Single-use, disposable coffee cups are one of the worst things for the environment.
Though generally made of paper or cardboard, the insides of the cups are typically lined with plastic polyethylene, a substance that takes hundreds of years to break down. Even then, the substance only turns into microplastics, which end up making their way to our food and water systems, according to Environmental Defence.
Some curbside recycling programs accept the cups—provided that they're empty and rinsed and that the plastic lids are removed (to be placed in their own recycling stream). More often than not, people often end up tossing the cups with the lids still on.
According to Zero Waste Canada, 14 billion cups of coffee are consumed in Canada every year, 35 per cent of which are ordered to go — mostly in the form of single-use cups — even when people end having their coffee in the shop.
Starbucks has announced that Vancouver will pilot its new Greener Cup initiative. Customers here will join those in Seattle, San Francisco, New York, and London to trial new cups that are designed to be more recyclable and compostable than existing options.
The coffee giant is picking cup technologies from the winners of the NextGen Cup Challenge.
The NextGen Consortium (which was launched last year and gathered entrepreneurs, industry groups, and recyclers to find and commercialized the next generation of recyclable and/or compostable cups) announced the winners of challenge earlier this month. The global competition invited people to redesign fibre to-go cups into widely recyclable and/or compostable ones.
There were 12 finalists of 500 submissions from more than 50 countries.
Here’s an example: the UK’s Solublue Ltd. makes plant-based, food-grade, and non-toxic products that biodegrade after use.
France’s C.E.E.R. SCHISLER creates a 100-percent paper cup that’s home compostable and recyclable.
The goal of the challenge is to turn the 250 billion to-go cups used around the world every year from waste into a valuable material in the recycling system.
The Greener Cup initiative is to launch in the coming months.
Starbucks is also rolling out new, recyclable, strawless lids to all stores in the United States and Canada in the next year, starting in Toronto this summer. It has pledged to phase out all of its plastic straws by 2020, more than 1 billion of which are used each year.
While these steps will eventually help lower coffee lovers’ and producers’ carbon footprint, the best things people can do if they’re buying coffee or esspresso-based drinks is to carry their own reusable mug or order their beverage “for here” in a mug.More