The speed we are required to live in, creates a troubling paradox. We need quick solutions to get us moving through our day and can’t waste time mulling over the ever confusing “did I recycle that aluminum foil wrapped burrito correctly?” or “is this fork compostable?”. We care deeply, but in our highly evolving, “plugged in” technological reality, we reach to the edges of our limitations so we can keep up.
Our need for machine like efficiency spills over into our very human relationship with food. Ever determined to not let our humanity interrupt our efficiency we have outsourced the time sucking task of nourishment. Although, at what cost?
Unwanted Coffee Baggage
At times brewing our morning cuppa seems to move at snail’s paced speed and sitting down to enjoy it often gets cast aside when whirling through tooth brushing and outfit experiments. Instead, if we remember and have time, we opt to pour this caffeinated gold into a reusable mug. Although, first hand, this solution can be a lot more frustrating in practice. We have all been through it, you forget your mug or feel chained to it for the day. A disposable cup at your local coffee house becomes a much more attractive option than schlepping around a dirty reusable coffee mug. But the disposable options leave us with a pang of guilt, knowing we can do better.
The Cost of Convenience
The impact of your disposable coffee cup consumption may seem especially insignificant in the food packaging world but it is quite the opposite. Day in and out a collection of disposable cups are ejected from our daily consciousness as they fly into the trash. If we decided to follow these cups on their journey an ominous truth lays ahead.
The volume of one-time use cups is enormous. You may be familiar with the global statistic that 600 billion one-time use coffee cups are used each year. Closer to home, the numbers are just as staggering. An example being one coffee franchise in Boston with 8 store fronts who serves about 8-12K customers a day, 84% being to go customers. That’s an average of 8,400 cups a day for just this one franchise. You can see that with a presence of 50+ coffee shop franchises in Boston, some similarly with multiple cafes under their belt, the waste impact is enormous.
You may be left feeling relieved that at least your paper coffee cup isn’t adding to this plastic mountain. Unfortunately, it’s just the contrary. Your plastic iced coffee cup is more likely to be recycled than your paper hot coffee cup. Unbeknownst to many coffee drinkers, disposable paper coffee cups are not recyclable in the majority of the US, as the paper cups are lined with plastic. To add to this often overlooked issue, the plastic hot coffee cup lids are sometimes not recyclable either, depending on your area's recycling regulations. Confusing, right? You can dive deeper and research whether your area accepts plastic coffee cup lids in its recycling stream by visiting the local city’s recycling page, for example Boston’s can be found here.
You can also identify the type of plastic it is made from by reading it’s resin identification code, aka that number in the three chasing arrows on your cup.
Or you can simply embrace a simpler, more effective solution like the Collective Cup
The complex set of coffee cup recycling rules are often hard for the regular consumer to navigate and due to this have a huge negative contribution to our plastic waste issue. “If present trends continue, by 2050, there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills. That amount is 35,000 times as heavy as the Empire State Building.”- Laura Parker, National Geographic. *Her illuminating article, diving deeper into plastic waste metrics, can be read here.
You’ve heard us talk about how your recycling may or may not be recycled. What’s worse is that of all the plastic we recycle, only about 9% of it actually gets recycled. Further to this mounting issue, plastic can take 400 years plus to degrade, creating mountains of plastic that will continue to grow if we don’t take action. This plastic mountain demands our attention making it clear that the importance of a circular economy is ever more relevant. The Coffee Cup Collective is part of this budding circular economy, focusing its resources on reducing waste and offering alternatives to the status quo of food packaging. So in response to our earlier dilemma in lack of alternatives for coffee consumption on the go, Coffee Cup Collective and initiatives like it offer creative solutions to this very issue. As many of you know the system works in 3 simple steps:
1. Order coffee, at a participating coffee shop. (Showing your app- soon to be released!)
2. Enjoy coffee in one of the beautifully designed, reusable cups.
3. Return the Collective Cup to any designated drop off bin, once finished.
We understand now that natural resources aren’t infinite, as they once felt at the birth of our economy. An important shift from linear to circular thinking is burgeoning. You too can have a hand in this shift, racing through life a little lighter mentally and physically than the day before, using your Collective Cup Service!