Want to enjoy your daily coffee guilt free and without the plastic? Here are the companies coming up with imaginative solutions better for the environment
Do you often feel guilty when drinking your morning coffee in a single-use cup? Almost three billion single-use plastic cups were used in the UK in 2018, up from 2.5 billion in 2016, according to the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group (PCRRG) which represents cup manufacturers.
This increase equates to a rise from approximately 7million to 8.2million paper coffee cups per day in the UK alone. If you buy a single cup of coffee in a disposable cup each day, you generate 23 pounds of non-recyclable, non-degradable waste per year. So if you do the maths, unless you change your habits your caffeine addiction alone will contribute in the next ten years to non-recyclable waste that equates to the weight of a Giant Panda…mind blown.
If you think recyclable cups are the solution, you are wrong! All paper cups currently have a waterproof inner lining to keep liquid from leaking through it which is made out of petroleum which doesn’t break down and isn’t biodegradable (it is plastic). Experts argue that paper cups are technically recyclable, but the process is complicated and costly. In the UK alone there are currently only a small number of specialist plants able to process the disposable used cups, and as a result, the vast majority of them (more than 99.75%) don’t get recycled.
One simple way to reduce your footprint is to buy a reusable coffee mug. However, who you consider the energy it takes to produce a reusable cup, it will take quite a few uses to reach the break-even point at which the reusable cup becomes energy-efficient. A reusable cup would need to be used between 20 and 100 times in order to have lower emissions than a disposable cup, according to Caroline Wood, a PhD researcher in food security at the University of Sheffield. So if you decided to buy one make sure you make daily use of it over a long period of time.
If carrying a reusable cup daily is not your thing, compostable cups are most likely a better choice. However, with compostable cups, proper disposal is crucial as they need very specific conditions to decompose. If thrown in recycling trash they will contaminate the entire batch, which means none of it can be recycled. In order to ensure that your compostable coffee cup reaches one of the UK’s 50 composting facilities you must dispose of it in a segregated food waste collection. This might make your life a little harder so be prepared to make that extra effort for the environment.
Cups made of seaweed
Ayca Dundar, a graduate of the Royal College of Art and the Middle East Technical University founded in 2018, UK-based Solublue that makes a transparent alternative to plastic out of seaweed. Solublue’s product “is biodegradable, it degrades on its own and doesn’t require industrial composting facilities like compostable cups,” says Ayca founder and CEO of Solublue. “Also, our product biodegrades within a couple of weeks, versus the couple of years that it takes for the compostable cups, it biodegrades faster than paper” she adds. Solublue is a relatively new business but their aim is to expand across different products. The transparent look of their product makes it appealing across multiple industries. “We have started with cups but our aim is to replace plastic for all these products we see on super market shelves,” says Francis Field Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Solublue.
Ice-cream cone coffee cup, what is not to love?
How about drinking your coffee from an ice-cream cone? Miroslav Zapryanov and Simeon Gavrailov, the two co-founders of Cupfee came up with the idea while having their morning coffee back in 2003 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city. Whilst the two friends sipped their morning coffee and indulged on a cookie they thought: Would it be possible to have our coffee inside a cookie? This question was the genesis of Cupfee. Despite being in operation for less than 11 months, the company is sending products from Australia to India, Norway, Greece and Qatar. Back in April Qatar’s national air carrier, Etihad Airlines, completed the first long-haul flight while replacing 95 single-use plastic items, one of which was their plastic cups which were replaced with cupfees cones.
What makes cupfee unique? According to Georgi Koupenov Cupfee’s Chief Commercial Officer, “cupfees can stay up to 40 minutes crispy after you have poured your hot drink in” he says. “It is also very tasty like an ice-cream cone and with only 56 kcal per cup, with no GMO or anything artificial,” he adds. Cupfees, that are made out of bran and oat, (with a tiny bit of sugar), “doesn’t change the taste or the aroma of the coffee,” according to Georgi. “ If 1% of all plastic cups is replaced, 2.4 million trees will not have to be cut down and 5 billion litres of water will not be contaminated, this is huge and we need to change our living patterns to help the environment,” he concluded. And if you don’t fancy eating them, cupfees can be thrown into the bin and will then be completely degraded within a few weeks.
Caring is sharing with Cup Club
CupClub is a returnable packaging service designed to hold both hot and cold drinks, using only half the CO2 of disposables and ceramics cups. It works a bit like a electric hire bike and implements similar technology (RFID chips). The business was founded in 2015 by Safia Qureshi, an award-winning Architect, designer & environmentalist, and launched in April 2018 with its first major client Cushman & Wakefield. CupClub, who are are currently working with big corporates such as VISA, John Lewis and Google, will be launching their retail operation service across London in 2020 and for the first time consumers will be able to use their cups. “I am very optimistic as we are currently going through a renaissance period where people have realised there are ways to make changes and there is lots happening across different sectors,” says Safia. “ We have been contacted by a lot of business-founders across different industries asking to come and learn from us the best practices and we are always happy to help,” she adds.
The options are out there and are continually multiplying as new innovations come to the market, which will you pick to help reduce your waste? We should all aim to get our coffee cup waste down from the weight of a Giant Panda to a fluffy kitten in the next decade.
The post was published at standard.co.uk