Why reusable coffee cups could actually be worse for the environment

When we think about making changes to reduce the amount of waste on the environment, reusable coffee cups are one of the biggest considerations for many caffeine addicts.

However, an expert has argued that keep cups may not be as sustainable as we think.

Disposable coffee cups are unable to be recycled due to their heat-proof lining, so he trend of bringing your own reusable cup on your coffee run has emerged from the war on waste.

But the emissions used to produce each reusable cup is 20-100 times more than what’s required to make a disposable cup, according to Caroline Wood, a PhD researcher in food security at the University of Sheffield, in the UK.

Therefore coffee-drinkers will want to ensure they are getting fair use out of each one, to actually reduce their carbon footprint.

Reusable coffee cups may not be as environmentally sound as we first thought. Source: Getty Young woman holding warm cup of tea

“The unavoidable truth is that it simply isn’t convenient for people on the run to remember their cup, carry it around and wash it out between uses,” Ms Wood wrote in an article for The Conversation.

Biodegradable cups also come with their own problems. They need to be collected in their own bins to separate them from non-compostable materials, as they only break down in industrial composting facilities, Ms Wood also warned.

She also raised the environmental impacts of recycling the cups, saying the process consumed a lot of energy, generated greenhouse gas emissions through transportation, and could be easily contaminated through incorrect disposal.

The best way coffee-drinkers can ensure they reduced their environmental footprint is however a simple one. Ms Wood suggested people cut down on takeaway coffees in general and “rediscover the delight of dining in, with a proper china cup”.

A reusable coffee cup needs 20-100 times more carbon emissions to be produced than these single-use coffee cups. Source: Getty

Reusable shopping bags may not be better for environment

At the time of the Coles and Woolworths plastic bag ban a year ago, an environmental expert told Yahoo News Australia the same factor was a consideration for reusable bags.

There was not enough proof to know whether reusable bags were actually better for the environment than single-use plastic bags, said Mark Anthony Browne, senior research associate from UNSW’s School of Biological Earth and Environmental Science.

He claimed nobody knew how long it took for single-use plastic bags and reusable bags to biodegrade, and there had only been estimates about how long a bag would last in the environment.

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