Our love for coffee has a bigger price tag than meets the eye. The paper cups that are used when we ‘take away’ coffee are slowly building up and polluting the environment. Let not the word ‘paper’ (cup) fool you that it’s not as harmful as its plastic counterpart. To some extent, most paper coffee cups are coated with a petroleum based plastic resin which makes them more durable and prevents coffee from leaking. To add on to the environmental effects of paper coffee cups, the ink that is used to produce custom coffee cups does not bode well for our environment either. Here are more of the environmental effects caused by paper coffee cups which the environmentalists term, the ‘paper cup problem’. When selecting your coffee ensure that the café is using biodegradable coffee cups that are lined with a plant based material not a petroleum based plastic.
This is probably the area where the ‘paper cup problem’ is affected most extensively. In 2007, it is estimated that 1.3 tonnes of paper cups were manufactured. In the US alone, 58 billion paper cups are used every year. With the loss of tress, the environment suffers from carbon absorption incapacity. As we all know, tress greatly aid in the absorption of carbon dioxide that is a chief pollutant to our environment. The problem is exacerbated with reduced production of oxygen with the cutting down of tress. All these contribute to a degraded ecosystem as a result of meeting global consumer demands.
Chemicals emitted into the environment
The production and shipment of paper coffee cups play a major role in the pollution of the environment by CO2 and other gases. A study on the environmental effect of paper cups showed that a single cup production and transportation leads to an emission of about 0.11 kilograms of CO2. Given that trees help in the absorption of CO2 and are unfortunately depleted, this becomes a double tragedy. It is also argued that paper cups have the potential to emit methane when they are decomposing. The Paper Industry Association Council estimated that around 63% of paper generated was recycled including newspapers which have the highest recovery rate. Sad to report, the recovery rate for paper cups is very negligible. Most are discarded rather than recycled and majority end up in landfills. Methane is a dangerous greenhouse gas, more lethal than C02 because it has 21 times the heat-trapping component as compared to carbon dioxide. The need for custom-printed coffee cups leads to more chemical ‘leaked’ into our environment when these are thrown away and dumped in landfills.
Again when selecting your café make sure that they are using a cup supplier that works with a carbon offsetting company so that you know the emissions produced in the manufacture of the cup are being offset.
There is a great deal of energy used in the production and transportation of paper coffee cups. Think of it this way; trees harvested to make paper coffee cups are transported to factories, the paper rolls are then transported to converters, the finished products of paper coffee cups are transported to wholesalers who will then transport them to retailers. In the transportation cycle one thing stands out – the emission of greenhouse gases that adversely pollute our environment.
The trend of paper coffee cups moving forward
The ‘paper cup problem’ is not expected to have an easy or quick solution. For the past 40 years, paper generation for the purpose of producing paper coffee cups soared more than 300% as compared to the amount generated in the 60’s. This trend is already a foretelling of how much will continue to be generated in the coming years.
As we continue to live in the fast lane, paper coffee cups have become a necessity. However, it would be best if people gave a second thought before carelessly and thoughtlessly using paper cups. Though science is relentlessly looking for a viable solution and developing recyclable cups as an alternative way out, the best way still is to stop using paper cups. Whatever you do, your choice will always have important environmental ramifications into the future.
At EPS Distribution, we supply environmentally-friendly custom paper coffee cups that are completely bio-degradable, and look to ensure that the environment is preserved in all our eco-friendly packaging. We work closely with Carbon Neutral and invest in a tree planting program which offsets some of the emissions created in the transportation and manufacture of the cup.