Posts Tagged ‘compostable coffee cups’

Do compostable coffee cups compost?

June 25, 2018

Compostable coffee cups are a step in the right direction, but addressing symptoms not the underlying problems of takeaway grab it and go throw away culture, which is part of a larger problem of pointless consumption.

Compostable coffee cups raise two questions:

  • what to do with the coffee cups
  • do they actually compost

If I pick up a coffee cup then wander down the street what to do with the cup? If thrown in a bin it will join the general waste stream.

Do the cups compost, do they compost on a compost heap? Some cups claim to be biodegradable, a few compostable, some make no claim at all. For example a coffee cup from Morrisons, the outer is card, can be recycled, but what of the inner core, a composite structure forming an integral whole?

Only one way to find out, conduct a little experiment, deposit takeaway coffee cups on a compost heap.

A little collection of cups, including what I believe to be a plant-based cellulose straw. It clams to be biodegradable.

These added to a compost heap a little after midday today. End of June temperatures 27C and forecast higher over the next few days.

Always need a control. Added a cup from Starbucks which helpful staff did not believe to be biodegradeable.

Starbucks have on sale at £1 ugly reusable cups. Bring own reusable coffee cup a small discount of 25p.

As always it is indie coffee shops leading the way. One small chain Boston Tea Party has banned takeaway cups. More need to follow their excellent example, encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served in glass or plastic.

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Are compostable coffee cups compostable?

February 14, 2018

The proposed 25p latte levy appears to have focused minds.

In the UK we are throwing away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every single year. These cups cannot be recycled due to a plastic liner in what at first glance appears to be a simple paper cup. 

An environmental disaster, deadly for for marine life.

Something has to be done. Hence the proposed latte levy.

Indie coffee shops as always are taking the lead, are starting to offer on sale compostable paper cups, reusable KeepCups, discounts if bring back cups for a refill.

If I am on my way home, have picked up fruit and vegetables, I can pop my compostable cup in with my fruit and vegetables, then when home, deposit my compostable coffee cup on the compost heap.

But what if not on my way home, what if not a convenient compost heap, what then with my compostable coffee cup? And therein lies the dilemma, what to do with the compostable coffee cup? It will find its way into the general waste stream.

The underlying assumption, is that my compostable cup will do what it says, actually compost.

Only one way to find out, drop a couple of cups on the compost heap, sit back and wait. That was a few weeks ago. Nothing has happened. They are siting there. Though to be fair, it is winter.

If I am at Infinity Foods in Brighton or at the farmers market in Guildford, I will often pick up a biodegradable plastic bag, these are made of plant-based cellulose.

I will fill with kitchen waste, throw on the compost heap, or at least I used to.

What I found was, everything rotted down, the bag still there, even after several cycles through the compost heap.

For comparison, yogurt pots, those made of waxed paper, do rot down, leaving behind the plastic liner.

The plastic bag is very thin compared with the compostable paper coffee cup.

We need more people to do as I have done, deposit these compostable paper cups on their compost heaps and monitor what happens.

KeepCup and clones thereof are refillable, but from observation the take up and usage is low.  Easy to see why, expensive, bulky, often heavy, a pain to carry around.

This may though change, with 25p latte levy helping to focus minds and indie coffee shops reporting an increase in interest.

In Australia, or least Melbourne, Abigail Forsyth co-founder of KeepCup reports reuse rate has risen from 1% to 30%. Still low, but 30% a lot better than 1%.

The demographics to aim KeepCup at office workers popping out for a coffee, coupled with substantial discount when used.

Compostable coffee cups, KeepCup, are addressing the symptoms, not the underlying problem of grab it and go consumerist culture, typified by the chains serving disgusting undrinkable coffee.

Do we not value good coffee? Why do we not grant coffee the respect it deserves?

We wax lyrically about the terroir. We would not dream of swigging a good wine out of a plastic-lined coffee cup. Why therefore do we not treat a good coffee with the same respect?

We have to encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served from glass or ceramic, the only way to appreciate a good coffee.

We need dialogue between baristas and clientele, as to what we must do to get rid of disposable coffee cups.

Vegware compostable coffee cups at County Restaurant

January 11, 2018

County Restaurant is one of the best kept secrets in Lincoln.

It is one of the best places to eat lunch weekdays.  Or was. It went downhill. I am pleased to say it has improved, at least if my roast dinner and sweet that followed is typical of the daily fare.

Sitting by the side of the coffee machine, vegware compostable coffee cups. Also some other coffee cups not sure what they were.  Also lids, not sure if compostable.

About half the people with a  drink were using the takeaway cups. There were ceramic cups available.

By the drinking water, plastic cups and glass.

The majority of people a takeaway cup to take back to their desk.

Unless bins for the composting of the cups, nothing has been gained and the cups will go to the waste stream.

It beggars belief, polystyrene burger-style boxes for takeaway food.

Encourage relax with a coffee in the restaurant, a coffee in a ceramic cup.

