Take-away coffee is a luxury I just can’t quit. Yes, I know that the cost adds up to an extortionate sum annually but hey, it’s one of my little treats to myself. I love coffee and the office-supplied instant rubbish just doesn’t cut it for my daily caffeine boost.
Unfortunately, one of the draw-backs of such addictions is the amount of waste produced by take-away coffee cups.
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According to a 2011 survey by Which?, an estimated 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away in the UK each year. 2.5 BILLION! As the coffee industry has expanded even more over the past seven years, the Environmental Audit Committee estimates that this number would be significantly larger today.
But hang on, aren’t people recycling their cups?
Unfortunately, because there’s a film of plastic between the cup layers to stop seepage, the cups are not recyclable in most areas in the UK. In fact, there are only three plants throughout the whole of the country that are able to recycle these cups. Even the lids are only recyclable in some councils. Due to these restrictions, only 1 per cent of the billions of coffee cups disposed of annually are recycled. Ouch.
To add insult to injury, many paper cups are made from virgin paper pulp. ie. paper made from trees felled just to make the cups, rather than from recycled materials.
Seems a hefty price to pay for five minutes of enjoyment.
Enter the rise of the reusable cup.
Of course, travel mugs have long been around but in recent times, they have evolved from being something you may use just on the run to something you use in lieu of a standard takeaway cup.
Not only do reusable cups save the environment, they will save you money in the long run. In the UK, all major chains and many independent cafes now offer a discount when you bring your own cup. This usually ranges from 10p at smaller, independent cafes to up to 25p at most chains. Pret wins the discount war, with a massive 50p off every time you use your own cup!
In addition, there’s talk of the government introducing a 25p levy on disposable cups. Given the difference the plastic bag charge has made, I’m all behind this.
If nothing else, reusable coffee cups are convenient, cute and cost-effective. You can pick up a reusable cup for as little as a Pound, however I’ve found the cheaper ones usually give your coffee a slightly plastic-y taste; it’s definitely worth shelling out a few extra quid for something long-lasting and non-tainting to your brew.
Here are my top picks!
Maybe I’m biased because this is what I personally use but Ecoffee Cups are seriously awesome. With nearly 100 gorgeous designs ranging from solid colours and classic prints, to bright, contemporary patterns, there really is something for everyone. The cups are made from sustainable and biodegradable bamboo fibre, the silicone lids mean there’s no leakage or drips, and the whole lot is dishwasher-safe.
KeepCups are available in the biggest range of sizes I’ve found (five in total!) so there should be something to suit everyone. Their diverse range includes cups made from coloured plastic, see-through plastic, and tempered glass and cork. They have a bunch of special-edition designs including Star Wars, Sea Shepherd, and an exclusive Caffe Nero collaboration. You can also design your own by mixing-and-matching the cup type, colour and lid. They are a cute and lightweight option.
For any minimalists out there, the Australian-owned and designed Frank Green SmartCup is the perfect choice. The sleek design features a push button lid and a double-walled outer layer to keep your drink warmer for longer. You can customise the colours of the base, lid and button for a unique design. The materials are not only stain and odour resistant, they are recyclable at the end of their life. Swoon.
If you want a more classic travel mug design, the Vacuum Travel Mug from Bodum is the perfect choice. Made from heat-retaining stainless steel with a range of cup and sleeve colours, the mugs are sleek and practical. They also have a range exclusive to John Lewis with snazzy colours like copper, gold and gun metal.
For a pretty yet practical mug, Beau & Eliot’s travel mug from the Champagne Edit range is just the thing. With its pink body, gold heart details and sleek grey lid, the cup is pretty yet understated. It holds a decent amount of coffee and the double-walled insulation keeps drinks warm for up to four hours.
For a fuss-free but smart design for your morning commute, the Aladdin Recycled & Recyclable Mug is just the thing. Available in bright purple, green, or blue, these eco-friendly cups are not only made from recycled plastic but are another range that’s recyclable at the end of their life. The lid is leak-proof and the double-walled insulation insures your brew doesn’t go cold. The cup is also dishwasher and microwave safe (though if you microwave coffee, I’m not sure we can be friends).
If you like the idea of a reusable coffee cup but they all seem a bit too bulky, check out the Stojo Collapsible Pocket Cup. Though it holds 350ml, the cup collapses down to the size of the lid and remains leak-proof so you can stash it in your bag or pocket without worry. Made from recycled materials, the cup comes in a range of bright colours and once extended, the heat sleeve holds the cup’s shape.
The JOCO travel mug is another sleek glass design with lids and sleeves in a range of colours. Made from lightweight borosilicate glass, it’s 100% plastic free so it won’t affect the taste of your drink and the splash-proof lid is extra-deep to stop any nose-to-lid contact. The cups are available in standard barista sizes of 235ml, 350ml or 475ml, so no more guessing between “tall” or “grande” at the till!
What’s your favourite? Let me know in the comments!