I’m sure that you, like me, would like to do more for the environment; would like to have a lower environmental impact. So you might have wondered: “Well should I be using paper cups?” It’s a good question, and it’s one that we’re going to look at in a bit more detail. The paper cup has become something of an icon of the coffee industry, and when the Americanized version of Italian coffee culture spread around the world and coffee shops became more like fast-food restaurants, coffee on-the-go really flourished. The old Italian model was really about taking time out of your day and going and having a coffee; taking a break. But now it was all about coffee anytime, anywhere. More than that paper Cups are what allowed this new style of coffee to become financially viable Coffee shops couldn’t survive if they just sold coffee to people sitting inside Over time cups became expressions of brand and the cup that you held in your hand said something about who you were There is however a problem These cups produce a staggering amount of waste tens of thousands of tons What’s confusing is that it seems like they can be recycled some cups even say so But if you put one into a recycling, bin you pretty much consign it to landfill. Here’s the problem a paper Cup is made of more than just paper In order to make it waterproof and to stop hot drinks spilling into your lap the inside of a paper Cup is coated with a thin layer of plastic and in order to recycle the cup You’d have to separate that plastic from the paper and in the UK only three companies are currently able to do that right now How bad is the paper cup problem? Well reports say that we use about two and a half billion paper cups per year, which seems bad But that is actually only about not 0.1% of total UK waste and only about not 0.7 Percent of total UK packaging waste in some ways not as bad as it looks But definitely a problem, and these cups are also a very visible problem when they’re left and littered Now in the UK the government is proposing what it’s calling a lot a levy a 25 P charge on any takeaway Cups this is off the back of supermarkets charging for single-use plastic bags data from retailers shows that just over half a billion Banks were used in the first six months after the charge was introduced a drop of around 90% Now I’m not a fan of this proposal because I believe it’s too high attacks. It’s charged at the wrong time and It sort of treats coffee demanders inelastic, and I think in truth it would have a massive negative impact on coffee shops So let’s look at some alternatives and the first and most obvious one would be the porcelain Cup is this better well Obviously yes in 1994 a study was published by Hawking that looked at the number of times You’d have to use a porcelain cup before it was better than a paper cup and it took into account the energy of Manufacture as well as things like how much energy it took to wash the cup each time you used it And you’d need to use a cup like this at least 50 times That number goes up quite a lot depending on how it’s washed if a dishwasher is inefficient or only Half-full that numbered leaps up quite dramatically in fact his calculations showed that the energy it took to wash a porcelain cup Was almost identical to the energy required to make a Styrofoam cup and then we have Reusable cups now companies like KeepCup and others have really exploded in the last few years They’re very very very popular and keep cup themselves say that you would need to use their cup 15 times before it’s better than a paper. Cup, which seems pretty doable however They’re not without their drawbacks first There’s often complain that customers hand them over still dirty from the usage before and expect them to clean it that’s not OK Secondly it can be a challenge for a coffee shop to fill appropriately a random sized reusable cup Sure some of these are demarcated at 8 or 12 ounces But some of them may not be do you only accept cups if they have accurate volumetric lines on them? How do you fill 8 ounces of liquid in a 10 or 12 or 13 ounce random reusable cup? annoying little questions for cafe to answer and then we have Biodegradable x’ now there’s still not a ton of information out there about them. There are however a couple of concerns One the energy required to manufacture them is much higher and secondly they typically require specific Pathways of disposal in order to properly break down just throwing one into your garden compost won’t necessarily mean It’ll break down and naturally degrade so a little bit like paper Cups you need to dispose of them properly in order to have a lower environmental impact in summary our paper cups bad Well yes But if all we’re gonna do is switch our paper cups out for porcelain cups or reusable cups and not make any wider effort in our day-to-day lives Then we’re pretty much wasting our time Maybe it should just be a symbol of a much wider effort that we make in our personal lives. It’s a good start We’ve got a lot more to do