Some facts and figures: in the UK, 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away each year. In the US, that number reaches up to 158 million a day. And in Germany, it’s 320,000 per hour. That’s half a trillion disposable cups worldwide every year. “Yeah okay, but it’s not like that where I live”. Hmm, don’t be so sure about that. Let’s take the case of Belgium. A coffee shop in a Belgian train station can sell up to more than 300 take-away coffees a day. Imagine adding all the Belgian train and gas stations, office buildings, hospitals and schools. Can you see a mountain of garbage piling up in front of you? We shall name it Mount Coffee Cups.
Did you know that worldwide 4 billion trees are used each year for making paper and cardboard? That is 35% of all the forests we cut down. While wood may well be a renewable resource, it is cut down faster than it can grow back. And because of food regulations, paper cups are mainly made from new woodpulp, not from recycled paper. Trees help our ecosystem by absorbing CO2. Every tree is a ‘mini-air purification station’. We need ‘m. (Oh, and don’t get us started on the water, energy and transport needed for the production of disposable cups).
You think disposable cups are harmless? We don’t blame you. Companies are spending big money to make ‘m look eco-friendly: green leaf here, little tree there… Oh so pretty. Okay, some are recyclable or compostable. So what’s the big deal? Well, those paper cups have a plastic lining in order to be waterproof and to handle hot drinks. Even if that lining is made from bioplastics or compostable materials, it’s too complex and expensive for cities to recycle the cups. As a result, they end up in the incinerator. More than 99 percent of disposable cups are not recycled. Auch.
Before we start, let’s add some context. In Belgium, about 40 percent of all litter consists of single-use drink containers, plastic bottles and cans, but also disposable cups. The plastic used in the cups breaks down into microplastics and ends up in our rivers, lakes, and oceans. So what’s the solution? A deposit return system. Actually, many European countries have already proven its efficiency, with a drop of up to 90% of single-use drink containers being dumped. Today, the Flemish region alone spends 164 million euros on cleaning up litter, and the total cost for society amounts to 1 billion euros. What if we stopped littering and used that money for a better purpose? Our 1 euro deposit guarantees no waste. Everything you bring back won’t end up in the plastic soup!
We know, we know! People are ‘too busy to think about waste’, and disposable cups are ‘so convenient’. Use it, ditch it, and carry on. We get it, and that’s why we want to keep sustainability easy and convenient for everyone.
Here’s a fun fact for you: being green makes you happy. Think about it. Don’t you feel good about yourself when you use a reusable cup instead of a single-use cup? Research shows that countries that make an effort for the environment achieve higher scores on the worldwide happiness index. So, what are you waiting for?
Once upon a time (100 years ago actually), an average citizen of Belgium made about 40 kilos of waste per year. Today that number has increased to… 560 kilos. Yep, those are the cold, hard facts. Enough, this has to stop. The current ‘take-make-waste’ way of living is not helping. We are running out of resources and our planet is suffering. We have to start thinking ‘circular’ to design waste out of our system. Like for example, using what we have for as long as possible, or repairing something old instead of buying something new. Our Billie Cups last for years and are recycled by our manufacturers.