Love that morning espresso or afternoon cappuccino with your friends? Who doesn't! The Café and take-away coffee culture has exploded in the last decade. You're just as often to see somebody standing with a paper coffee cup in their hand as not. There is unfortunately two big problems with our coffee obsession:
Where does our coffee come from?
In a previous blog we talked a little about labelling, in the coffee and tea world the important ones to look out for is Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance. The coffee trade is massive farming business and employing over 25million people, the majority of which is taking place in developing countries such as Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia and Mexico.
Coffee is another industry which relies on big output to cover costs leaving its farmers and labourers with the short end of the stick. This often results in human right abuses such as incredibly low pay and long hours. Our rainforests also suffer from our demand for coffee as land is cleared to make way for more farms.
Companies such as Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance help promote and create sustainable farming practices where the local environment is protected and workers receive fair wages and equitable treatment. Seeing these labels assures you that your cup of coffee has been ethically sourced from farmers who have met the standards and criteria of these accreditations.
What happens to all those cups?
Over 400 billion cups of coffee are consumed every year, so what is happening to all those paper coffee cups? The majority is ending up in landfills or as litter in our streets and waterways. Take-away cups are generally made from a type of paper called 'cup-board' which is covered in a waterproof coating to prevent leaks. Many paper cups are coated in a plastic resin, and many others are made from recycled material, making them more environmentally friendly. Whilst these are recyclable and biodegradable most cups end up in the garbage bin instead. The cup lids are generally plastic but these can also be recycled if they feature the Plastics Identification Code stamp (1–6).
Another massive issue is home-use coffee machines; although we're counting out the cups, the non-recyclable pods are becoming a huge contributor to landfill with and estimated 28million capsules sold by Nespresso worldwide. Opt for ground coffee machines rather than pod-based ones, or a simple coffee plunger can be just as delicious and a fraction of the price!
You don't have to ditch your love of coffee, but some simple changes can reduce your environmental impact greatly. Look out for labels that state 100% biodegradable, avoid lids if you don't need one, or sit down and enjoy your coffee in a mug. Purchase reusable coffee mugs; some take-away coffee chains even offer discounted refills if you buy their reusable mugs plus they keep your coffee warm for longer and you're less likely to have spillage accidents!