very rarely buy takeaway drinks. In fact it is only when we are at service stations!

  8. It would be a great incentive if you got money off if you have your own cup - you do at the office where I work x

  9. I think companies are getting more wise to the environmental impact - I know my old firm switched to paper

  10. I do try and be careful and like others have mentioned I'm often seen with my porcelain mug in the car. Hopefully more companies will start to change with pressure from customers


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