The Keepcup switch

2016-06-09 13.56.50

This blog will begin as it means to go on: moaning about plastic. Specifically, the plastic liner in your coffee cup that you probably don’t even know was there.

I mean, props to Starbucks and other companies for making a paper/plastic cup an accessory. Their “Starbucks spelled my name hilariously wrong!” shtick must be the greatest social media non-campaign ever.

I got my first Keepcup over a year ago, upgraded to a glass version with sustainable cork band in April, and use them daily. One lives on my desk and one in the cupboard at home. I put it in my bag if I’m walking to work and know the allure of Proper Order coffee will be too strong to resist, and carry one with me if I’m going to town or anywhere, really.

They wash easily (I upgraded to glass when my first all plastic cup started to hold a smell); they’re durable and they keep me from contributing to the million paper cups sent to landfill every year.

Yes, landfill – that hole in the ground we think goes on forever. The cups you’re placing in recycling bins, more often than not, are not recyclable. The plastic lining that keeps your beverage from leaking through the paper is difficult to separate when disposed of and most waste disposal companies just don’t bother. It’s not worth it for them.

From the Guardian (UK stats):

A conservative estimate puts the number of paper cups handed out by coffee shops in the UK at 3bn, more than 8m a day. Yet, supposedly, fewer than one in 400 is being recycled.

It’s no hardship to switch to a Keepcup (other resusable cups exist!) but where’s the incentive? Few coffee shops offer discount for using them (rare example: Bite of Life on Patrick Street, Dublin 8 give 50c off), probably because they like seeing their logo carried around town. So, essentially, you buy a reusable cup and save them money on the cost of a paper cup; it hardly makes sense.

There is also a compostable cup trend, which is nice if the cups are placed in a compost bin, which is composting at a level that can break down the cup. If not, they’re going the same way as everything else you just put in that bin: the landfill.

My tips? Buy a reusable cup and carry it with you when possible. If you work 245 days a year and use your reusable cup only half of that time – and you get just one cup of coffee (ha! If only) a day – you’ll save 123 cups from landfill*. That’s not counting the weekends and your holidays. Then look around – does your office offer only paper cups for use? Does your favourite cafĂ© always give takeaway cups, even when you sit in? Question them – one item of feedback could save thousands of cups from landfill.