It's time to blow off the lid on paper coffee cups. We hopefully all know plastic water bottles are a bad option by now, but paper coffee cups are their equally common, slightly less harmful sisters.
While many of us may at first think that these disposable hot cups are better since they are made with plastic, this is unfortunately not the case. A few facts:
- They are very rarely made from recycled paper, instead using raw material and contributing to the quickly rising rate of deforestation. With the Earth losing trees at the rate of a few football field's worth of forest per minute - decreasing this clear-cutting for paper product production is important. (Deforestation is destroying the habitat for animals and native populations but also the second leading cause of climate change. Not only are these downed trees emitting immense amounts of carbon, but they are being eliminated as sources of carbon sinks. Trees are our most effective tool for taking carbon out of our atmosphere, but only while they stay standing!)
- The refining and manufacturing of these harvested trees into their end product is also a highly damaging process. The wood pulp is bleached white with chlorine, a process that releases dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals on the planet, and emits methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide.
- While they are paper on the outside, these cups are lined with plastic (polyethylene) making them mixed materials and non-recyclable. After the cups are used for a few minutes they are sent to the landfill, or end up in our environment where they have preserved almost as well as fully plastic containers.
And while these to-go cups save the customer a bit of hassle, they do a pretty shabby job of keeping drinks hot, resulting in needing an additional hot sleeve or double cupping. This problem has a simple solution: Bring your own travel cup!
Many cafes allow customers to bring their own coffee cups and some even incentivize it by offering discounts. This is a winning situation for both the customer, who gets to use a better product, the business, who cuts costs on purchasing disposables and the planet.