Posted in Kafevend Blog

Clash against coffee cups

We do like to delve into a bit of history here on the Kafevend blog, but we do have our eye on the present as well. Something that has come to the public's attention over the past few days is the tricky subject of the coffee cup- specifically, the paper ones you get at the big coffee chains. For a while now many of us have been under the assumption that they are recyclable, and treating them as such, put them in the recycling bins like responsible citizens. Unfortunately, that isn't quite the case...

Paper and plastic

As you might have guessed, introducing liquid to paper results in a soggy mess. The reason your coffee cup doesn't dissolve within seconds is because the paper cup is coated with a layer of plastic to make it waterproof. Unfortunately, the way this is done makes it very hard to separate the two at the other end of the process- whilst technically possible, there really isn't the infrastructure in place in the UK to deal with them. In fact, just one site in the UK is capable of breaking them up properly. This means that of the 2.5 billion coffee cups we go through in this country every year, not even one percent end up being recycled. To add insult to injury, the paper used in the cups has to be new material, not recycled material!

As part of his wider ranging #Wastenot campaign, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recently tackled the issue of coffee cups and recycling in his latest programme which aired at the end of last week. Along with presenting the problem- as we've reiterated for you above- he also looked at how some people are trying to overcome it, including a visit to some folks working on a new coffee cup design. The idea is simple: have the plastic as an insert for the paper cup- like a bag in a bin. By rolling the top edge over it keeps it secure, and then the two parts separate easily. It remains to be seen if it will be taken up by coffee chains, but we can only hope Hugh and the public's nudging gets them going in that direction!

Reuse and relax

In the meantime, there are ways you can remedy the situation by yourself. First up is an easy one- buy yourself a reusable coffee cup. There are loads of different designs, with flasks, facsimiles and collapsible cups to name a few, and that's not including the dizzying range of colours, patterns and pictures you can have emblazoned on them. Although it requires a little bit of an outlay, you may well recoup the cost after a while- Starbucks charge 25p less if you bring your own cup.

Of course, another way to avoid these coffee cups is by going and sitting down in a café for your coffee. Sure, you won't be able to chug your frappy lappy chocha mocha on the go, but taking some time out is always a good thing to do, and what better way is there to do that than by sitting down and enjoying a cup of coffee from a real blooming cup!


River Cottage

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