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Do reusable cups help the environment?

Views: 83     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2023-08-31      Origin: Site


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Many of us think that grabbing the odd disposable cup here and there won't leave a mark on our planet - but think again! In fact, by simply switching to reusable drinkware, you can have an incredibly positive impact.

According to a 2021 study, the average American consumes around 3 cups of coffee a day - a whopping 400 million cups of coffee are consumed every day in the US alone.

Unfortunately, the sad reality is that the vast majority of these beverages end up in disposable cups that end up in the oceans, landfills and otherwise pollute our beautiful planet.

So how can we mitigate our environmental impact without giving up our beloved coffee? One of the most effective ways to reduce our carbon footprint while enjoying our favourite caffeinated beverage is to replace disposable cups with reusable cups.

stainless steel bottle

The impact of disposable cups

While on the surface, the answer to this dilemma may seem simple, the reasoning and science behind it - is not.

To fully understand how incorporating reusable cups into your daily life can help the environment, we must examine the environmental impact of disposable cups and how we can determine this measure.

Determining environmental impact

When determining the environmental impact of each cup, it is important to consider the three main aspects of the life cycle: manufacturing, application and waste. Let us delve into the nature of each stage of the process.


Every year, 6.5 million trees are cut down and 4 billion gallons of water are used to make paper cups. In addition, the amount of energy used for production is staggering - enough to power 54,000 homes for an entire year.

While the production process of a disposable cup objectively uses less energy and resources than the production of a reusable cup, this statistic does not take into account the amount of disposable cups produced compared to many reusable cups. Clearly, the idea of a reusable coffee cup is to refill it indefinitely so that there is little need to use disposable coffee cups.


The key metric that stands out in the application is the energy cost of washing reusable cups, which accounts for 90% of the lifecycle emissions of reusable cups. There are, of course, different ways of washing cups, some more environmentally friendly than others. In general, hand washing tends to be more energy efficient than machine washing in a dishwasher. In addition, washing in cold water is more energy efficient than using hot water.

Again, it's all about perspective and the statistics you follow. Of course, washing reusable cups will use more hot water and heat than washing without disposable cups. However, in order to achieve the same functionality as a reusable cup, a large number of disposable cups need to be produced, which results in much higher energy costs.


This is where it really counts: in the US, we throw away more than 50 billion coffee cups every year. Nearly 140 million cups end up in our landfills and waterbanks every day. The cost of disposing of disposable cups alone greatly offsets any difference in manufacturing or application costs, making reusable alternatives a more energy-efficient option.

But aren't they recyclable? Actually, not really. Currently, only around 1% of disposable cups are recycled. The reason for this is that the familiar plain paper cups are not made up of just paper after all - the inside is laminated with a plastic lining that makes the cups waterproof. This plastic lining must then be separated from the paper to be recycled, which makes the process even more difficult and expensive. Most recycling centres do not have the capacity to recycle coffee cups.


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