How long have we been at war with the paper cup?
Well, here at TreeHugger we’ve waged a long battle against single-serve paper coffee cups since at least 2008, when our founder Graham Hill came up with his quirky We Are Happy to Serve You porcelain coffee cup.
None of these cups have become a Kleenex, or a Scotch tape – i.e. a household-name item that everyone knows and most people use. And that’s the problem. Paper cups are so plentiful, and oh-so disposable. We might make them from an 80-year-old tree, drink our coffee in 10 minutes and plop them into the trash.
Whether you love them or you hate them, you’ve probably had a Starbucks hot drink in your life, and the mega-coffee chain has admitted that the difficulties of recycling all these cups has basically stymied them – they failed to reach their recycling goals. Getting recyclers to (profitably) remove the necessary hot drink liner from the cups tends to doom the recycling process; compostable cups have also thus far been a failure.
So it’s back to the drawing board. For consumers, the choice is to simply get in the habit of bringing reusable cups. The options are extensive – though each choice of plastic, glass, aluminum or stainless steel does have its individual drawbacks. One reusable cup we love is the Miir – the company uses a portion of each purchase to provide clean water to those in need.
For paper-cup beverage vendors, there is help from the Green Your Cup initiative. UK businessman Martin Myerscough designed a plastic liner that could be more easily separated during recycling. The cup should appear in 2015.