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Why You Need a Reusable Coffee Cup in 2021

Why You Need a Reusable Coffee Cup in 2021

Whether it be powering through a University assignment, surviving a day at the office, or simply enjoying a nice chat, a hot cup of coffee will often be by our side for that warm bit of comfort to help us get through the day. However, just as coffee has become a part of our everyday life, so have coffee cups. And while the beverage might make us feel good about the world, the world itself certainly won’t feel great about those coffee cups, especially the disposable ones. 

This is because the average disposable coffee cup, usually made of paper or cardboard, contains a layer of plastic to prevent it from becoming soggy. Yet, during the recycling process, it is hard to separate this plastic layer from the rest of the cup. Therefore, the cups are not recycled, but are instead sent to a landfill to decompose (after decades) or be incinerated. In either of these processes, the plastic layer in these cups poisons the environment with toxic chemicals and gases, contributing to global warming. These cups may also end up in nature, where the plastic causes harm to living things that cross its path.

How Long Does it Take for a Coffee Cup to Decompose?

Coffee cups can take around 30 years to decompose when they are sent to a landfill. In fact, it is estimated that of the 16 billion disposable coffee cups used every year across the globe, 99.75% of these cups are sent off to landfills. 

If the coffee cups are not made from paper or cardboard, chances are they are made from Styrofoam which is not usually recycled due to the costs involved. Thus, like the paper cup, styrofoam coffee cups usually wind up in landfills as well. In the United States alone, 25 billion Styrofoam cups are thrown away each year (not only including styrofoam coffee cups in particular). 

Landfill - Image from Pixabay

(Image from Pixabay)

Why A Reusable Coffee Cup is Better

Feeling shocked by the facts you just read, but still caffeine crazed? Enter the reusable coffee cup (also known as the reusable coffee mug depending on its overall disposition). There are several reasons why a reusable coffee cup is better than its disposable counterpart: 

1. Environmentally and Economically Friendly: Reusable coffee mugs can be used for a really long time, stopping you from unnecessarily purchasing more disposable cups which result in both the cups and your money going to waste. 

2. Taste: Not only are you saving the planet, you are saving yourself, because reusable mugs make for a more enjoyable coffee! They are usually double walled, meaning they retain the heat of your coffee for longer than your average disposable. Not to mention, they make the coffee tastier too, as they are not as reactive as those cups with a plastic lining, which can leave your coffee tasting a bit like plastic.

3. Weight: Also, some modern designs can be as light in weight as the disposable, meaning there’s no longer that ‘I can’t be bothered to carry it around’ excuse.

4. Sleek Appearance: Not only do they reusable coffee cups play the part, they also look the part. Sleek and modern in appearance, they are all the rage in fashion circles. There are countless different brands and designs to cater to for your own particular taste in coffee cups. You won’t be worrying about turning up in a flashy car anymore when you turn up to the party with one of these beauties instead. 

Reusable Coffee Cups Vs. Disposable Coffee Cups

You might ask, however, that if these reusable coffee mugs really are that great, surely they must have taken some making! Indeed, the process by which these eco-friendly cups are manufactured can be not so eco-friendly. It often takes a lot of energy to make these mugs, considerably more than your average plastic-lined paper cup (which are smaller and just less awesome overall).

That being said, although reusable cups are more costly for the environment in terms of production, the cost of actually using these products is far less consequential, thus negating the qualms of the manufacturing stage.

The cost of using reusable coffee cups can be measured in terms of its lifespan. Reusables are more efficient because they last much longer, and so they end up in landfills less frequently. Regarding their disposal, most reusable cups are made of eco-friendly materials and do not have the plastic lining that single-use coffee cups have. Therefore, the process of biodegrading is quicker, and will not emit greenhouse gases when decomposing in landfills or when being incinerated. 

In fact, it is estimated that the negative environmental impact of just one single-use coffee cup disposal is equivalent to 6-127 uses of a reusable cup. The range accounts for the different types of reusable and disposable materials that are being compared. For example, Styrofoam cups are more energy efficient than paper cups.

In any case, an average coffee consumer will surpass 6 to 127 uses in no time. In switching to a reusable coffee cup, any coffee connoisseur can be rest assured that they are enjoying a delicious cup of coffee while also taking care of the planet.

All that is required is that we drink as much coffee out of our reusable cup as possible. There could be worse propositions, right?

What is the Best Reusable Coffee Cup?

Now that you know why exactly reusable coffee cups are more eco-friendly, you need to choose one. Fortunately, there are plenty of options to choose from. You can get a reusable cup that is made from stainless steel, ceramic, glass, bamboo, and even hard plastics; as with any product, there are pros and cons associated with each material.

