Why Should We Use Reusable Coffee Cups?

Reusable coffee cup

The world is changing, and things are becoming more straightforward. One such area is the beverage industry, especially coffee. It is a lifestyle for many working people, and anything that makes their daily coffee routine easier is welcome. As a result, coffee lovers have become more particular in how they bring their coffee. Sometimes they are armed with disposable cups made of plastic and paper or reusable travel mugs. Unfortunately, many do not realize the enormous waste some generate and the social, economic, or environmental impact.

Many businesses now offer various eco-friendly drinking implements, such as reusable cups. They are some of the most cost-effective and practical solutions that conveniently enable coffee lovers to enjoy their beverages with minimal impact on their surroundings. Reusable cups range from plastic to stainless steel mugs with covers and are considered a better alternative to single-use ones. Today's article highlights six reasons for embracing reusable coffee cups and how to include them in our lifestyles. 

1. For the planet; reducing waste and pollution

Single-use or disposable coffee cups represent a massive waste of resources. They are consumed at an overwhelming rate worldwide. For instance, the U.K. alone consumes around 7 million cups daily, amounting to about 30,000 tonnes of paper cup waste annually, of which less than 1 in 400 are recycled.

Most disposable cups are paper or cardboard with a thin plastic coating for waterproofing and are often not recyclable or recycled. Instead, they are treated as contaminants in the recycling stream because recycling plants cannot separate the interior plastic lining (polyethylene) from the paper.

The cups also have a 'disposability' label that deems them instantly valueless after consuming the beverage, irrespective of the durability of the materials used to make them. Thus, most disposable cups end up as litter or are buried in landfills for many years, potentially contributing to micro-plastic waste that negatively affects the environment and human health.

Using sustainable coffee cups repeatedly means you are not a part of the wasteful cycle of creating paper or plastic cups. It also reduces a country's annual waste, the pressure on forest trees to manufacture paper cups and consequent greenhouse gas emissions. Cardboard, the main component of the cups, also becomes available for other uses. These measures positively impact the planet yielding healthy ecosystems where humans and wildlife thrive.

2. For saving money

A reusable cup's initial acquisition cost is higher than a disposable one, but it is worth the investment. It is durable and cheaper to refill, not only with coffee but with other beverages. Additionally, people tend to brew their coffee at home when they have their transport cups which is economical in the long run. Finally, most reusable cups are insulated to keep the coffee cold or warm, saving time and energy. 

3. Reduce potential health risks

Not all disposable cups meet health standards, jeopardizing your health. For instance, plastic manufacturing releases volatile organic compounds and microplastics over their life cycle, contributing to air, soil, and aquatic pollution. Prolonged exposure to these elements has adverse health effects on humans. Reusable cups made of a material such as stainless steel are considered safer.

4. For style

Reusable cups are highly customizable and, therefore, incredibly stylish! They come in different designs, colors, and materials giving consumers variety that suits their style. Picking a cup that fits your fashion and maintaining a recognizable look is what style revolves about!

5. To keep your coffee warm

Most reusable coffee mugs keep your brew hot for a long time the way ceramic cups do. They are designed with insulation to retain heat, allowing you to preserve the taste of your brew and enjoy it warm at a comfortable pace. 

6. For convenience

To sum up, reusable cups are convenient for many reasons. First, they usually come with silicone sleeves or a handle that protects your hands from heat - a feature that most disposable cups do not calculate into their design. In addition to allowing the user to transport their drinks easily, they come with lids to avoid spillage accidents that could cause harm.

Are reusable cups better for the environment?

Although reusable cups are generally better than disposable ones, it is not always clear-cut. It depends on factors such as the material used and the number of reuses. Thus, reusable cups can be damaging too. Here are things to have in mind when choosing and handling reusable cups.

  1. It takes between 100 and 250 reuses to make them environmentally preferable to single-use cups. Cleaning directly influences the level of environmental burden due to the resources it takes to make and repeatedly wash them up.
  2. Minimize the washing and clean by hand where possible. Reusable cups, particularly plastic ones, can be damaging because they shed microplastics every time there is an abrasive motion.
  3. Choose reusable travel cups made of stainless steel or recycled coffee grounds, as they are easier to clean and more durable. Nevertheless, the greenest option is not to take out your coffee and instead drink it where you bought it. A porcelain cup's lifetime varies from 500 to 3000 times. Restaurants and cafés have industrial dishwashers, with a lower environmental impact than individually cleaning the cups at home. 
  4. Cafes should provide environmental messaging and alternatives to disposable cups and offer incentives such as discounts and free distribution to encourage consumer behaviour change. 
  5. Manufacturers should also embrace emerging technologies producing paper-based coffee cups that are readily recyclable with other paper grades or substitutes for polyethylene (plastic) liners such as bioplastics. Many of these material solutions are also compostable. 

Reusable coffee cups come with many benefits. They not only help reduce the waste of resources and pollution but also save money in the long run while letting us enjoy our coffee warm. The convenience and flexibility of these cups also make them an excellent choice. 

Nevertheless, the broader adoption of reusable cups and the recommended solutions will require an integrated commitment and approach to circular economics. These include changes in consumer behavior, governmental policies that limit or forbid the use of fossil-based cups, brand owner initiatives to meet sustainability goals, and easily accessible infrastructures at the consumer level to recycle biodegradable cups.


Foteinis, S. (2020). How small daily choices play a huge role in climate change: The disposable paper cup environmental bane. Journal of Cleaner Production, 255: 120294. 

Ligthart, T. & Ansems, A. (2007). Single use cups or reusable (coffee) drinking systems: an environmental comparison. TNO, Apeldoorn.

Poortinga, W. & Whitaker, L. (2018). Promoting the Use of Reusable Coffee Cups through Environmental Messaging, the Provision of Alternatives and Financial Incentives. Sustainability, 10 (3): 873.

Sandhu, S., Lodhia, S., Potts, A. & Crocker, R. (2021). Environment friendly takeaway coffee cup use: Individual and institutional enablers and barriers. Journal of Cleaner Production, 291: 125271. 


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Gakii Mugendi