In the news yesterday, the BBC reported that the Boston Tea Party chain will be removing their single use, disposable cups from their coffeehouses in a bid to make a small contribution to the plastic waste disaster that has been increasingly making the headlines. Waitrose also recently announced they would be removing single use cups for their loyalty hot drinks machines. This will mean that consumers will either need to bring their own receptacle or buy a new one for future use. Boston today blogged that customers can also loan a cup, reminiscent of older times and returnable pop bottles from Whites (delivered in an electric van to the door, funny how things come around!)
For a long time, it was generally thought that the average coffee cup was recyclable. It was looked like it was made from cardboard and the plastic lids were, well plastic. However, widely debunked and publicised by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in how War on Waste series, it was discovered that coffee cups were in fact lined with a thin layer of polyethylene that allowed the cup to keep its’ boiling water inside and not leaking outside over someone’s hand. The coating on the inside was so well bonded, that cups could not be recycled. As a result, they landed in landfill.
The large chains were quick to state their own recycling efforts and how a customer could make a 25p saving on a beverage if they brought their own cup. For me, the wide scale waste hit me when I visited the London Coffee Festival. There, countless stands were exhibiting coffee, offering new blends, single origin small batches, alternative milks, teas and many more experiences. Each stand would provide you with a cup to taste and there were bins all over to capture used cups. Spending a few hours there and the number of cups in those dustbins escalated quickly and I was shocked how many cups were being used and thrown away. They may have been sent to specialist recycler (and probably were), but it was just the sheer volume. In amidst of all this, there were small stands by Vegware, who make compostable cups, KeepCup and Ecoffee, both making attractive cups from bamboo and glass.
In the UK, we burn through 7million single use cups a day, A DAY! That’s a shocking amount, so this move by Boston might convince some of the other chains to follow suit and I’m all in favour. It doesn’t need to tax anyone that much, that this amount of waste a day, has to go somewhere and unfortunately, landfill is the destination. There’s the space it requires and the amount of paper and plastic in the manufacturing. Sure, a lot of cups are made with some recycled paper, but even so. I’ve used a bamboo reusable from the Eden Project for quite some time and despite some initial intrepidation, found that most cafes are happy to oblige. I like the boldness from BTP, saying
Why are you doing this?
Because we believe it is the only true sustainable option.
It reminds me of a large technology company that once said
We don’t want to debate climate change, we want to stop it
Bold statements, but I believe this is exactly what is required. That large tech company is now running 100% on renewable energy and are aiming to create a closed loop for manufacturing – recycling and reclaiming old material and making it into new without mining the Earth for new elements. So BTP and Waitrose being bold and outright banning single use cups (and straws at the beginning of the year) should be applauded and not met with scepticism as so many of the comments have been on news sites. Everybody, as global citizens, needs to consider their footprint and how their decisions affect our fragile environment, not tomorrow, but today. Sounds preachy? Nah, just bold talking.