Glass and Ceramic: Glass and Ceramic reusable mugs are the best for the environment. They are the most durable of all coffee cups and can be reused thousands of times. Once they are eventually disposed of, they do not emit toxic chemicals when they decompose in landfills. They are also great insulators. Glass lays claim to some of the most popular coffee cup brands. This includes the ‘Keep cup’ and ‘Joco’ brands. Ceramics is host to the well-sought-after ‘Frank Green’ brand, which is super trendy and light! 

Keep Cup - Image from Unsplash

(Photo by Pot Head Coffee on Unsplash)

Furthermore, glass is the most energy efficient reusable, and it can take as little as 6 uses to draw level with the energy used to produce 1 disposable paper cup, whilst ceramics require around 15 uses. Glass takes the edge over ceramics because it can be recycled.

Stainless Steel: Steel is stronger than glass and ceramics, of which the latter can be fragile. Stainless steel also has no environmental impact in landfills. However, it is not as good of a natural insulator as glass or ceramics, thus be sure it is properly insulated if you are to buy one. If you’re looking for a stainless steel reusable cup to purchase, check out the Future Coffee Lover Flask. 

Hard Plastic: Like glass, hard plastics are very energy efficient to produce, thus it only takes around 7 uses to level that of a disposable paper cup. However, plastic can be quite reactive unlike the others, leaving your drinks tasting a bit like plastic, as previously mentioned. Also, plastic is still plastic, meaning it will still cause problems when it is exposed to elements in landfills. If you buy a reusable plastic mug, ensure it is BPA free and that you can use it for a long time.

Bamboo: Though stainless steel and glass mugs are incredibly eco-friendly, reusable bamboo cups are arguably even more better for the environment! This is because bamboo mugs are manufactured with raw materials, and since bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on Earth, it will never run out. That being said, there is popular discourse around the topic of whether bamboo cups are toxic or not. Unfortunately, there is a growing consensus that bamboo can leach toxic chemicals into the coffee if the temperature is too high, so caution must be exercised.

How Often Should You Wash Your Coffee Cup?

Now that you have chosen your preferred reusable coffee mug, you need to know how to take care of it. In terms of hygiene, your reusables should be treated the same as anything else that you eat or drink from. That is, you should wash your reusable coffee cup after each use. Otherwise, bacteria will grow in the coffee cup; the result is unsightly and unhealthy. If this situation arises in your reusable coffee cup, you will not want to drink from it. If you do not want to use it then how are you going to save the planet? 

Extra eco-friendly tip: If you are washing your cup by hand, use cold water instead of hot to be more eco-friendly. If you are putting it in the dishwasher, make sure the dishwasher is at full capacity, because that means there is less water and soap used per item!

Can Bamboo Cups Go in the Dishwasher?

For most materials, such as stainless steal, glass and ceramics, it is perfectly fine for them to be in the dishwasher. But, here comes that troublesome bamboo again...The answer is yes. However, over time it is possible that the dishwasher may wear out the bamboo a bit, so it is better to hand wash them most of the time. 

More Coffee for Your Coin

So you have gone green with the coffee bean, and have the perfect reusable cup to show for it. Now it’s time to reap the rewards. Nowadays, many coffee franchises, such as Starbucks and Costa, offer small discounts for customers who bring their own reusable cups to the store. For the habitual coffee drinker, these savings could really add up, and the more money you have, the more coffee you can buy. Simply walk into your local cafe and ask if they have the discount. If they don’t, ask to place the coffee in your own mug anyway.

There are also tons of other eco-friendly initiatives that are also economically-friendly. For example, the Plastic Bank initiative, founded by David Katz, encourages people to collect plastic trash at beach clean-ups in exchange for a premium for their family for groceries, tuition, and more. As you can see, being eco-friendly is a steamroller that is currently gathering momentum, so it is the perfect opportunity to join the cause!

Coffee Drinkers Unite!

There are millions of coffee crazed individuals out there who get through an eyebrow-raising amount of coffee on a daily basis. Us coffee fiends should all come together, purchase a reusable coffee cup, and drink from them to our heart’s content. Together, we can go a long way to reduce greenhouse gases and protect the environment. Everyone can assist the planet in their own little way and for us coffee addicts, what is a more convenient place to start then with a reusable coffee cup?

If you have already made the switch to a reusable coffee cup, let us know in the comments below! We would love to hear about your experience coming over to the eco-friendly side.


Jaspal Singh
Jaspal Singh 21/12/2020

Excellent article which convinced me never to use a disposable coffee cup again. I am definitely a convert to reusable coffee cups

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