If you're an avid coffee drinker, the chances are that you need your morning boost daily. Our coffee fix often entails taking a trip to the coffee shop. Unfortunately, single-use coffee cups are no fix for the environment.
Paper cups for a hot drink or plastic for an iced beverage cause unnecessary waste that impacts the environment. The switch to a reusable coffee cup or travel mug allows you to enjoy your drink while being environmentally conscious. This article examines various areas that point to the need to switch to reusable alternatives.
Related: Check out our guide to zero waste coffee brewing to ensure your fix is also made with the environment in mind. If you're the tea type, many of our choices will apply, and you can check out our guide to reusable tea bags perfect for brewing zero waste with tea leaves.
Globally, the world uses around 250-300 billion single-use and disposable coffee cups yearly4; out of all of these, billions also end up as trash and waste. Disposed coffee cups cause environmental pollution when they end up in landfills.
In the US alone, the population discards 50 billion paper cups yearly1. The UK throws away around 2.5 billion coffee cups every year3. Of these billions of cups, only 0.25% are recycled in the UK.
Although many people view these cups as purely of paper construction, they often come with plastic coatings. This lining with polyethylene helps to provide a moisture barrier in the cup. The goal is to prevent soaking by making the cup waterproof.
Due to the presence of plastics, these paper or carton cups become a more significant recycling challenge, and billions of these coffee cups end up in landfills. Furthermore, sometimes coffee shops are not completely transparent with customers about the materials they use to make these cups. This can confuse customers when disposing of their coffee cups in recycling bins.
Another barrier to recycling is that our dark coffee beverages stain coffee cups. To reduce the environmental effects of disposables, you can invest in reusable coffee cups. These prevent waste and pollution. Many reusable cups and coffee mugs also have insulation features. Therefore, you can keep your drinks hot or cold, depending on how you have your beverage.
The beginning stage of producing to-go coffee cups is acquiring raw materials from trees. It involves a range of resource-intensive processes that result in cutting down trees. Our disposable coffee cups require the felling of millions of trees globally every year.
Of course, deforestation results when we fell trees from unsustainable forests. Deforestation contributes to the climate crisis simply as we have fewer of nature's fantastic carbon-capturing beautiful trees.
As we run through various activities contributing to the production of single-use coffee cups, you'll begin to see why a travel mug or reusable coffee cup should always be on standby. You'll be protecting natural resources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and contributing to saving energy.
After cutting trees down for use, workers transport them to a debarking facility and then usually to another facility to acquire tree chips. They use a range of chemicals to convert these chips to pulp. In the manufacturing facilities for the coffee cups, they incorporate plastic linings to make the coffee cups moisture-absorbent.
The various processes are not only resource-intensive but also energy-intensive. As a result, the energy brands require to produce billions of coffee cups yearly leads to greenhouse gas emissions. This causes global warming and contributes to the climate crisis. The world will notice a difference through collective action that involves saying 'no' to single-use and 'yes' to reusable coffee mugs and cups.
After the intensive production of coffee cups, the environmental impact continues with the use and disposal. As much as some brands tag their products as recyclable, the process of recycling paper coffee cups can be tasking. Due to the plastic components, it is risky to assume you can recycle all coffee cup products with other papers. Since only a tiny amount of coffee cups are recycled, the rest, in billions, end up as refuse.
You might think it's just one cup per day or week on your path to the office. However, when you consider global use, the impact becomes undeniable. Over the years, people have also become aware of the health implications connected to using plastics for hot drinks. When the plastic contains the BPA compound, for instance, it can prove toxic. When you switch to a reusable coffee cup, you'll also protect your health.
Apart from the cup itself, the lid also creates a recycling and environmental challenge. As much as those plastic lids prevent your coffee from spilling, their plastic construction is no friend of the environment. Many single-use cups and lids are made from petroleum-based plastic. When you use a reusable coffee cup and eco-friendly lid, you're significantly curbing the adverse effects on the environment.
