The truth about compostable cups

Or rather Nick’s ramble about disposable coffee cups 

Compostable cups seem to be much more common place now, places specifically marketing that they have them in to become a much more sustainable cafe/coffee house. It’s certainly a step in right direction, but it’s not the whole story. Firstly, which we won’t go into much here, it’s only one of the many questionable environmental issues we face in food and drink industry – electricity, food waste, water, plastic bottles, transport. Secondly, and what we will concentrate on here, what does compostable mean in relation to disposable coffee cups.

Disposable coffee cups can have various labels with different understanding for waste management. There is old skool cheap as chips disposable cups – made of of cheap paper and plastic lined that cannot be separated for recycling purposes (especially when food stuff on liner); disposable FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) paper cups, with plastic liners; biodegradable cups, and compostable cups. Then there is plastic lids – both non and biodegradable, and compostable. Biodegradable can be one of two things, a different word for compostable (which is problematic) or plastic linings that will degrade over time; this means it degrades over a short length of time, but leave micro plastic in soil or river systems – not great. Compostable means particular type composting (open windrow composting), with many councils not accepting in their green bins and treating it as a contaminate (Can I include Vegware in my household food waste collection? – Compostable cups will not disintegrate any quicker than old skool cups in a non aerated landfill or disappear if dropped as waste on the ground. Since starting the business in 2016 we have often composted in compost bins – this is the result.

Compostable cups in a bin

Since starting B’spoke we have always said that we prefer people to bring their own cup, and we’ll take 25p off that brew. We have considered only using reusable cups, but realise that it is not always feasible for everyone all of the time. After the first lockdown we stopped using reusable cups full stop until we got new systems in place. 

We use compostable cups at B’spoke, we using various brands from Decent to Vegware, all having the same compostable make up – all with the same additional price tag. We are aware that they will go in normal bins (landfill) or worse dropped on the floor. However, at least we know that the make up of these cups have more sustainable origin – renewable wood for paper, plant-based liner and plant-based lids. 

Over the next 12 month we hope to reduce the use of disposable compostable cups (we’re not going to put a number on that yet), marketing the reasons to use reusable much more of the time and making reusable cups regularly available at our little shop. Free drink with every cup and then 25p off with the use of every reusable cup thereafter. Or just dig that old one from the cupboard, we don’t care we’re just happy to to save using a compostable cup and saving you 25p. 

We currently have a selection of Keepcups both 6oz (perfect flat white size) or 12oz (hang on aren’t your large cups only 10oz) from inexpensive reusable plastic ones to reinforced glass with rubber or cork band to the super-dooper thermal steel ones (I want one, but I already have loads of reusable cups). So bob down grab a Keepcup and get a free brew!