Though as there are indie coffee shops in the town serving speciality coffee, why not take a walk, relax in an indie coffee shop, support the local economy, not drink something disgusting out of a  machine?

For those wishing to take back to their desk, bring your own coffee cup, have KeepCup on sale, bulk buy, brand with Lincoln Imp and a slogan to encourage their use, sell at a discount.

As this is Lincolnshire County Council, responsible for waste disposable and recycling, why are they not setting much higher standards? They should be showcasing best practice for others to follow.

The lid and cup have been retained. They will be dropped on the compost heap to see what happens.

Disposable coffee cups

November 28, 2017

In the UK we throw away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year.

…the thing we found with the glass-only to-go program, is that once people understood why we made that choice and the benefits of doing so, we’ve seen tremendous support and love for the program. – Zayde Naquib, Bar Nine

Often there are very simple things we can do … like relaxing in a coffee shop with a cup of coffee, not walking down the street with a takeaway cup in our hands.

Simple things, when we all act, can change the world.

If I go to a coffee shop, unless they know me, I am greeted with, to drink in or takeaway?

I can just about understand a cappuccino in a takeaway cup, but a single origin V60, no way.

I would not drink a good red wine in a disposable cup, I object to beer in a plastic glass, why would I wish to drink a single origin V60 in a takeaway cup?

These takeaway cups are often referred to as paper cups. They are not, they have a plastic liner, and it is this plastic liner that makes them take a one way trip to incarceration or landfill, as they cannot be recycled.

OK for the pedantic, maybe a couple of plants that can recycle, but, no one is going to take the effort to separate out, therefore for all practical purposes, cannot be recycled, and are therefore on a one way trip to landfill or incineration.

That is a lot of disposable cups. One estimate puts the figure at 2.5 billion throwaway coffee cups every year in the UK.

According to a recent article in fake-left Guardian, environment department Defra using 1400 disposable coffee cups every day.

There can be no excuse for this, not when from their own internal canteens, nor for House of Commons or House of Lords.

It also means it can easily be tackled.

Bulk order KeepCups, sell to staff at a discount. Staff have to bring their own mugs or KeepCups if they wish to buy a drink.

KeepCups with Defra logo together with a few words on recycling could be handed to visitors.

Defra should look to the Bank of England. Staff were encouraged to either purchase a KeepCup or bring their own mug, for which they received a small discount of 10p. 10p was chosen as it was self-financing, cost neutral, it covered the actual cost of the disposable cup. The KeepCups have the Bank of England logo.

Lush in Australia and New Zealand gave all their employees a KeepCup in vibrant Lush colours as a Christmas present.

Disposable cups are lined with polyethylene and have a polystyrene lid, there is sufficient plastic in 28 disposable cups to make one small KeepCup.

In 2009, Simon Lockrey from the Centre for Design at RMIT completed a Symapro Life Cycle Analysis which has independently verified KeepCup sustainability claims.

Research by Canadian chemist Dr Martin Hocking found the break-even energy requirement to manufacture a reusable plastic cup versus a paper cup over a lifetime use was under 15 uses.

A captive audience at Lush, Bank of England or Defra is relatively easy to eliminate the use of disposable cups, what of the passing trade in the street?

A few coffee shops offer a discount if use your own cup. I found one offering a a substantial discount. But these are rare and makes little difference on the use of disposable cups

Coffee shops have KeepCups on sale. I have seen the cheap plastic ones in Harris + Hoole and at FCB kiosk, the more expensive glass in Coffee Island flagship store in Covent Garden.

I mention KeepCup, as they are the industry leaders. There are alternatives. I have seen a bamboo version of a KeepCup.

I have yet to see anyone walk in a coffee shop and buy a KeepCup, let alone walk in and request a refill of their KeepCup.

HuskeeCup made from coffee bean husks is unusual in that it is reusable and recyclable. If not made at country of origin, questionable environmental credentials, and even more questionable the husks are being sourced from Burma, a major human rights violator.

The cups are around $10 each, not including a saucer.

The coffee shop, it may have been a kiosk, that was offering a substantial discount, maybe half price, I asked were there any takers. I think a couple of takers, that was all.

Ben, at Ben’s Records, pops to the adjacent coffee shop with a mug.

Prior to Budget November 2017, it was suggested impose a levy of 5p on takeaway cups, cf 5p levy on plastic bags which has reduced use of plastic bags. It was not taken up.

I doubt it would make a difference, not when the takeaway coffee is cheaper than drinking in.

Tax has various functions, raising revenue, changing behaviour.

The principle the polluter must pay be would be grounds for imposing a levy.

Let us assume a tax on takeaway cups of 10p, levied on 2.5 billion throwaway coffee cups that would raise an annual £250 million, not a paltry sum.

There are recyclable paper cups, that can be composted, but I do not see them in use. There is though a problem. If a few unlikely coincidences occur, I am on my way home, have coffee from a kiosk that serves coffee in a compostable paper cup, I have been to the market and can drop my cup in my bag with the fruit and vegetables, else where do I put the cup, and if I remember when I get home to remove from the bag with my fresh produce, then yes I can throw on my compost heap.

