Is it a case of more being seen to be doing the right thing, than actually doing the right thing?
I’m talking about the ban in coffee cups.
I admit, I’m biased – I love my caffeine fix in the morning, in the mid-morning and in the afternoon. In fact, I have it as a nightcap.
The coffee industry accounts for billions of paper cups being disposed of each year, most of which ends up in landfill.
Currently there are only 5 centres in the whole of the UK where disposable plastic cups can be recycled.
The problem with disposable plastic cups is that they are single-use only, and the plastic coating that lines each cup to stop the liquid leaking through is what causes the cup – despite being made of paper – to end up in landfill instead of in recycling facilities.
The ban on disposable plastic cups is great, despite its inconvenience. Various coffee chains are already incentivising schemes where customers bring their own mugs, by giving them reductions, but this is usually paid for by charging over the odds for products.
The corner cafe where I live charges a pound for a cup of tea. Starbucks tea costs nearly twice that. You have to be amazed at the profits and the difference in price.
But coffee chains have to be seen to be encouraging recycling, because being sustainable is a perceived plus point. So when chains purport to be environmentally-friendly, and have a social conscience either by being Fairtrade or building schools in deprived areas, don’t be hoodwinked into thinking they care, they have to be seen as caring so as to attract customers.
Part of me wonders, shouldn’t we be trying to tackle wastage elsewhere in products where plastic plays a major role? I’m thinking, instead of tackling the coffee cup, tackle the plastic water bottle first. You get a few uses out of it, true, but certainly the amount of plastic in a water bottle is greater than the number of uses you get out of it.
Maybe we should spend more into researching thinly glass-lined cups that are more recycleable? Or design flasks that are more sleek and more easily washable?
The problem with carry-flasks and mugs is they have a hole in the lid – plastic, I may add – to allow the hot air to escape, which means they are not leakproof. Flasks are hard to clean, which is why people don’t use them. Maybe a plastic, folding cup like campers use are better for the environment?
In short, I can’t think that the spotlight on coffee cups is misdirected.
In the early days of film music, people merely used to sit with their food and drinks in the movie theatre to watch a silent movie. What cups did they use then? Everyone merely brought a mug or flask with them in their picnic basket.
If you want to help environment, target the behaviour, not the symptoms. We have to focus on the disposable culture of society, instead of the cups itself.
In other words, if you have poor skin conditions like acne because you eat too much oily food, getting pimple cream is a waste of time; you need to address the consumption of oily food first.
The whole strategy seems rather confused.