While I am by no means an avid coffee drinker or connoisseur (unfortunately caffeine and I are not the best of friends), once in a while I enjoy the luxury of popping into a coffee shop and treating myself to a take-away coffee experience. I have often felt that there is something rather sophisticated and cosmopolitan about walking out of the likes of Starbucks with a steamy latte in hand. Perhaps, like me, you have always been able to enjoy this little luxury under the impression that take-away coffee cups are recyclable. Apologies if I am now to shatter your illusion and subsequently destroy your daily coffee ritual.
I was utterly shocked to learn that majority of take-away coffee cups are not recyclable. Although they are typically paper cups, during production they are lined with polyethylene so that the cup does not give way as a result of the hot liquid being poured into it. The cups themselves are not made from recycled paper either. Rather they are manufactured using 100% bleached virgin paperboard, for health reasons. These and other scary statistics are detailed in this video. The resultant waste is astronomical: 220 billion paper cups are consumed annually worldwide, according to this report. It is almost impossible even trying to conceptualise that amount of cups. I have stopped trying. Instead, I am resolute that I no longer want to contribute to that number.
My solution? I have bought one of these. It is a reusable take-away style coffee cup. I have already enjoyed a couple of walks with the dog, feeling very cultured as I sip from my eco-cup. Most coffee shops are very happy for you to BYO mug and many will even offer you a discount for doing so. What’s to lose? Okay, I understand that is not always practical. However, I come back to the same point that I have made a few times on this blog: it will be even more inconvenient when the world is so full of trash that we are no longer able to sustain ourselves. In light of this, is it still such a big hassle to pop a cup into your handbag/man bag each morning?
Environmental matters are one thing, but in the lead up to Fairtrade fortnight I have also been contemplating the way in which my coffee habits can benefit others. For many years, our taste for java has meant that many farmers and workers have been exploited in order to satisfy the huge demand for coffee worldwide. It is inexcusable that a farmer works himself to the bone and is then grossly underpaid so that I can enjoy a steamy cup of caffeine. Yet, there is a way for me to sleep easy. By buying Fairtrade coffee I have helped to ensure that those who produce the coffee I drink have been given a fair deal. Therefore, if there is a Fairtrade option, I will always opt for it.
Coffee is apparently the second most popular drink in the world after water. Just think of the difference if we all started to drink it responsibly. Come on, make a small change to your daily routine that could have a huge impact. Anyone up for joining me for a Fairtrade coffee? Just make sure you BYO mug!