What is the Environmental Impact of Plastic Cups?

Over recent years, we have seen the impact of single-use plastic cups and their effect on the environment. Through decades of producing plastic that is cheap and convenient, we have failed, as a planet, to recognise the devastating impact it has had upon wildlife and natural habitats. From the highest mountains to the deepest oceans across the globe, plastic pollution has left its mark upon the world. Here are some facts about the environmental impact of plastic that you may not be aware of.

Non-Recyclable Plastic

Contrary to the notion that most plastic can be recycled, this is in fact false. A large amount of plastic can not be recycled due to the type it is; this is because of the chemical compound used to form the plastic. Most plastics, for example, originate from crude oil and are thermoset plastic. This means that you can not remold and recycle it in any way. Therefore, simply throwing your plastic cups into the recycle bin after use will not guarantee it a sustainable outcome.

Plastic in Paper Cups

People are becoming increasingly aware that your takeaway cup of coffee or cup of water is not as recyclable as previously believed. This is due to the plastic wax that sits on the inside of the cups. Unfortunately, people are still putting their paper coffee cups and plastic drinking cups into the recycle bin after use. The misconception of how recyclable these items are is partly due to the disconnect from both the claimed recyclability from the manufacture and the rate at which they are actually recycled. The complication in the design of these products has blurred the lines and caused confusion as to what is recyclable and what is not. Inadvertabley, this has led to approximately 2.5 billion coffee cups being used and thrown away in the UK, and just 1 in 400 cups recycled each year.

Global Impact

Much like our water footprint discussed in our previous blog, plastic pollution is a global issue. Many countries around the world have effective waste management infrastructures that can adequately and securely dispose of plastic. The challenge is that due to much plastic being non-recyclable, many countries are accumulating an alarming amount of plastic that does not have any sustainable option to it. Global plastic production is rapidly increasing also. In 2000, global plastic production was 3.39 billion tones, whereas, in 2015, global plastic production reached a staggering 7.82 billion tones. Shockingly, from this an estimated 55% was discarded, 25% was incinerated and only 20% was recycled. Consequently, when we look at these figures it is no wonder we see that the desecration and pollution of natural habitats are prevalent around the world, including the rise in global warming annually.

Despite how worrying these facts can be, all is not without hope. There is a lot that we can do to fix this issue and protect future generations and the world as a whole.

It is important that counties fully comprehend the gravity of the situation and the long-term effect it will have. We do not only have a collective responsibility but also an individual one to set an example and make a difference. For example, businesses and organisations can play a vital role in this matter. Here are some ways your business can help make a positive difference and reduce the use of plastic:

  • Businesses can help by ensuring they have thorough Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) integrated into their business model.
  • Look to employ more sustainable solutions for your customers such as a plastic reduction in products.
  • Take more active measures to reduce the environmental impact of your business activities is an excellent way to reduce plastic and other environmental issues.
  • Finally, staying updated with the latest scientific evidence and research on subjects can greatly aid in your pursuit of sustainability

At Cooleraid, we have understood this and, thus, looked to sustainable solutions for our customers and the planet. For example, our transition from traditional 100% recyclable plastic cups to a PLA compostable paper cup has put us one step closer to a completely sustainable closed-loop system. We have been able to reduce our plastic waste by as much as 95-98% and are continuously looking to reduce this further through our other activities. The overall goal is to shorten the life cycle of disposable cups and give our customers peace of mind so you do not have to think about the recyclability of your drink. To find out more about Cooleraid’s social responsibility, take a look at our Lifeline page.

Conclusion

The environmental impact of plastic is alarming. There is plenty of evidence showing how it is disrupting wildlife from habitats to their food supply. Not only is it impacting wildlife but it is also affecting many parts of the world through global warming and pollution. The common belief that simply discarding your plastic waste in a recycling bin is enough, has simply proved not to be the case. Therefore, it is the responsibility of governments, businesses, and individuals to take action and look to a more sustainable solution to the issue surrounding plastic. Our collective responsibility to take necessary measures will inevitably benefit our future generations and the planet as a whole.