Reusable coffee cups are starting to appear everywhere. They’re on sale in lots of coffee shops, homeware shops, and food stores, and more and more people are using them on a daily basis. There’s been a lot of conversation happening around reusable cups as people are becoming aware of the impact their take-away coffees might be having on the planet.
Coffee shops have been paying attention, and you’ll find plenty of local places offering discounts to customers who bring their own cups. In Ireland, there’s been talk of introducing a ‘latte levy’, meaning an additional charge for drinks served in single-use cups. I have a feeling this conversation is only starting, and I want to share my reasons why I think everyone should own a reusable coffee cup.
I’m going to say this up front: most of the pictures in this post are of KeepCups – this isn’t because I was asked to or paid to do this, it just so happens that myself and my friends have KeepCups, and that’s what was available for me to take pictures of!
Updated January 2018
Why should I get a reusable cup?
As humans, we’re not very kind to our planet. According to theworldcounts.com, we dump 2.12 billion tonnes of waste each year. National Geographic reports that there’s 5.25 trillion tonnes of waste in the ocean, and this is only growing.
Almost everything we buy comes in some form of disposable packaging, so that most of what we buy will end up getting thrown away. Fruit and vegetables in the supermarket are always packed in plastic, getting lunch or dinner to go usually means a plastic container, and single-use coffee cups are piling up in landfills around the world.
How much coffee do you drink?
If you’re someone who gets a coffee every morning on your way to work, college, or school, then you go through five disposable cups in a week. With 52 weeks in a year, that’s 260 coffee cups. Of course, there’s holidays and days where you might skip the coffee – but that’s still a lot of cups. Even if you’re someone who only gets one take away coffee in a week, there’s still 52 cups with your name on them getting thrown away each year.
It’s becoming glaringly obvious that we need to make a change in our habits if we want to save this planet that we call home. And those changes start with the individual and the choices we make – including a switch to reusable coffee cups.
Looking for ideas to cut down on waste? Click here to read 4 simple ways to reduce and reuse!
What if I recycle my take away cup all the time?
Before I got my reusable cup, I recycled my coffee cups all the time. I would go out of my way to make sure it went into a recycling bin instead of a regular bin. Then I noticed signs popping up over all of the bins on my college campus telling us NOT to put coffee cups in the recycling bin.
As it turned out, the coffee cups we were trying to recycle, as good citizens do, were actually lined with plastic or wax which couldn’t be separated from the rest of the materials, meaning it can’t be recycled. The purpose of the lining is ensure the cups can actually hold the liquid. Some recycling plants might be able to separate them, but most can’t. So throwing these plastic-lined cups in the recycling actually made things worse: somebody would have to sort through everything to get rid of the cups and send them to landfill.
However, lots of coffee places have been trying to address this issue, which leads me onto the next question people often have around coffee cups…
But don’t they have compostable cups now?
A lot of coffee shops have been trying to improve the situation by introducing biodegradable or compostable take-away cups. I admire every shop that goes out of its way to make sure the cups it gives its customers will have as little impact as possible on the environment.
However, when it comes to these biodegradble and compostable cups, it’s not as straight-forward as you might think.
Biodegradable means that the material will break down over time into small pieces when it will eventually be absorbed by microorganisms
Disposing of biodegradable cups
- Biodegradable cups are not meant for recycling, because the material is not something that is recycled.
- These go in your regular bin rather than recycling. This means they will end up in landfill, with the idea being that they should break down over time.
- However, a landfill isn’t the kind of natural environment that can encourage the material to break down quickly, so it will still take a really long time, and it may not happen at all.
Compostable cups seem like the best option because not only can they break down, but they can also release nutrients into the soil that will have a positive impact on the natural environment. However, none of this matters if they’re not disposed of properly.
Disposing of compostable cups
- Ideally, they should go to an industry composting facility where they will break down over a few months. These facilities have been designed to efficiently break down the material in a way that home composting can’t.
- You could try throwing them into your home compost, but it could take a really long time, and it might not work at all.
- You cannot recycle compostable cups. The material is not recyclable, it’s compostable. This isn’t the same thing, and if they get mixed in with recycling, they will contaminate the whole recycling process.
- You can throw them in the regular bin where they will be sent to landfill, but like biodegradable cups, they will take a very long time to break down, and may not compost at all.
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So tell me more about reusable cups
Some people at first might be put off the idea of buying a reusable cup because they don’t like the idea of spending around €15 up front for a coffee cup. But what you need to remember is that this is a one-off payment for something you will probably end up using every day, and you will definitely get your moneys worth if you use it. To make things better, you can also save money if you get clever about where you use it.
Discounts! Discounts! Discounts!
More and more coffee shops are offering discounts to customers who bring their own cups, meaning you can start to make that €15 back with each coffee you buy. This includes some of my favourite specialty coffee shops in different counties across Ireland, but the bigger chains are also beginning to offer discounts. I always advocate for your local coffee shop over the big chain, but it’s worth noting all the same.
Read: Dublin coffee shops with a reusable cup discount for my favourite spots in Dublin with a discount!
For a full list of coffee shops all over Ireland offering discounts to customers, you can check out the Conscious Cup Campaign’s handy map here. Melanie May also has a useful list of shops that give discounts across Ireland
What reusable cup should you buy? Check out this list.
KeepCups are definitely among the most popular reusable cups out there, for their design and their quirky look. You can mix and match colours and they also have glass cups which are even more stylish. You can even design your own online! These cups are designed to fit neatly under the barista’s machine, making their job easier.
- KeepCups come in three main sizes:
- Small (8oz) which is perfect if you love a flat white or a smaller coffee to go
- Medium (12oz) which is generally the size of a regular coffee cup in most places – some call it a large, but traditionally it would be a regular.
- Large (16oz) for those who need all the caffeine they can get.
- It is possible to get KeepCups in 4oz and 6oz sizes too, but the three above are the ones you’re most likely to find in stores.
Stojo Collapsible Pocket Cup
This one is perfect if you’re put off by the hassle of bringing a cup around with you. This is a leak-proof collapsible cup that you can fold down when you’re not using it. It will fit easily in your bag or even your pocket.
- Stojo cups come in 12oz which is the size of most medium coffee cups, making it ideal for most drinks.
Joco Glass Cups
Joco create glass reusable coffee cups that come with a thermal sleeve, a unique ‘nose-dome’ lid, designed to let you drink on the go with no spills, and they’re barista friendly, fitting neatly under their machines.
- Joco Cups come in three sizes
- 8oz glasses are their smallest size for those who want a small coffee
- 12oz glasses are the medium size which will suit most standard coffee drinks
- 16oz glasses are the large size for those of you who need that little bit more!
Frank Green Smart Cup
Frank Green Smart Cups have won awards for their design, so you know you’re getting a good, reliable cup for your coffee. The lid can be opened and closed at the push of a button, which is also spill resistant, so it’s perfect if you have a lot of running around to do. You can get Frank Green cups in 8oz and 12oz size.
Any travel mug!
I’m sure there’s a travel mug lying around in most houses, and there’s no harm in dusting it off and bringing it with you the next time you go for your coffee.
Reusable coffee cups are just one small way you can give back to the environment and help to make a more positive impact on our planet. Not only that, they’ll make you feel pretty great, and even better if you get a discount!
Do you own a reusable cup? Which one do you use?
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All images in this post are my own unless otherwise stated. Please do not use without credit.
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