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Disposable coffee cups and the environment

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Whether yours is a take out skinny on the way from the station to the office, an instant thrown down from the machine at work or an indulgent caramel macchiato with extra cream, chances are you're joining the 85% of Australian adults who drink at least one cup of coffee a day.

In line with the disposable age we live in much of this consumption happens on the run with paper cups (and their close relatives trees ) major casualties.  We are a throw away nation too busy to sit down for two minutes to reload our over-taxed adrenals with yet more caffeine and whilst I'm not so worried about coffee related health problems; I am deeply concerned about our consumption of paper cups.

We've embraced the reusable green bag as a supermarket main-stay they are almost trendy - why are we still OK with disposable cups as the norm?

Fully grown adults in business suits walking down the street sucking from a plastic lipped cup like a baby sucking from a bottle somehow jars the edge of sophistication that comes with 'cafe culture'.  The lid of course does stop spills, making life easier, and that's what this disposable industry is all about; convenience and ease of use.  Coffee too hot to handle?  No problem just put your paper cup inside another one for insulation.  More than one coffee to carry?  Help yourself to a paper tray more trees, more waste.

A disposable coffee cup

The news isnt all bad, Starbucks recently introduced a disposable cup...

The news isnt all bad, Starbucks recently introduced a disposable cup containing 10% post consumer recycled content, the coffee giant also pioneered the corrugated paper sleeve to serve as an insulating layer instead of the second cup.  The independent, non-profit Environmental Defense Fund team who analyzed this project concluded that the sleeve, made from 60% post consumer recycled fiber and 45% lighter than the second cup, was the best environmental alternative out there to double-cupping.

I have become too embarrassed to go to Starbucks.  By the time I've taken my own flask, asked for fair-trade and soy and listened to my husband bleating on about the fact that in his opinion I'm supporting a large multi-national American corporation with questionable ethics and an appalling human rights record I just feel like such a pompous, self righteous impostor that it's not worth it.

But what's caffeine fuelled eco-girl on the run to do?  Clearly a de-tox headache to save a paper cup is not an option but a reusable cup could be, and this is my solution of choice.  You will have to remember to rinse it out between caffeine top ups but at least you'll be able to enjoy your coffee safe in the knowledge you've only ripped off a small Bolivian family (unless you choose fair trade) and not contributed to killing a tree.  And some outlets will even give you a gesture discount for bringing your own cup.

If like me presenting your plastic thermos is slightly humiliating (feel like the kid with the Tupperware sandwich box at school when everyone else eats in the canteen?) the coffee junkies at New York based www.wearehappytoserveyou.com make a ceramic cup which they promise 'looks like a typical paper cup for coffee, but is actually made of ceramic'.  Reusable, ironically disguised as disposable, and yours for only $12.

By: Katie Manitsas


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Devil's Advocate

Devil's Advocate

Boblet , what was I thinking? You are quite right and I do need to get a sense of priorities. I would pop out to the pub to think about it but they burned it down last night.
Devil's Advocate
9th Aug 11 02:08

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Boblet

Boblet

I do not agree with you D.A. A few Gripers have not settled the important decision of whether to ponce about in a tie or not. & Please don’t forget the cufflink problem. Get your priorities right.
Boblet
9th Aug 11 02:08

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Devil's Advocate

Devil's Advocate

London is in the grip of an orgy of arson, mugging, looting and rioting and people are here are talking about disposable coffee cups?

Let's talk about something interesting for once!
Devil's Advocate
9th Aug 11 01:08

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13
grumpyoldwoman

grumpyoldwoman

"Very good post, I was really searching for this topic, as I wanted this topic to understand completely and it is also very rare in internet, that is why it was very difficult to understand."

