Fact: New Yorkers drink almost 7 times more coffee than other cities in the US
Fact: The average American office worker uses about 500 disposable cups every year
Fact: More than 1 billion coffee cups are produced every year in Australia, generating over 7000 tonnes of waste.
Fact: Coffee is the 2nd most traded commodity on earth.
Fact: Most coffee cups have a thin film of polyethylene on the inside (to stop them from falling apart when you poor in hot coffee) and are NOT recyclable. They also release methane gas when sent to a landfill, a greenhouse gas 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
Most of us love coffee, some of us a little too much! It's hard not to be drawn to the intoxicating smell, the ritual and the energy it gives us.
Most of us also know how bad coffee can be for our health (when drunk in excess) but have you ever stopped to think about the effect drinking coffee has on the environment?
Convenience is everything these days, in our fast paced lives we don't seem to have time to do anything, let alone make ourselves a cup of coffee. So we grab 1, 2, 3 sometimes even 4 on the run but where do all of these take-away coffee cups go?
Well, if they are styrofaom then they are probably sitting in a landfill somewhere, letting off harmful gases into the atmosphere. If they are cardboard, the ones that you think are being recycled, well, think again, those cups have a polyethylene lining to keep the heat in and to stop them from falling apart, therefore they can't be recycled.
Some cafes in Australia and the US are using "bio products" which means that the lining is made from plant based products like corn instead of petroleum products like the regular ones. The plus side to these products is that if they are composted in a commercial compost facility then they break down perfectly and all is well in the world. The downside is that these commercial facilities hardly exist! If these products do end up in landfill though, apparently they let off less greenhouse gas emissions than the regular ones... but it's still not solving our waste problem.
Nespresso seems to be the latest craze for coffee drinkers in the home, no thanks to George Clooney! but did you know that it's been estimated that their capsules create over 3200 metric tonnes of FULLY RECYCLABLE waste each year? Apparently 12,300 capsules are used PER MINUTE which is 6.4 billion capsules a year! The issue with these guys is that even though they are "technically" recyclable there is a huge lack of recycling programs (sure, you can stuff your used pods into a bag and trek down to the local Nespresso "recycling drop off" but seriously, who's really doing that?) And a lot of the machinery in recycling plants are susceptible to mechanical failure in the presence of small items like these capsules.
There is also the problem of laziness and not following the proper recycling protocols like cleaning all of the coffee out of the pods before they go into the recycling bin. Something we are all guilty of doing!
So, how do we create change? Well, being an Aussie, i love the cafe culture (and i'm not talking Starbucks people! - The McDonalds of coffee in my opinion). I'm talking your local cafe that serves coffee in a proper cup (as opposed to a disposable one) where you meet with friends and take time out of your day to sit down for a few minutes and actually enjoy the ritual of drinking a cup of coffee. I know this sounds idyllic but it's all about prioritizing. Giving yourself 10 minutes to slow down and enjoy something you love is so important.
If this is really not possible then the next best thing is investing in a french press/ plunger. They cost anywhere between $4 and $60 depending on which brand and size you want and it seriously takes only 5 minutes to make a good cup of coffee. You can be in your pyjamas while you're making it too! I love iced coffee in the summer so i make a big batch of it up and keep it in the fridge which then only takes 1 minute in the morning to make. ONE MINUTE PEOPLE!
(Warning: the longer you leave the coffee in the plunger in the fridge, the stronger it gets!)
I'm not saying NEVER have a take- out coffee but perhaps starting thinking about cutting back and making your own at home. Or taking time out to sit down and enjoy it. Or better yet, buying a mug that you can reuse. Remember, every little bit helps.
A FEW THINGS TO CHECK OUT:
There are plenty of french press/plungers on the market but THIS BRAND is one of my faves.
This CAFE IN NEW ZEALAND is leading the way by banning disposable coffee cups.
Jeremy Irons narrates THIS IMPORTANT DOCUMENTARY about our 'throw away' culture and the impact it is having on our environment.
Need to find a reusable cup? THIS is one of my faves.