A study from Recycling List Ireland has suggested that up to 22,000 coffee cups are disposed of in Ireland every hour.
According to the recycling group, this translates to 528,000 cups a day and over 200 million cups a year. It adds that most of these cannot be disposed of in recycling bins.
The group has encouraged people to reduce their use of disposable cups and consider using ceramic or reusable cups instead.
Close, But No Cigar!
‘While many disposable cups carry the recyclable logo, the actual cup is not currently recyclable in Ireland and must be disposed of in general waste. The logo refers only to the rigid plastic lids and the cardboard sleeves on some cups, which can be removed and placed for recycling.’ the group said on its website.
Pauline McDonogh, Waste Prevention Officer with the Southern Region Waste Management Office and Recycling List Ireland, said that people believe cups are recyclable because they are made largely from paper.
He revealed that the cups are lined with plastic polyethylene which is fused to the paper making the cups waterproof, but also difficult to recycle.
“Of course single-use cups are also contaminated by the drink they contained, which is yet another reason why they cannot be added to the bin of clean and dry recyclables,” she added.
“It is worth noting that more than 1,000 cafés in Ireland are now giving a discount to consumers with a reusable cup so long term a reusable cup can make environmental and economic sense,” she added.
Changing The Demand
Physicist and Assistant Professor in Science Education at University College Dublin Dr Shane Bergin supports Recycling List Ireland in its call for less single-use cups. He said that it is very easy and inexpensive to make plastic and to shape it into anything, but added that it is extremely tough to get rid of.
“Many plastics can take up to 1,000 years to break down, negatively impacting our natural environment. Gradual breakdown of plastics results in tiny microplastics which in turn can be ingested by animals, and chemicals that are potentially toxic for various creatures, including humans,” Bergin added.
“The demand for single-use plastic and cups is driven by customer demand. As customers we need to consider the effects of the convenience of a disposable cup on the environment and look to alternative ways to have our coffee and teas,” added Dr Bergin.
Bergin highlighted that some Irish companies have begun to offer compostable cups, but he noted that these cups cannot be thrown into the green bin either.
They must instead be put in the compost bin for disposal by a professional waste collection company,” he added.
“These cups do not break down naturally the way an apple does, for example, they only work if they are disposed of in a food waste recycling bin and processed in a commercial compost facility,” he explained.
So far this year, Musgrave has introduced compostable cups (through its Frank & Honest coffee brand) in SuperValu and Centra stores. Bewley’s, Insomnia and Seattle’s Best Coffee have all teamed up with BWG Foods to introduce sustainable coffee cups in their stores, potentially preventing 19 million coffee cups.
© 2018 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Article by Aidan O’Sullivan. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.