But if not, if these happy but unlikely coincidences do not align, then what do I do with this cup? Throw it on the nearest waste bin. That is the dilemma most will face, what to do with the cup? It is unlikely to be composted, even though it could be. It will go into the waste stream with all the other non-recyclable cups.

In Athens and Cyprus, it is the norm to see people drinking from a takeaway cup. The worst offenders are Coffee Island (Greek equivalent of Starbucks) and Coffee Berry, two chains which serve coffee in disposable cups.

At Jamie’s Coffee at Gatwick Airport, Italian catering supply coffee served in takeaway cups.

Personally I would not buy a coffee in a takeaway cup, I prefer to sit down and relax with a cup of coffee, not drink on the hoof, which I find uncivilised, apart from the very act of drinking out of a takeaway cup as opposed to a ceramic cup or from a glass.

That is not to say I never. I will have a coffee from FCB kiosk at Guildford Station or the Small Batch kiosk outside Brighton Station or the little kiosk on the South Bank at the foot of Hungerford Bridge or Ethiopian Coffee Roasters on the South Bank Street Food Market, but only because these three kiosks and one stall serve excellent coffee, not because I wish to grab and go.

Kaya has a narrow bar, barely wide enough to balance a cup, the ground slopes, pick the height that suits you. There are no seats. The coffee shop is long and narrow, with no room for seats. Stools outside to sit at the bar not possible as the ground slopes. I was the only one drinking out of a cup. All I saw were office workers, grabbing a takeaway coffee on their way home.

Coffee shops must do do more. They could voluntarily refuse to serve coffee in a takeaway cup.

Bar Nine does not serve coffee in takeaway cups. If you really need to take away your coffee and not sit and relax with your coffee, they will lend you a glass jar and trust you to return it on your next visit.

Nova Gea serves fresh fruit juices in jars.

Eden Cafe does not serve coffee in takeaway cups. It buys ceramic cups from local charity shops, the cost about the same as a takeaway cup, which customers can take away if they wish.

I have seen beautiful china tea sets in a charity shop. I recommended to a local tea shop they bought them. Not for everyday use, for special occasions when groups come in to celebrate.

We could turn the serving of coffee on its head, charge more for a takeaway coffee than if sit and relax with a coffee.

This sounds impossible, pigs may fly, and yet Lemonjello’s Coffee do just that, charge more for a takeaway coffee.

You pay for the cost of the takeaway cup, it is built into the price, it is not made explicit. Why not make it explicit? Why not separate out as airlines do with luggage? You pay for your seat, want to take luggage that is an additional charge. You pay for your coffee, want something to carry it away with, that is an extra charge.

If I drink a coffee, I wish to sit down and relax in a coffee shop with my coffee in a ceramic cup, whether or not a saucer a moot point. If V60, Chemex or Japanese syphon, in a glass.

I do not like carting stuff around, if had a KeepCup I would have to cart it around. Then I would leave it somewhere and lose it.

Where I think a KeepCup comes into its own, is for office workers and shop workers who pop out for a takeaway coffee, then yes, they should be using a KeepCup.

I like to post pictures of the coffee shops, the coffee served. But not on Instagram, they claim rights to the pictures, and Instagram not visible on twitter.

What looks more photogenic, a takeaway cup or a ceramic cup or a glass?

To put your image, logo, marketing crap on a disposable cup is to associate your message with trash, it is saying you are ephemeral, transient, worthless. But then is that not true of most marketing?

One person using one paper coffee cup a day is the equivalent of a tree being cut down each year to produce those cups.

Why do we not value the coffee we drink? If we would not dream of drinking wine out of a disposable cup, why do we treat coffee in this way?

The only way this can be tackled, is to ban the use of disposable takeaway cups, coupled with information on why they are being banned.

The takeaway cups are not the only waste coffee shops generate. What of the coffee grounds? These can be used on the garden, used in cakes.

A couple of coffee shops, at my suggestion, have made the grounds available for people to take away. The take up has bordered on zero.

3fe recycles waste, compost bins, using waste milk, sources local food, chaff from the coffee roasting process is used by a local supplier to smoke bacon.

Coffee grounds are used on their garden out the back, what they do not use, a local cress grower Littlecress uses, who then supplies them with cress.

Steaming milk for a cappuccino wastes a lot of milk. 3fe use for making yogurt.

Coffee industry, the speciality end, has quite rightly focused on the supply chain, traceability, transparency, quality, accountability, from farm, through roastery to the coffee shop and what is poured into our cup.

We now must ask what happens, beyond the coffee shop.

Underlying all this and more fundamental, is the grab it and go culture, pointless consumerism, a throw away culture. The consumer culture that keeps the economy afloat.

Consumer junk passes from extraction to factory, six months in the home, then on its one way trip to incineration or landfill.

Until that is tackled, we will have a problem, and not only limited to coffee cups.