Compostable Coffee Cups: All You Need To Know

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Coffee is one of the most desired beverages, and the use of coffee cups is increasing due to the rapid growth of the global coffee market. However, in order to ensure environmental sustainability, industry players are switching to compostable coffee cups. Here we will look at the methods, usage, benefits and different varieties of these eco-friendly coffee cups.

Can coffee cups be composted?

Up until recently, coffee cups were unfortunately not compostable and this created a lot of confusion about the difference between recycling and composting. Coffee cups are made with a thin coating of plastic that can’t be easily separated during the recycling process.

Therefore, Industry players such as Starbucks, have spent a significant amount of money researching and developing a more environmentally sustainable coffee cup material. Their new cup has a compostable lining, so it can be composted or recycled using single-stream recycling.

Compostable cups are usually made from polylactic acid (PLA) plastic. PLA is an environmentally and resource-friendly bio-based plastic made from renewable raw materials such as corn-based resin.

Why is polylactic acid (PLA) a better choice?

  • Compostable packaging, such as PLA hot cups, has a bioplastic liner. Because this lining is composed of plants, it lowers the consumption of fossil fuels. The product is a polymer with a renewable base.
  • PLA packaging composts under conditions established by the European Union standard EN134321. Commercial composting facilities have these requirements. Ensure that your product is collected for commercial composting to ensure that it is successfully processed.
  • PLA cups are not designed to degrade in home composting environments and must be collected for commercial composting.This is to ensure they may be processed and degraded with food or organic items.
  • Avoiding the landfilling of organic waste eliminates the possibility of the paper component of paper and bio-plastic coffee cups degrading and emitting greenhouse gases such as methane. By ensuring that your PLA goods are successfully collected for commercial composting, you can eliminate the risk of these items emitting greenhouse gases in landfill.

For more information on PLA, read ‘PLA Bioplastics: What are they?

How long does it take for compostable coffee cups to decompose?

In a commercial compost facility that can maintain a consistent temperature of 140 degrees, the PLA cups decompose into carbon dioxide and water in 30–45 days.

However, it can take more than six months for one cup to decompose in a backyard compost bin. Nonetheless, this is still quicker than if they were to end up in a landfill and buried, taking hundreds of years to decompose.

With the goal of diverting waste from landfills and instead diverting it to compost, it seems obvious that cups made of organic material would be preferable to cups made of oil-derived plastic.

Are compostable cups better than plastic?

Yes, compostable cups are better than plastic, because producing PLA uses 65% less energy than producing conventional plastics. It also emits 68% less greenhouse gas and contains no toxins.

Packaging that is biodegradable or compostable decomposes in 60 days. However, certain conditions must be met for these innovative products to degrade efficiently, because they require industrial compostable and biodegradable disposal facilities.

It is estimated that plastic takes 450 years to degrade and will permanently leave traces of toxic residues behind while causing serious environmental consequences.

What are biodegradable coffee cups made from?

Bio-based plastics are derived from plants rather than petroleum. It is made by extracting sugar from plants such as corn and sugarcane to make PLA, which is used to line many compostable coffee cups.

The process of producing biodegradable cups is through a mechanical process called wet milling, first corn starch must be converted into sugar.

The moisturiser separates the starch from the kernels. When these components are separated, acid or enzymes are added. They are then heated to turn the starch into sugar. Next, it is fermented with sugar.

The addition of Lactobacillus bacteria to the sugar is one of the most common fermentation methods. In turn, this produces lactic acid. The lactic acid is then converted into lactide, a lactic acid ring shape dimer. These lactide molecules connect to form polymers. 

The polymerization results in small pieces of polylactic acid plastic raw material that can be converted to a range of PLA plastic products.

Reasons to use compostable coffee cups

Bio cups, unlike Styrofoam or plastics, can be recycled or composted. This helps to ensure that paper cups are recycled into other useful materials. As a result, fewer coffee cups end up in landfills and oceans. This encourages waste reduction. 

