Starting off the day without a dose of java is almost unheard of in America. We consume an enormous amount of caffeine collectively, to the tune of a hundred billion cups every year (a decent percentage of the food and beverage industry). It is no wonder that when you walk down a sidewalk you see gourmet coffee shops mushrooming up everywhere, the business of brewing a cup of steaming coffee is a good one. You have the local diners who will not let your coffee mug get empty by refilling it over and over again whereas the high end bistros and coffee houses can sell you a single cup for well over $5, almost an insult to your reasonably priced cup holder.
How much coffee we should be having is the subject for another debate but what we need to focus on is the number of paper coffee cups which get utilized when we chug our morning coffee from the drink holder. Our coffee stays nice and warm in the paper cup without letting a drop of it leak out and it looks nice too. About 23 million paper cups are utilized every year and most of them are not recyclable. It looks like a normal paper cup but how do you think the coffee does not scald your hand and stays just hot enough without it dripping onto your clothes or seeping through the paper cup?
The mystery behind this is the plastic lamination made of polyethylene. This plastic resin covers the entire outside portion of the paper coffee cup which makes it a waste since this is not recyclable. Paper coffee cups without this covering can be recycled but most of the gourmet coffee shops, like Starbucks, utilize the reported cups which fill landfills occupying space as well as emitting a hazardous chemical, in this case methane, into the atmosphere. This substance increases 23 fold the heat trapping capability of carbon monoxide which leads to global warming, and as some of you know, is a larger problem than CO2 emissions from cars.
Such a callous waste of our natural resources is appalling with four million trees being cut for 23 billion gourmet coffee cups, think of how many houses could be made using this wood, or the number of wheelchair accessories that can improve people’s lives. 8,500 Olympic size pools can be filled up with the 5.7 billion gallons of water required for the production of these cups. Power cuts were unheard of earlier but they happen sometimes now and will happen more often with 7 trillion BTU’s of electricity being just floundered making this unnecessary object.
What is heartening is that awareness is being spread of this waste and people are being encouraged to use reusable coffee cups. Some coffee shops will even give you a discount if you bring in your own travel coffee mug to get your fill of caffeine. Don’t forget to take you favorite coffee mug with you on your next trip to the coffee shop.