Conscious consumers can pride themselves on pushing the global coffee market in a more eco-friendly direction (see "Grounds for Change," cover story, November/December 2005), but what about the disposable cup industry? According to the Food Service and Packaging Institute, Americans use and throw out nearly 44 billion disposable cups for hot beverages each year.
Styrofoam cups are the cheapest choice, but are produced from carcinogenic benzene and are not biodegradable. Traditional paper cups are poor insulators; the wax coatings used for insulation make these cups non-recyclable.
Thankfully, a few companies offer more sustainable options. Insulair’s EcoSmart cup is the world’s first insulated cup made with post-consumer recycled fiber. Using a built-in middle layer of 99 percent post-consumer recycled paper, this triple-walled paper cup eliminates the need for cup sleeves and double cupping. And it won’t burn your hand. MeadWestvaco and Cereplast are developing a fully renewable and compostable coated paper cup with the Solo Cup Company. The Cereplast cup interior lining, heat resistant to 220 degrees Fahrenheit, replaces the petroleum-based coatings with starch and other degradable components.