Do disposable coffee cups cause environmental pollution?

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In the last two years humans have dramatically changed the way we live. Humans have increased their consumption of single use products such as masks, gloves and disposable takeaway packaging cutlery for health and hygiene reasons. As a result, single-use food and drink packaging waste increased by 11.3% in 2020. If this accompanying pollution is left unchecked, there will no doubt be issues for years to come.

Non-environmentally friendly disposable coffee cups will pollute the environment.

The paper cups we often use are generally made up of a paper layer and a polyethylene (PE) laminate layer, which are sealed together in a high speed machine to form the laminate and then shaped by processing the cups. The polyethylene laminate provides a heat seal during the manufacturing process and prevents the paper layer from leaking. But because of the plastic based PE layer, paper cups cannot be recycled. Polyethylene takes over 100 years to degrade in natural conditions, and globally, over 500 billion paper cups are consumed each year.

These disposable coffee cups require special recycling facilities which are not available in most communities. Consequently, 99% of disposable coffee cups are sent to landfill before they can be recycled, leaving a hidden danger for the planet’s environment.

Non-environmentally friendly disposable coffee cups may produce health problems

Not only is it an environmental issue, but the use of such disposable coffee cups also sends a lot of microplastics into our bodies. Microplastics are pieces and particles of plastic less than 5 mm in diameter. In one study, trillions of plastic nanoparticles were detected per litre of water after being poured into a regular disposable coffee cup at 100°C and left to stand for 20 minutes. This study was reported from the UK Daily Mail website on 21 April 2022. Similar research can be traced back to November 2020, when a team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology published the results of a study in the Journal of Hazardous Materials showing that an ordinary disposable coffee cup filled with a hot drink released around 25,000 micron-sized microplastic particles into the drink within 15 minutes. Although, according to experts, there is a lack of clear understanding of the toxicity and mechanism of action of these nano-sized particles, and no studies have directly proven that they are harmful to humans. However, the absence of research does not mean that there is no harm.

Many experts believe that microplastics are more harmful than the plastic visible to the naked eye. Some medical studies have claimed that ‘microplastic’ particles are closely linked to the formation of blood clots in humans. Nowadays, these ‘microplastic’ particles are all over our environment. Like all plastic products, they are difficult to degrade and will only increase in number as they accumulate over time, causing more and more ecological headaches.

Umax Eco launches affordable and eco-friendly disposable coffee cups

So, is there a disposable coffee cup material that is cost effective, water resistant, durable and aesthetically pleasing, but also environmentally healthy? The answer is yes, Umax Eco has always been committed to providing cost-effective, eco-friendly food packaging and our eco-friendly disposable coffee cups are available in both PLA-coated and water-based coatings.

Eco-friendly coffee cups

Polylactic acid (PLA) coated disposable coffee cups

Disposable Coffee Cups with PLA Lining are made from renewable resources such as corn starch or sugar cane. PLA is a natural polymer designed to replace petroleum-based plastics that are currently widely used in the market as plastic films or food containers. Compared to petroleum, which is non-renewable, PLA can be recycled continuously and has additional ecological benefits.

According to reports, the process of producing PLA uses 65% less energy than typical petroleum-based plastics and produces 63% less greenhouse gases.

However, PLA materials must be processed industrially in special composting facilities, where they are heated above 60°C to accelerate their decomposition.  The whole biodegradation process takes 90 days. Not all PLA plastic packaging can enter a composting facility; however, it is reassuring to know that PLA does not emit toxic gases when incinerated as other petroleum-based plastics do.

Water-based coated disposable coffee cups

Disposable Coffee Cups with Aqueous Lining use a water-based material that is completely biodegradable. Water-based disposable coffee cups currently are the best solution for the environment as they decompose harmlessly without any professional treatment. After using Umax Eco’s water-based coated disposable coffee cups, simply place them in any paper recycling bin and they can be recycled just as easily as any other recyclable paper sheet. Unlike PLA, it also can be home composted. Even if some of these cups are accidentally discarded and end up in the fields or the sea, they will completely decompose in the natural environment. In summation Umax Eco’s water-based coated disposable coffee cups are the only truly green and viable solution.

Article by Julien

May 8, 2023

Julien is a valuable member of the Umax Eco team, passionate about sustainability and committed to making a positive impact on the environment. With expertise in eco-friendly packaging, Julien works tirelessly to develop innovative solutions that reduce waste and promote a greener future.

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