Well, at least these cr&ppy adverts are funny sometimes! It gave me a laugh anyway.
grumpyoldwoman
9th Aug 11 07:08

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Kit

Kit

Leaving aside environmental considerations for the moment, no one who likes good coffee should ever drink it from a polystyrene cup. It smells awful and tastes tastes even worse.
Kit
3rd Dec 10 06:12

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-6
Shirleygirl

Shirleygirl

Dunkin Donuts uses styroafoam coffee cups. They brag about the 2 million customers they serve each year. I live at the beach and found a cup in the sand.Where are the 2 milllion cups going? We need to use them as an example.I have a coffee shop. There are many choices for hot hold items. Some are designed for recycling. A corporaton this size could design there own.
Shirleygirl
3rd Dec 10 05:12

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I don't use many disposable containers, because restaurant hygiene is suspect. (btw, coffee tastes terrible.)
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15th Nov 10 05:11

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mardi gras the candyman can

mardi gras the candyman can

disposable coffee cups are just another example of our throw away society that we seem to live in noadays. why can't people just refill their mug at a coffee dispensor. it is such a shame that companies feel the need to be wastefull just to keep their customers happy.
mardi gras the candyman can
21st Oct 10 09:10

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-17
artuk

artuk

As someone who runs a cafe and sells a few takeaways I use paper cups but refuse to offer the trays that allow a person to carry several cups, I re-use cardboard boxes. Why anyone is prepared to pay the ridiculous prices for coffee from the likes of Starbucks is beyond me, I sell a good quality ground Java for £1-20 (takeaway) and still make more than £1 profit, I wish I could get Starbuck prices so I could retire in 12 months.
artuk
10th Sep 10 01:09

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the green frog

the green frog

I was Googling for degradable paper cups for selling soup at a stall for Friends of Samaritans in our small town of Llantwit Major in Wales. You've made me think we should forget soup, and sell pakoras instead!
I also take my own cup when I'm out, in case I want to buy coffee or tea, but we can make much nicer coffee at home than most places sell here, and we prefer our beverages in comfort (definately not in starbucks!)
the green frog
23rd Nov 07 05:11

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Kleine grüne Riese

Kleine grüne Riese

Little Green Men, our modern day bushmen, are they New Ageists or are they simply just into the prevention of Old Age? Vegetarian sheep lovers, they are the New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans with spastic bladders. Nowadays around here, you simply can't swing a dead cat without hitting a tree-hugger. Following introduction of a full tax on domestic PCs as well as upping the TV licence the government has promised that it will be spending the extra funds gained on asteroid collision avoidance courses. Are we all nothing but an endangered species spud bashing on an organic farm? What better way is there to enlarge our experience of mind, body and spirit than with a strong cigarette made with organic tobacco?

We may have hurt the Earth Mother badly by not eating macrobiotic foods and by digging for metals and oil.

But don't let the mind parasites take over. They may have claimed to have spent a previous life with their dog in ancient Egypt, spotted UFOs in Peru, and have had close-encounter contact with aliens in China, Russia and Egypt? But did they really manage to tap into the secrets of the collective unconscious and ghoulish grotesqueries of human evil? Parasitism is one of the three most classic types of relationship in the organic world. The other two are predation and symbiosis. Notice that all these relationships involve energetic transaction

Are we smokers the strange, numerically superior paralyzed passive victims who almost never resisted the fascist non-smoking takeover?
Kleine grüne Riese
22nd Oct 07 07:10

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KB

KB

Why do we need diposable cups anyway- Just throw them on the floor, Thats what cleaners are for, they would not have a job if it were not for us.
KB
22nd Sep 07 10:09

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yoyo

yoyo

And if you saw how much the average delivery of produce costs, you'd realise just how much you're being ripped off, too..
yoyo
2nd Jun 07 03:06

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Subordinate

Subordinate

Subway's Subs are subhuman. I refuse to submit myself to one ever again.
Subordinate
1st Jun 07 06:06

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yoyo

yoyo

I think something does really need to be done about recycling at coffee shops, fast food resteraunts, everywhere.

When I worked at subway it was the same. Everyone wanted the cardboard cups because they're so much more 'Friends' and cool. Then the sandwiches themselves, wrapped first in the small paper wraps to hold them together (and disguise how bad they looked..) then wrapped in 2-3 huge A3 pieces of the Subway wrapping paper. Then covered with napkins, THEN put into a plastic bag!

It's frightening. Hold me?
yoyo
30th May 07 07:05

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-11

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