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The Environmental Impact of Disposable Coffee Cups

Vending and the Environment: Vending Cups

The issues surrounding the management of waste coffee cups are not new. Coffee shops were the first target, with the government threatening the now-abandoned “latte levy”, an attempt to reduce waste generated. It soon became apparent that the vending industry would fall into this same category.

What are disposable coffee cups made of?

Paper vending cups are lined with a plastic film to make them waterproof. The difficulty in removing this layer has prevented them from being fully recyclable, although some are biodegradable. Plastic cups could be recycled, but there are hurdles to overcome.

There is a great difference between a takeaway cup and a vending cup. Vending cups need to be separated by precision automation to vend reliably. The rim of the cup must fit precisely into the cup mechanism and be robust enough not to be damaged in transport and handling.

Can disposable cups be recycled?

Waste coffee cups are essentially contaminated waste. They are dirty and generally wet, and regrettably, do not amount to a significantly high volume to attract re-processing. For collection of used disposable cups, schemes are in existence, requiring a “membership fee” to cover the cost of collection, but could be deemed too expensive for some businesses.

100% recyclable coffee cups?

New news is that one paper cup supplier is on the way to achieving a vending cup with a waterproof lining made from plant starch, enabling the paper cup to be disposed of in the waste paper bin, and avoiding the need for expensive recycling schemes. Furthermore, a plant starch sip lid is also on the horizon.

Avoiding the use of disposable cups: reducing environmental impact at work

If you’re a facilities manager, or a business owner looking to reduce the environmental impact of your workplace, there are solutions for you from going paperless to reconsidering your vending options. In the past few months, two of our clients have opted to renew their vending equipment, and as part of the review process, they have decided to use china mugs rather than disposable cups.

Dishwashers have been installed and staff have been encouraged to participate in “good housekeeping” to ensure that mugs are used hygienically. Whilst this seems to be working for these clients, it may not be a suitable solution in many busy work environments.

So, there is clearly no single solution to reducing the amount of plastic we use and improving the amount we recycle. Recycling is not currently widely available or possible, but compositable cups are in development. Cup-free vending creates waste reduction, but requires washing facilities and good housekeeping.

Awareness has never been greater and pressure from public and government is driving research and innovation. This can only be a good thing for the health of our planet. Westways Vending is committed to keeping abreast of environmental initiatives in our industry, with a view to offering our clients whichever solution best fits their circumstances.

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This is a personal blog. Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organisations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity unless explicitly stated.
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