Also, reusable coffee cups come in various colors, sizes, and materials that you can choose from. Whether for hot coffee or iced coffee, reusable coffee cups provide the feature of keeping your drinks hot or cold. Afraid of spills? Many of them also come with a locking feature. So, you can enjoy your morning coffee while being eco-conscious. You can also have an on-the-go travel tumbler or mug when you're traveling. It's time to ditch paper and plastic and embrace eco-friendly alternatives.
In a bid to curb the effects of the single-use coffee cup, businesses are creating compostable cup alternatives to paper or plastic options. The increasing concern for the environment is now making customers and consumers hold companies accountable. And the coffee industry is no exception.
Rather than offering the regular disposable coffee mug, we can notice a gradual growth in compostable cups. Manufacturers produce these to curb carbon emissions and return nutrients to the soil at the end of their lifecycle. Unlike the conventional coffee mug, they contain compostable linings, such as the one Starbucks started testing. This way, they don't contribute to environmental pollution.
Retail chains and coffee shops like Dunkin' and Starbucks offer bring-your-own cups or mug programs. In turn, these changes encourage using your own reusable coffee mug instead of single-use options. Some of these coffee shops even reward you with a discount when you bring your own cup.
Considering the global spread of such food giants, this step significantly reduces the negative impacts of single-use containers. You can refill your reusable cup or travel tumbler with your favorite drinks through their programs. This prevents using one paper cup after another.
So, next time you're leaving the house either for work or your morning walk, remember to take your go-to reusable coffee cup along. If you drive to grab your morning drink, a tip is always to leave a reusable cup in the car. This way, you don't forget to take it from the house.
A reusable coffee mug or travel mug provides insulation to keep your drink hot, so you no longer have to worry about your cup of coffee getting cold while you're on the go. With the insulation properties, the cup can preserve the temperature of your drink.
We've highlighted how much of a negative environmental impact you'll be making by choosing a single-use coffee cup—all around the globe, billions of these end up in landfills or the natural environment. As a result, this contributes to land pollution, which is one of the significant global challenges. By consciously switching to reusable coffee cups, you'll be taking a stance to curb the negative environmental impact.
One of the major crises the world is currently facing is deforestation. The production process of single-use containers is resource-intensive. From the felling of trees to the energy-intensive manufacturing process, there's no denying the environmental impact. One of the major crises the world is currently facing is deforestation.
Because a paper cup's life begins from a tree, it plays a role in deforestation. This is because not all manufacturers acquire their raw goods from sustainably managed forests. Carrying reusable coffee cups can help to mitigate this problem.
Studies have revealed that plastics can release toxic elements when in contact with hot liquids2. Although it may not happen immediately, frequently using plastics for hot liquid can lead to potential health risks. Sometimes you can even taste the plastics in your drink. Switching to a safe, reusable coffee mug option prevents the possibility of contamination of your hot drink.
When you own your reusable coffee mug, you save the trees, the environment, and some money. Several coffee shops offer discounts to customers who bring in their own reusable containers. Owning a go-to reusable cup can also encourage you to make your coffee some days. This is another way it helps you save some money. This way, the environment is happy, and so is your pocket.
If you're looking for something stylish, you'll enjoy the categories of reusable coffee cups available. From coffee mugs to tumblers and various cup options, there are many favorites to add to your own things. Reusable options are abundant if you need a go-to morning cup or something more appropriate for travel. Brands offer various designs, colors, shapes, and sizes.
If you're the sort of person who's always on the go, then you should add a reusable coffee cup to the list of things you need. This will benefit you significantly. Whether it's a stainless steel cup or a ceramic one, most brands add silicone sleeves to enable effective grip. They also include a no-leak lid. Manufacturers design the lids on each cup to prevent spills. The sleeves protect your hand, especially from the heat of hot drinks. Carry a reusable coffee cup for no more burnt fingers or accidental spills.
When it comes to choosing a reusable mug for your coffee, you have a wide array of options to choose from. Whether it's a cup, mug, or travel tumbler you need, there's something available for you.
