What’s the problem with disposable cups?
In Scotland, we use an estimated 560,000 disposable cups every single day, contributing to the 7 million cups used daily in the UK. Around 40,000 disposable cups end up littering our streets, parks and rivers every year. If you were to stack them up, they would stretch four-and-a-half times as high as Dundee Law! (Interested in sources and statistics? Click here.)
A disposable cup is used for just a few minutes. These cups have been manufactured, printed, packaged and transported, just to be used for this short time. To us, this makes no sense.
What are the cups made from? Aren’t they just plastic?
Yes, the cups are plastic. They’re made from polypropylene, a food-safe plastic that is strong, durable and recyclable.
By choosing a reusable cup that’s made from plastic, we are using the material for its proper use: plastic lasts a long time so we should use it for a long time. These cups are designed to be used hundreds – if not thousands – of times. They are a means to address the problem of single-use, where an item that can last forever is used only once, for just a few minutes.
Our cups are designed and made in the UK. They use a fairly new technology which means that it takes 70% less plastic to make them than it does for a solid-wall cup. They are made in a very energy- and material-efficient way and are the best option we have found to be put out at a low deposit value.
Are they made of recycled plastic?
Not yet. The technology used to make our cups can utilise recycled polypropylene but the recycling process is not yet up to food hygiene standards. We hope that this will come soon though.
Can’t I just put paper takeaway cups in the recycling bin?
Paper coffee cups have a thin, plastic lining to keep the contents from wetting the paper. Because of this mixed composition, they are hard to recycle, and only four facilities in the UK can do this. None of them is in Scotland, so cups would have to be carried by lorry to be recycled. Recycling is an energy-intensive and expensive process, and there has to be someone to buy the end product. There would also need to be collection points for these cups to ensure they were all collected (and we’d have to put them in the right bin). It is estimated that only 1 in 400 paper cups is recycled (source here).
Please do not put these cups into the Council’s paper recycling bins! They can’t be recycled here, any liquid in them might contaminate the rest of the paper waste and, if there are too many cups, the waste processor may decide the whole load is too much trouble to deal with as they’d have to pick out the cups.
My café uses compostable cups. Problem solved, right?
Well, no. Although these cups contain no plastic, they are still used for just a few minutes, so the single-use issues mentioned before still apply. We see plenty of compostables lying as litter, and they can be washed into the river causing harm to wildlife just the same as a plastic-lined cup.
Compostable cups are designed to break down in a specialist facility so, unless you drop it into a dedicated collection bin, they won’t actually be composted. (Interested in sources and statistics? Click here.)
Compostable cups (and lids, containers, cutlery, etc) are not accepted into the Dundee City Council food waste bins. Only food is accepted. The process used here to break down our food waste is not the same as is used for the disposable items. In fact, it costs the Council more to deal with removing compostable items from food waste and it also risks the compost they make not meeting the required standards to be useable.
The vast majority of both types of disposable cup will end up in landfill or being incinerated.
I already have a reusable cup. Can’t I just bring that to a café with me?
Yes! If you use your reusable cup when you buy a takeaway drink or soup then you are already shunning single-use and avoiding the associated waste. Good on you!
However, despite increasing sales of reusable cups, the most recent stats available say that only 2% of hot drinks sales are to people bringing their own (source here). Some outlets will serve in more, some less.
For most people, remembering to bring their cup, keeping it with them all day, carrying it around once they’ve used it and then washing it ready for the next use is a big hassle. Our network offers a convenient way of switching to reusables.
An additional benefit of our system is that, instead of 100,000 people in Dundee each owning a reusable cup (and, in our experience, many people own more than one) – with all the resources and energy involved in making them – we can share just a few thousand cups. Even better, since our cups are made of a single material, they are simple to sort for recycling. Many reusable cups are made of mixed or unusual materials, and it's unclear what can be done with them at the end of their life.
Which cups are most environmentally friendly?
Our cups create less CO2 when compared to disposables (plastic-lined paper or compostable), ceramic sit-in cups or a typical reusable cup you might buy.
If you choose our cups 7 times instead of using 7 disposable cups, your environmental impact will be halved.
If you choose our cups every day for a month instead of using 30 disposables, your environmental impact will be reduced by 86%.
These figures include the impact of washing our reusable cups, as well as disposal of all types of cup. (Interested in sources and statistics? Click here.)
Will the cup keep my drink hot?
The cups insulate heat well. There is no need for a cardboard sleeve or other protection, although the cup will feel warm, just like if you were using a disposable cup.
Are there different sizes of cup?
No. At the moment, there is only a 12oz cup. But if you prefer a smaller drink, don’t worry – your barista won’t fill the cup!
What if the cup breaks?
Our cups are strong and robust. They should not break through normal use and other networks have been using them without any problems. They have been put through 1,000 cycles in a commercial dishwasher without any issues.
But if a cup does break, you can rinse it out and pop it into a Dundee City Council plastics recycling bin or return it to a member outlet (your deposit won't be returned for a damaged cup). We’d also love to know if your cup breaks, because we want to keep enough in circulation, so please email us at email@example.com.
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