The hard truths about your coffee habits and how to change them

Illustration by Twylamae
Words by Hannah Cole

Let’s break the unhealthy cycle.

Trying to live sustainably causes a whole lot of life questioning and changing; no aspect is free from scrutiny. Even our daily, much-needed dose of coffee is problematic. The disposable coffee cups we make friends with for fifteen minutes should really be the cause of gut-wrenching guilt pangs.

These cups, contrary to popular belief, are not recyclable. Even those labelled as ‘bio-degradable’ are stretching the truth. It makes sense when you think about it: how can a cardboard cylinder keep coffee warm, while never dampening or leaking? It’s not rocket science.

The cups are lined with a thin film of plastic, preventing any sogginess; also preventing a fool-proof recycling system. Australia goes through at least 1 billion coffee cups every year. They’re either tossed straight in the bin, left in the street, or popped in the recycling and thereby contaminating the whole lot. Without taking the extra, messy minutes to rip the interior out of the cardboard, there doesn’t seem much hope.

At the moment there’s no global, easily-adaptable solution, but there are rumbling schemes and concepts gaining momentum to prevent this shit-storm becoming a cyclone.

A ‘latte levy’ may soon be implemented in the UK, essentially taxing the use of disposable coffee cups. Coffee prices would marginally increase, unless you BYO, much like the plastic bag schemes. But maybe we are too obsessed with our ‘tap and go’ to even notice. Without a proper change in mindset, the impact is lost.

In our growing sharing community – with Uber, GoGet etc. on the rise – it seems only right for the coffee industry to jump on the bandwagon. While still in the works, CupClub, a UK-based initiative, shows promise. Essentially operating as a cup-share program, coffee-lovers can loan a reusable cup from their registered café. Used cups are returned at a collection point, then washed and re-distributed for the next users. The best bit? You don’t have to lug around a dirty, dripping reusable cup all day AND the washing onus is removed. Heaven.

Simply Cups is working to break the unhealthy cycle through better-designed coffee cups. The cups are sustainably-farmed and produced, promising easy recycling through their collection system. The plastic is separated, and each material then recycled appropriately. Look for cafés using ‘Simply Cups’ branded cups and organise a collection for your workplace. It’s time big business got involved and made a positive impact.

If your life is so #blessed to offer ample time and little rushing, choose to drink your coffee in. Take a seat, browse through a magazine and sip slowly from that delicate china.

For the rest of us, in the short-term, a reusable cup is still the best option. A little hassle now will lead to a significant improvement for our environment. Sometimes you just have to suck it up for the greater good of the planet. Maybe one day we will have our cake (coffee) and eat (drink) it too.

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