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Coffee Cups Aren’t Recyclable – We’re Horrified

We Love Coffee, Just Not Disposable Cups

By Natasha Tucker

Coffee is best not on the go anyway
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Every day hundreds of thousands of Britons put their coffee cup into a recycling bin. They're wrong - those cups aren't recyclable

I try and be the best environmentalist I can be. Sure, I’m flawed, possibly even very flawed, but one thing I really pride myself on is being aware of the bad decisions that I make. I know, for example, that when I go into a supermarket and I buy asparagus in November, in London, from Peru, because I “feel like it”, that that’s a really bad decision. I try and minimise those moments but no one is perfect, and I won’t pretend to be either. And don’t even get my guilt started on the fact that it’s probably been vacuum-packed in so many superfluous layers of plastic while those totally undeserving spears are compressed into a Styrofoam tray and transported across continents just so that my whimsical craving can be satisfied on a Monday – trust me I really do get it. That’s why I find it particularly disturbing when I find out that in a bid to be doing the right thing, I have in actual fact been contributing unawares, to a really big problem. Enter the coffee cup.

SO MANY COFFEE CUPS, NO NEW LIFE

2.5 billion coffee cups go to landfill every year in the U.K. alone, and 100 billion globally

At Rêve En Vert we are a small office, and obviously we recycle militantly and are hyper-aware of making sure that that’s the case. I personally derive a huge sense of satisfaction from correctly separating rubbish. And one of the items most going into our recycling bin at REV is the coffee cups we all consumer every morning, and some heavier afternoons. So when I woke up one day and read an article on the BBC highlighting the great plight the takeaway coffee cup has become, I really freaked. We, as Britons, are incorrectly assuming that all of our take-away coffee cups that we diligently set aside for recycling are going to be just that, recycled. In fact, very few are able to be. And we are throwing about 2.5 BILLION of them away each year in this country alone, 7 million a day. And globally we now have 100 billion of them ending up in landfill annually. Yeah, holy shit.

 

The reality is that to make these cups water and heat-proof, the card they are made from has to be fused with polyethylene, a material that cannot be separated out again in a standard recycling mill. Most of the time the sad truth is that the cups are not even made from recycled material in the first place – the way they are designed means that inherently they have to be made from virgin paper pulp. But coffee companies want us to continue to believe that the cups are recycled because “technically” these poly-lined cups are capable of being recycled, and therefore can be labelled as such. The reality is that there are only two facilities in this country capable of this highly specialized recycling process. I had a thought about the small office we were, and the numbers of cups that we were “recycling” everyday, and it made me feel rather sick to think of the scale of that happening across the country daily.

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I immediately got online and began searching for alternatives. I was happily relieved to find that there were some great affordable and chic alternatives and that it really wasn’t going to be hard to make the switch. Much like my tote bags, the cup resides in my work bag, gets rinsed and put straight back in. I have even been delighted to be offered discounts on coffee purchases from a number of places for having my own. Whilst the price difference is nominal, the reward is massive. I know that I am a flawed environmentalist, and there are times I make wrong or bad decisions, but this seemed a daily recurrence that I have been all too happy to rectify.

 

We decided to make some REV specific keep cups for our community, and you can shop them HERE to get you started on your post-disposable journey!