Why "Paper" Coffee Cups Aren't as Innocent as They Seem
"It's just a paper cup- it's no big deal!" is a phrase everyone has once said or at least thought at some point in their lives. We like to think of paper as a friend, eco-friendly and easily recyclable.
However, what most of us don't realize right away is that disposable paper cups traditionally used to "coffee to-go" are not just made of paper. To keep the cups from leaking and falling apart as they transport your hot beverages, they are coated on the inside with either a waxy or plastic substance, which makes recycling these cups very difficult.
Well how big of a problem is this?
With brands like Tim Hortons, Starbucks, and MacDonalds making coffee to-go an easy convenience, walking into work or school with a cup of hot joe (or tea) in your hand has become part of the identity of Canadians. It has been estimated that Canadians put between 1.6 and 2 BILLION coffee cups in landfills every year.
As mentioned, due to the addition of the waterproofing layer, the breakdown period of the cup (not to even start on the polystyrene lid) is more than just a few months. Now think of how many cups like that you see everyday.
The positive note is that bringing along your own mug or tumbler has never been easier. There are really high quality products that do a better job keeping your hot beverages warm and tasting great, and coffee vendors have started adapting as well. Some cafes (even Starbucks) will give you a discount on your purchase if you provide your own cup or mug!
Though we like to think that business is on our side in this eco-war, we can't expect them to change if we don't show them that it's important to us. Here are some ways that you can minimize your use of disposable cups and encourage the industry to shift their values.
Bring Your Own Cup
This is the basics. By bringing your own cup, you're not just refusing to use a disposable one, and therefore minimizing waste. You are also signaling your values to the employees at the coffee shop, who sometimes are surprised, and other times actually excited to see someone caring this much. During the summer, when your order includes an ice coffee,, bringing your own tumbler and straw is key as well, just remember to tell them when you're ordering that you have your own cup (especially important when going through the Drive-Through).
Make Your Own Coffee
Support fair-trade coffee companies and save some money by brewing your own coffee at home or work. No paper cups, and the quality of your coffee will be likely higher than what you would get at many of the chain coffee joints anyway!
Lead by example and educate others as they ask. When doing a coffee run, ask people if they have cups that they want you to use, and insist on them using yours if others are offering to pick some up for you. Start a campaign at work, gift them to family and friends, or join a challenge like our #reusabletastesbetter week. When you share about it with others on social media and when interacting with them, it creates awareness and might spark something in someone you know.
So next time you are tempted to try your chances with Roll up the Rim, remember that the planet loses every time you play. A true win is stepping up to the counter with your Corkcicle tumbler or KeepCup and asking that your double double be poured in it.