How Much Does Your Cup Cost?: A Look at the Impact of Throwing Away Your Single-Use Coffee Cups

The world of coffee has changed and as such, so has the way we use and drink coffee. Of late, consumer behavior has led to an increase in single-use coffee cups. This has led to an increase in the number of cups being thrown into landfills and has disastrous consequences for the environment. Below, we’re going to go over some of these consequences and why NOW is the best time to upgrade to a POLU reusable bamboo fibre coffee cup!


How Long Does it Take for Single-Use Coffee Cups to Decompose?

If we want to understand the impact of throwing out single-use coffee cups, we must first look at how long it takes for these cups to decompose.

These cups have two layers: paper and polyethylene. The latter is commonly used in single-use materials and is a plastic that lines the coffee cup. This plastic helps the cup maintain its shape and prevents heat from entering or exiting the cup. It is the polyethylene later that contributes to the cup’s long lifespan and that makes it nearly impossible to recycle.

The paper layer, meanwhile, is made from paperboard. The yearly demand for paper cups has caused more than 20 million trees to be demolished. More than 2.5 million of these single-use coffee cups end up in landfills every week. When they’re thrown out, the paperboard and the polyethylene have difficulty separating, resulting in a 30-year decomposition process.


The Ecological Impact

One of the reasons why throwing out single-use coffee cups is so prevalent is because of the convenience of these cups. For many, being able to grab and throw out a coffee cup allows them to increase energy levels and reduce fatigue during the day.

While the lengthy decomposition process of these cups makes them a hazard to the environment, this isn’t the only ecological danger of single-use plastic cups. The resources needed to create these products also have disastrous impacts on our wildlife and forestry.

Because the cups are largely made of bleached paperboard, lumber is a main component of the paper cup’s composition. The process of extracting lumber contributes to soil erosion, slope instability, fragmentation, habitat loss, and loss of biodiversity.

Most often, forests are clear-cut to produce the lumber needed for single-use coffee cups, thereby, quickly releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide and wiping out large populations of animals, fauna, and flora.

The process of turning paper into paperboard also consumes a significant amount of energy. This energy is primarily generated from fossil fuels and just 4 of these coffee cups will result in one pound of carbon dioxide emissions.

Not only this, but the plastic used to create single-use coffee cups cannot decompose completely and leads to micro-particles of plastic infiltrating groundwater. From here, the particles are digested by fish and marine wildlife.

Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth, with some species growing up to 3 feet in 24 hours! Bamboo has a limitless utility, is strong but easily made into many usable items and doesn’t carry the environmental impact from harvest as trees do. It also doesn’t require any bleaching or harsh chemical treatments to be used. Our POLU bamboo fibre reusable cups don’t flavor taint your drink unlike those plastic reusables you may own or have used in the past. You’re not sacrificing the taste of your coffee for the sake of the ‘environment’ but trading off your single-use habit to a more sustainable experience.


The Social Impact

Every year, billions of single-use coffee cups end up in landfills. While these cups are convenient, they cost us a significant amount socially.

Around 7 million cups are handed out every day, but only 1 in 400 are recycled. Because the cost of production isn’t paid by the consumer immediately, the environment, small communities, and local businesses and governments are the ones who have to pay for these cups before they reach consumers.

Consequently, rural communities experience mass deforestation and an increased risk of floods and landslides. A large portion of the rural communities affected by this deforestation are Indigenous communities whose native land is being stripped.

Beyond this, the survival of our species depends on species’ biodiversity, which is being negatively impacted by mass deforestation.


Final Thoughts

The consumption of single-use coffee cups has become a regular part of many peoples’ lives. For some, it means a quick coffee on the way to work and for others, a stop at a local coffee shop is the only way to wake up in the morning. Despite the convenience of single-use coffee cups, the environmental and social impacts of using these products outweigh the few benefits that come with them.

POLU’s mission is to accelerate the use of reusable cups to slow down and eventually stop the aforementioned environmental and social impacts. With the purchase of a POLU reusable cup you are saying ‘No!’ to your single use habit and creating a more sustainable one WHILST donating to a great charity AccesSurf!


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