In the news this week, it has been proposed by MPs that a 25p "latte levy" should be applied on single-use coffee cups in a bid to combat waste. They're further proposing a complete ban on the cups by 2023 unless recycling improves.
Having read about this on the BBC and The Guardian, I found some of the figures involved staggering: 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away in the UK each year. Less than 1 in 400 are recycled and it is reported that half a million per day (per DAY!) are littered. I'm amazed our city centres aren't all knee-deep in paper cups already.
Photo by Tim Wright on Unsplash
Clearly this situation is not sustainable, in any sense of the word. Rather predictably, the government's solution is taxation. The proposal is that the revenue is spent on improving recycling infrastructure, however, which does sound like a good shout. I was interested to learn that it is possible to recycle the paper cups as they stand, but it is tricky to separate the plastic film that lines the cups. Reportedly, only 3 recycling plants in the UK have the facility to do so, meaning the number of cups actually being recycled, even if they're 'put into the recycling' is very low compared to overall consumption.
Photo by Ross Varrette on Unsplash
I like to think of myself as an ecologically-minded consumer, and yet I must admit to something of a blind spot when it comes to disposable coffee cups. Obviously I'm no litter bug, but I probably wouldn't think twice about dropping my cup in a standard rubbish bin on my way to the office, rather than recycling it. I'd say coffee cups are almost unique in this way, for me... I'd never throw something in the general waste that I thought could be recycled in any other instance. Now that I've started to reflect upon it whilst writing this blog post, I feel a bit sick thinking about how many Caffe Nero cups marked with my lipstick have found their way into landfill (or one of those awful floating trash islands) over the years.
Image from inkycollective.com (with thanks)
Still, no point getting down in the dumps about it, the best time to have planted a tree is 20 years ago, the 2nd best time is today, so I don't plan to be a part of the problem any more.
The most obvious solution to me is reusable coffee cups. Yes, I do have a vested interest in saying this, as we sell a range of reusable cups by KeepCup (and ain't they handsome?). However, I also have a vested interest in this planet and I think we all ought to be trying a little harder to leave it in good nic for the next guys when our tenancy is up.
Supplying your own reusable cup is already incentivised by many of high street coffee houses with discounts of as much as 50p off your drink if you bring your own cup:
Reportedly current uptake on this is as low as 1-2%, which is massively disappointing when you stop to think about it. There's no way that 98% of the hot beverage consuming public don't care about environmental issues, or couldn't do with saving a few quid each month, so I'm putting this down to the blind spot I previously mentioned. Also, I think bringing along your own cup might actually seem more of a pain than it actually is.
Our supercool monochrome KeepCups are only £11 for the medium size (12oz/340ml) so if Pret a Manger is your caffeine hut of choice, it would only take you a month of morning commutes to pay yourself back for the purchase. Bit of a no brainer huh?
Aha, but how about the environmental impact of washing your plastic cup, is it actually greener? Well yes it is. According to this handy infographic from KeepCup, 15 uses is the 'breakeven' point on this, so as they put it "If you use a KeepCup instead of disposable cups, after your 15th coffee, you're helping save the planet".
KeepCups also come with a nifty little closure device on the lid so whether you're running for the train or getting jostled on the bus, you won't get covered in scalding liquid. Handily, this also means you can chuck your used cup in your bag without worrying about pouring away the dregs of your drink. You can pop it in the dishwasher when you get home, so you don't even need to brave the communal kitchen if you don't want to.
We need a widespread change of habits to normalise the adoption of reusable cups and I'm sure in a few years time, it will seem weird that disposable cups were the norm. Just like plastic bags now seem a bit passé. I will say on that note that here the 5p levy does seem to have done its job. I think most ethically-minded people (and everyone who worked in the book industry) were already rocking a tote bag by the early 2000s, but the recent taxation did give everyone else the push required.
If you need a smidge more of a push on reusable coffee cups, you can get £2 off any of our KeepCup range using the code: REUSE-REVOLUTION
Simply enter at the checkout, valid until February 28th 2018.