Reusable Cups: Are They Really Environmentally Friendly?


You walk into your local cafe, order a coffee to go, hand over your reusable cup and a feeling of satisfaction comes over you. However, are you really making a difference, or are you ultimately adding to landfill?  

Conscious consumers are purchasing reusable cups, bottles, bags and straws to reduce their carbon footprint. There is the same amount of plastic in 20 disposable cups as there is a ‘keep cup’. Once a consumer is finished with their reusable cup, they can even recycle it. The advantages to this alternative cup are endless.

In Australia, it is estimated that three billion single use cups create landfill each year. Unfortunately, due to the polyethylene lining in takeaway cups, on average only 1 in every 400 cups can be recycled. 

In order for a reusable cup to make up for the greenhouse gas emission of a single use cup, it has to be used a minimum of 20 times. 

An Average University Student’s Desk. Source: Core77

At some universities in Australia students are offered a discount if they bring their own reusable cup to campus cafes. Currently, Deakin University does not offer this, however it is an initiative that should be inaugurated into the cafe scene. Perhaps the Environmental Committee could look into ways for hot spots Caffeine and The Corner Cafe to offer discounts as an incentive for students to bring reusable cups to university.

A cafe called Lights in the Attic, located in Hawthorn, offer a free small coffee to customers who bring their own reusable cups. The Director of Lights in the Attic, Kevin Li, said “it is important for small businesses to continue to think about what they can do for the environment.”

Catherine Leach, a woman who designs reusable cups, said, “I hope my designs increase awareness of the issues surrounding single-use waste and begins a culture of reuse.” 

This graph shows the amount of green house gas emissions a disposable cup uses compared to different types of reusable cups (ceramic, stainless steel and polypropylene cups) Source: Anthropocene Magazine

If you are looking to buy a reusable cup, a brand named Keep Cup makes their products from disposed takeaway cups found in landfill. When reusable items are used correctly, the outcome for the environment is definitely advantageous.

Perhaps consumers of coffee need to limit their daily caffeine intake, however, that is a completely different problem altogether.




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