That cup of coffee you’re drinking – is it costing the earth?

It doesn’t seem that long ago since trying to find a decent cappuccino in Dublin was a chore. Now, the proliferation of cafes and coffee stalls means that you’re never more than an arm’s length away from a large/tall/grande double skinny latte (remember when you used to just ask for a coffee!).

While this is good news for coffee sellers, it’s bad news for the environment as that takeaway coffee cup you’ve just used is probably not compostable (they do exist but I know of only one café in Dublin using them), and is very difficult or impossible to recycle (due to the lining of polyethylene which is required to keep the liquid inside hot and to stop it from leaking). It’s most likely that the cup will end up going to landfill where it’ll take several hundred years to break down.

coffee short-1-2If you’re a regular takeaway coffee (or tea for that matter) drinker, why not invest in a re-useable coffee cup? There are any number of styles to choose from (mine is pictured above). Buying one not only reduces the number of these cups being used and disposed of but also, and you can take my word for it, the coffee tastes infinitely better.

The stats:

I couldn’t find any statistics on the number of takeaway coffee/tea cups that that end up in landfill in Ireland every year, so I decided to do my own back-of-the-envelope calculations:

Let’s say one coffee stall sells 200 cups of coffee/tea each day = 200

Coffee stall operates 5 days per week = 200 x 5 = 1,000 cups

Coffee stall operates 48 weeks per year = 1,000 x 48 = 48,000 cups

Now let’s assume that there 20 such coffee stalls operating in Dublin, 10 each in Galway, Cork and Limerick = 50 x 48,000 = **2,400,000** cups annually.

That’s a lot of cups, many or most of which may be going to landfill. I haven’t even looked at the number of takeaway cups used by cafés, of which there are hundreds around the country – if you include these that 2.4m figure would probably increase a number of times. Makes you think doesn’t it; if everyone bought a re-useable cup, how much could that figure be reduced by?

Interestingly, after I had my blog drafted, a prescient article appeared in the Guardian newspaper. Based on its findings I reckon my own estimates above for Ireland are probably way too (unfortunately) conservative…