Here are a few reasons why you should use compostable cups: 

  • Protect marine life
  • Ensuring the safety of water bodies
  • Sustainable for future generations
  • Reduced waste
  • Healthy and safe for human consumption
  • The preservation of fossil fuels
  • Preserving forests and preventing soil erosion

How to dispose of compostable coffee cups and lids?

When it comes to compostable cups and lids, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Compostable cups cannot be recycled alongside paper or cardboard and must be collected separately for commercial composting. This is because it is difficult to separate the liner from the paper fibre.

Takeaway cup lids are typically made of rigid polystyrene (triangle code 6), which is not commonly recycled and must therefore be removed and discarded separately. Although polystyrene can be recycled, it is widely regarded as too complicated and costly to be worthwhile.

To address the following issue, industry players such as Starbucks offer a discount to customers who bring their own reusable cups to the stores and, after a successful trial, have implemented a five-penny discount on those who use disposable cups.

Best compostable coffee cups

Less than 1% of plastic cups produced are recovered and recycled, leaving the rest in natural environments and landfills. To combat this, businesses began using compostable cups. These cups are made from environmentally friendly materials and the most common size is 8oz and 12oz. So here is the list of top 5 best compostable coffee cups.

Eco productsBiodegradable Products Institute (BPI) certified, and it’s made from renewable resources. BPI is an association that is established to provide testing and educating on compostable products

Start packaging – Soak proof due to PLA bioplastic lining and no plastic or wax linings. It is also microwave and freezer safe.

Avant grub – Plant based lining that handles temperatures up to 200 degrees. The cups are sturdy and durable. The rolled rims of the cups have a tight seal.

Green paper products – It comes with various different sizes starting from 4oz.- 20oz. With a good price range, it is one of the most affordable compostable cups in the market.

Let’s Go Green.Biz – Full line of matching eco-friendly lids, cup carriers, stir sticks and sleeves. 

Each of the compostable cups serves a single purpose which is to protect the environment. With the top 5 choices above, you will be able to select the best compostable cups that cater to your needs!

Best reusable coffee cups

A daily coffee visit can wear down your bank account and have a negative impact on the environment. Choosing a good reusable coffee cup can assist in addressing these and other issues. Here are 2 picks of a good reusable coffee cup.

Ecoffee cup – The volume of the cup is 340ml and the weight is 159g. It has a resealable lid the material used is Bamboo fiber (silicone sleeve and lid). It is dishwasher safe but not suitable for microwaves.

Huskup reusable eco cup – The volume of the cup is 400 ml, and the weight is 259g. It has a resealable lid. The material used is rice husk and It’s suitable for both dishwasher and microwave.

Aside from the above, we can always purchase reusable coffee cups at Starbucks, where we can not only get a discount but also collect variants of different coffee cups that are eco-friendly.

How to choose the best eco-friendly cups

When it comes to selecting eco-friendly cups, it is critical that we understand how the materials can affect the environment and reusable coffee cups are also cost-effective. Here are some features to look for on supposedly eco-friendly cups:

  • No plastic or harsh chemicals. Look for cups that are made without lead, phthalates, BPA, and the like, so they can be good for you and planet Earth.
  • Leak-proof and easy to hold. Cups that have special designs, such as vertical linings, can keep it easy to hold when it’s too hot or too cold. Leak-proof parts are also important if you want to use it for your business to build a good reputation with the customers.
  • Stackable and smartly designed. Stackable cups are important because they can make your working space much cleaner.
  • Fits well into your coffee or tea maker. Those who are looking for eco-friendly cups for their personal coffee or tea maker, or for a business that they manage or own, make sure you know the diameter and height of the cups before buying.

Conclusion

Disposable coffee cups have been used for decades, but the environmental pollution and resource waste caused by them have become more serious. Producing and using biodegradable coffee cups has also become extremely important. With this, there is no doubt that compostable coffee cups will eventually replace traditional disposable cups and become the coffee industry’s trend.

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