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The disposable cup crisis: what’s the environmental impact of a to-go coffee?

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By illuminem briefings 🌎

· 2 min read


illuminem summarizes for you the essential news of the day. Read the full piece on The Guardian or enjoy below:

🗞️ Driving the news: The environmental impact of disposable coffee cups is significant, with their production, use, and disposal contributing to energy consumption, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions
Companies like Starbucks are responding to this crisis by encouraging customers to bring their own cups, reflecting a growing concern about single-use cups

🔭 The context: Disposable cups, whether made from paper, plastic, or polystyrene foam, have detrimental environmental effects
Polystyrene cups take about 500 years to decompose, emitting CO2 in the process
Plastic cups contribute to microplastic pollution, and paper cups, often lined with plastic, are challenging to recycle and decompose, emitting methane in landfills

🌍 Why it matters for the planet: The slow decomposition of disposable cups releases microplastics and pollutants, contributing to landfill overuse and harmful emissions
This ongoing issue underscores the need for more sustainable practices in everyday consumer choices

⏭️ What's next: Efforts to reduce the use of disposable cups, such as Starbucks' BYOC initiative and the adoption of biodegradable cups, are important steps
However, comprehensive solutions require systemic changes in consumption and waste management, as well as careful consideration of the lifecycle impacts of products

💬 One quote: "The best policies are those that encourage value retention by extending the life of products" (Rachel A Meidl, Rice University’s Baker Institute)

📈 One stat: The U.S. produces about 3 million tons of polystyrene annually, with 80% ending up in trash, including approximately 25 billion cups each year


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