By choosing an eco-friendly product, you'll not only be saving the planet but also saving your money. The damage caused by an accumulation of disposable cups is alarming.
If you're wondering what material options are available in search of the best travel mug or reusable coffee cup, this section of the article highlights some prominent ones. These include bamboo, glass, stainless steel, and ceramic. You can also access links to some items that'll support your switch from disposable to reusable coffee cups.
There is a range of reusable coffee cup products made from bamboo fibers. Natural bamboo is a sustainable crop that also helps to curb pollution.
This reusable coffee cup is made from natural bamboo fiber. The design features a silicone sleeve and a silicone no-leak lid, ensuring that your drink doesn't spill from the lid. They designed this cup for hot beverages such as coffee and tea. It is BPA-free, meaning you don't get the plastic after-taste some products have. Too tired to hand-wash? This cup is also dishwasher safe.
Stainless steel is one of the most popular options for reusable coffee cups and travel mugs. The stainless steel interior preserves the temperature of your coffee or drink through its insulation properties.
Featuring a stainless steel double-wall vacuum insulation, this travel mug helps to knock out the need for a disposable cup. This stainless steel travel mug has an in-built lid lock feature. It is dishwasher safe and BPA-free. It's ideal for when you're on the go.
Hydro Flask serves up these colorful and functional reusable coffee cups. Pro-grade double-wall aluminum inners ensure hot drinks all day long, while the leakproof lid helps avoid spills.
Described as the minimalist's dream, this super sleek moonstone tumbler is perfect for hot and cold drinks. And from certified B Corp, you know they have everything in check for quality products made with the environment and sustainability in mind.
Although ceramic mugs tend to break easily, many brands tend to wrap the mug or cup in silicone for effective grip. Unlike plastic coatings, ceramic won't affect the flavor of your drink.
This reusable coffee cup comes with triple-walled thermal insulation. According to the brand, this ensures that your drinks stay hot or cold for up to 12 hours. It features BPA-free materials, including a stainless steel exterior design.
You can use your glass reusable coffee cup over and over again. Due to the breakable nature of glass, many manufacturers design a sleeve on the exterior to make it slip-free and break-resistant.
From a certified B Corp, this durable glass cup is ideal for the coffee lover. This single-use design features a cork band around the glass for easy grip. The brand also designed the lid to be splash-proof. The cup is BPA and BPS-free.
Apart from carrying your own cup or mug to the coffee shop, there are other ways you can help curb waste.
Education is one of the necessary drivers for change. Through collective action, we can make a significant difference on the planet.
While you're going through the process of transitioning from disposables, why not carry family and friends along? This is a simple way to involve more individuals in restoring and protecting the planet.
Over the years, fast foods, restaurants, and businesses have adopted a ban on single-use plastics. Some cities like New York and Seattle have also passed legislation due to the growing climate crisis. You're making a difference by advocating for sustainable and reusable products and against unsustainable items.
Besides the cup itself, unnecessary straws and cup lids also contribute to pollution; instead of accepting straws or lids made from plastics, own eco-friendly reusable straws.
If manufacturers continue extracting and processing paper and plastics at the current rate, it will only cause further damage. Apart from the role of big companies, we should also make a conscious effort to carry reusable coffee cups.
Whether it's for tea, coffee, or another drink, it all serves the same purpose. Through conscious collective efforts, change is sure to come.
Woods, L., & Bakshi, B. R. (2014). Reusable vs. disposable cups revisited: Guidance in life cycle comparisons addressing scenario, model, and parameter uncertainties for the US consumer. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 19(4), 931-940. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-013-0697-7
University of Cincinnati. (2008, February 4). Plastic Bottles Release Potentially Harmful Chemicals (Bisphenol A) After Contact With Hot Liquids. ScienceDaily
The House of Commons. Environmental Audit Committee. (2018). Disposable Packaging: Coffee Cups. Second Report of Session 2017–19, Report, Together with Formal Minutes Relating to the Report
Vignieri, S. (2020). Legacy of the disposable cup. Science, 368(6489), 382-383
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.