Reusable cups in coffee shops

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Thanks to a thin plastic lining that makes them waterproof, most paper recycling mills can’t efficiently process disposable – or one-use – coffee cups, and the majority are burned or sent to landfill. Even worse, they are typically made using virgin tree fibre rather than recycled paper, due to hygiene and food-contact requirements. But if coffee shops are here to stay, what is the best way to deal with the mountain of waste they generate? According to the waste hierarchy, preventing waste should be the first priority. Reusable cups have increased in popularity and most major coffee shops offer a discount for customers that bring their own (often worth far more than the disposable cup itself). Nevertheless, reusable cups typically make less than 5% of sales. 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. What’s more, it can take between 20 and 100 uses for a reusable cup to offset its higher greenhouse gas emissions compared to a disposable, due to the greater amount of energy and material required to make a durable product and the hot water needed to wash them. 

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