Goodbye plastic: Plastic Cups

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Huh?! 10000 coffee cups are chucked away EVERY TWO MINUTES IN THE UK ALONE. The sad thing is we think we’re all being waste conscious using paper cups, but they’re not actually “paper” cups. They have to be injected with plastic to make them waterproof – so they go to exactly the same place as the rest of our rubbish: the dump. Coffee chains know this of course, and watch us happily stacking up our cups in the “recycling” corner.

There are only two recycling plants in the UK specialised enough(1) to deal with these cups: one never has, and the other deals with only tiny numbers. So basically they go in landfill just like proper plastic cups. What started this week, then, as some research on plastic disposable cups, really now extends to those pretend plastic ones too.

France has been in a bit of a war with household plastic cups, plates, and cutlery manufacturers since it announced at the end of 2016 that it was banning their sale(2). From 2020 all of these products will need to be made from at least 50% biologically sourced materials, rising to 60% by 2025. They are the first country in the world to do this.

Why are Pack2Go Europe, who represent European packaging manufacturers, so against the idea(3)? Because customers would be confused! Yep, we’d be confused as to what to do with the cup after we finished our coffee. I am more confused about how the UK, for example, are going to make enough landfill space to house 2 billion cups a year on top of all the other plastic.  Also slightly confused as to why the manufacturers are not against the idea because it’ll cost them money?

KFC on the other hand, have confronted the fact that the public are not delighted with the waste and that their cups aren’t actually recycled, and have recently developed a “scoffee cup”(4). It’s edible. A white-chocolate-lined biscuit cup with a sugar paper outer. Sounds excellent. Personally they’d need to do a tad more sucking up before I’ll be buying anything from them, but it’s a start. There’s a lot of positive publicity surrounding their use of these cups, a little less than their unbelievable-until-it-was-uncovered-by-journalists-in-2003 animal welfare abuses(5) [You’re only here to read about plastic cups, you need to brace yourself a bit to read this, it’s ok if you don’t, just know it’s there ;)]

Some companies are catching on though to the idea of edible containers – a cafe in Poland sells its takeaway soup in edible cups. There’s a picture available here, of what looks to be a well tasty cup! (The text is Ukrainian)

So is a life without plastic or paper/plastic cups possible? Sure! It was before. Things we as a family could do:

– Not replace the plastic cup stash at home. Ever, ever.
– Skip the coffee/tea if there’s no time to sit and drink it from a real cup. There are maybe bigger problems to tackle if we realise we never have time….
– Carry about a reusable cup/bottle for water/water fountains.
– Tell coffee shops we’re not having a coffee if there are no reusable cups (if enough people do this, and trade is hit, they have to do something about it). This isn’t my idea, in fact when I googled it I was amazed at how many people do this and that there are organisations specifically set up to promote BYOR – bring your own recyclables – like – a GREAT site with lots of useful ideas. They also have a Twitter page where you can big-up cafes that let you BYOR or look for recommendations.
– Anything else? All ideas welcome.


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