Paper Coffee cups
The World Environment and the Ocean Day in the past week have been a catalyst to create awareness in how we manage, control and use plastics as this global concern is a serious threat to the environment, including the fragile oceans.
The main focus were the plastic straws and the pledge was taken not to use it.
It is pleasing to note that our nation is right at the top to champion the universal issue of environmental pollution and have looped in the schools to implement and integrate responsibilities so that the goal congruence is met.
We also need to develop a measure of performance that will monitor our discharge rate of the abuse and notify us of any improvement of how we handle our waste.
I believe that this is a controllable issue and we have the influence and the responsibility to eliminate the threat.
While we are focusing on the pollutants that are visible another threat as emerged in the form of the paper coffee cups.
Coffee consumption is on the increase worldwide and in Fiji we have witnessed a few of the global giants operating and offering the customers the hot beverage in the said type of the cups.
Disposable paper coffee cups are lined with polyethylene, a type of plastic. This coating prevents the cup from turning to mush while there is hot beverage inside but it also means these cups can't be easily recycled due to the waterproof nature.
Besides their difficulty to recycle, paper cups also pose a sustainability issue. Normally we are misled to believe that the coffee cups are paper which has biodegradable qualities and break downs in the environment without any adverse effects. Between the walls of the paper coffee cups there is a thin shield of plastic large as the palm of your hand constructed tightly and bonded to the paper making the cups waterproof and therefore able to contain the hot liquid.
This is not visible to the naked eye because the plastic pieces are embedded in the paper. The walls of the paper coffee cups are often lined or coated with plastic or wax to prevent liquid from leaking out or soaking through the paper. The plastic lids of the coffee cups also have the same negative effects.
Globally there are a few facilities that could separate the plastic from paper and the technology to do that is still in the infant stages and it is very expensive to set up a plant.
It is estimated that we in Fiji use about 5000 cups a day and that ends up in the landfill or disregarded unintentionally, causing adverse effects to our beautiful country.
I believe the leading coffee outlets should revert to the traditional use of the ceramic cups if the beverage is consumed in-house so that it could be washed and reused. This may incur a slight cost, but will give a huge contribution in the sustainable development of the planet and be in line with the World Environment Day message.