Green December Day 3 - Disposable cups

I’ve stopped… Buying drinks without my reusable mug

This one sounds like a doosy since I have seen a positive shift in the push for people to reduce the use of those non-recyclable coffee cups.

With the added incentive of discounted coffee or tea when bringing your own mug, I have really made an effort to cut disposable mugs or cups out of my life. The rule is simple; if I don’t have my mug, I don’t buy a drink. My tumbler featured here is from Corkcicle which has really cute designs while keeping my drink hot for hours but when I’m at work, I prefer to use the spill-proof Auto-seal Contigo mugs that come in packs of two at Costco.

Of course, life isn’t perfect and even I sometimes slip and buy a special drink without my mug, but being a little more strict on when you can afford to penalize yourself for not bringing your mug can prevent hundreds of mugs per year from ended up in landfill.


If you want to go above and beyond, you can (like me) pitch to have your workplace purchase special recycling services through companies like TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box that offers to collect traditionally non-recyclable items to be recycled to keep you and your co-worker’s coffee cups out of the landfills (and also be dubbed your workplace Recyclops!)


If you don’t know by now, coffee cups (actually, generally most cups including soda pop cups) are not recyclable. If you are one of those people that put them in the recycling bin to be hopeful, please stop! It is more harmful to put non-recyclable items in the bins than just putting them in the garbage because a facility may scrap the entire bag if it’s too contaminated with non-recyclable materials. Take the extra second to separate the sleeve and lid from the cup to be recycled and the cup in the garbage.

The reason why they’re not recyclable is due to a plastic polyethylene layer that is coated on the inside to prevent the liquid from soaking through. Due to the complexity of separating these layers, most cities will not recycle them. Additionally, the inside of the cup is often contaminated with the drink. Lastly, due to the thin plastic layer, once littered, the plastic will degrade into smaller and smaller microscopic pieces, ultimately contributing to the accumulation of microplastics in our lakes and oceans.

Carmen Szeto