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For many people, the morning routine involves a dive into a local cafe or coffee shop to grab a caffeine boost on the way into work. More often than not this involves using a disposable cup and lid and usually, although some are technically recyclable, these are not recycled. With a proposed “Latte Levy” looming its time to consider the best solution.

The problems:


Circa 25 billion styrofoam cups are binned every year just in the USA and they don’t biodegrade for hundreds of years. A kind of polystyrene it is made using petroleum and the ‘styrene’ bit is also considered carcinogenic and has been shown to leach out, especially when the inside liquid was hot.


Paper cups are lined with a type of plastic called polyethylene to stop the liquid breaking down the paper. The glue used in their manufacture can also dissolve slightly in hot liquid releasing trace levels of toxins into the drink. Then, of course, there is the huge number of trees chopped down each year to make them.

Cardboard sleeve

Not a problem in itself as cardboard is easily recycled, but when used with a takeaway cup then 9 times out of 10 its gets thrown away with the cup – more waste.


The plastic cups used for to-go iced beverages are made from polypropylene plastic. Although they are technically recyclable, most recycling centres won’t accept this type of plastic. With so much plastic now littering the Ocean and doing real damage to ecosystems this is arguable the worst problem.

So what is the answer?

The most obvious option is a reusable cup and there are many now available on the market. Some of the bigger chains have embraced the re-usable customer and offered discounts for those who use them.

There are, however, some practical issues with re-useable cups that we think make the growing availability of 100% biodegradable cups and lids the best choice to reduce and ultimately irradiate take away cup waste.

Firstly, the user to should be cleaning them after use each day and in our experience, this doesn’t always happen. This can lead to a hygiene issues and is potentially a difficult thing for a coffee shop to deal with. Then there is an issue on standardisation; a good coffee shop will have finely tuned shot levels for their own crockery and so are not going to be able to provide the best drinking experience for customers. Lastly, who really wants to carry a cup around with them all the time?

Biodegradable packaging is free from these problems and, more than that, if every time you buy a take away coffee the cup is biodegradable, the problem is solved at source and doesn’t rely on the consumer. This will also allow branded cups to continue as a marketing tool for coffee shops and cafes the world over.

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