I consider myself an environmentalist. I try to reduce my waste, I don't consume animal products, and I recycle whenever I can. Coffee cups are one of the products I always make sure to separate from plastic lids and put into the paper recycling. However, I recently found out that in many cities in Canada and around the world, disposable coffee cups aren't recyclable.

Wait... WHAT?

Yep, that's right. In some cities like Ottawa, Canada, where I live, coffee cups aren't processed when they reach the recycling plant. This is because they're often lined with plastic or wax to make them leakproof. When I found this out, I thought about all the times I had proudly dropped my cup into the recycling at a café, sure that I was doing my part for the planet. 

According to the Toronto Environment Alliance, "paper cups are lined with plastic (called polycoat) and this is difficult to recycle." Beverage retailers like Starbucks and Tim Horton's use this formula to make their cups.  

What Happens to the Cups?

Sip photo by Crystal Shaw (@crystalxshaw) on Unsplash

Unsplash on unsplash

If the cup is noticed in time, it will be removed from the paper destined for recycling and sent to the dump. This is already bad, but coffee cups pose even more problems in the blue bin. If a little coffee is left in the cup and spills before it can be removed, it has the potential to contaminate an entire load of paper. Not only will the paper cup be thrown out, but everything that got wet ends up in the landfill too. Either way, more products are destined for the trash dump, where they'll sit for years, long after you took your last sip of that venti chai latté. 

What Can We Do?

If you live in a city where coffee cups aren't recyclable, the best thing to do is to stop buying disposable cups altogether. Single-use products, especially plastic, are detrimental to the planet. Instead, invest in a reusable coffee cup from an environmentally conscious brand like Jocu, and never contribute to single-use coffee waste again. I also love the excuse to order my drinks "for here" and relax in the store while I sip some coffee from an picture-perfect ceramic mug.

You can also encourage brands to invest in more eco-friendly disposable cups. Starbucks recently took a step in the right direction by offering a $10 million reward for new innovations in creating compostable cups for the brand. If more coffee chains took this step, it would greatly reduce waste.

This lifestyle change may seem daunting at first, but avoiding paper coffee cups is a great step towards reducing waste. Your coffee will taste even better when you know that you did something good for Mother Earth in the process.