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Why Bringing a Reusable Coffee Cup is Important

According to Green Motion, 25 billion coffee cups are disposed of annually in the US alone and a majority of them are unable to be recycled.  By purchasing one coffee (or tea if that’s more your speed) in a single-use cup each day for a year, you will create about 25 pounds of waste.  Americans consume around 400 million cups of coffee daily, and a majority of these are enjoyed in disposable cups, creating a tremendous amount of waste as well as an enormous carbon footprint.

You may be wondering why you’re even reading an article on something like coffee cups, but trust me, this is important.  A majority of coffee cups are made of plastic and while plastic is the most economically resourceful, it takes thousands of years to biodegrade.  It occupies space in our landfills while polluting the environment and having a remarkable impact on our oceans. 

Environmental Monitoring Solutions reports that a majority of plastic is recyclable, but many governments do not own the infrastructures necessary to carry out such energy-intensive processes, as recycling plastic requires an abundance of energy and water.  Because of this, most plastic does not get reused or recycled, and up to 50% of plastic is single-use.  The production process of plastic is the leading cause of carbon emissions contributing to global warming.  The procedure requires a lot of energy and materials, with over 90% being manufactured with fossil fuel resources. 

Now you may be wondering “Ok, but how does plastic affect me?”  Well, plastic influences humans in numerous invisible ways.  Society has come to rely on plastic, yet, we rarely stop to ask ourselves how plastic is altering our health.  As claimed by rePurpose, in order to improve the quality of plastic, toxic additives (like BPAs, plasticizers, and even flame retardants) are incorporated.  These additives do not bind to the chemical chain of plastic, so it is released into the environment to be absorbed by our skin, inhaled, and even consumed in our food and drinks.

Scientists have found microplastics within 114 marine species and almost a third of these creatures end up on our plates.  Some other added chemicals are endocrine disruptors, which affect normal hormone function with even some impeding the brain development in children.  Although more research is necessary before we are able to understand all the consequences of ingesting plastic, it is obvious that this is not helping us.  Every day we consume more contaminated seafood.  This transforms our health, even if the effects have yet to manifest.

BPAs are even within plastic objects that come into direct contact with food, like coffee cups.  Our liver metabolizes BPA to form Bisphenol A and departs our body through our urine.  In order to grasp just how much we are exposed to BPA, the additive was found in the urine of 95% of Canadians aged 3 to 5.  As previously mentioned, BPA is an endocrine disruptor and our endocrine system regulates multiple body functions like metabolism, heart rate, digestion, and even fertility.  You now may want to think twice before getting that grande iced almond milk latte in that plastic cup with the plastic green straw.

Bringing your own coffee cup seems so minuscule.  You may even feel as if it won’t make a difference, but it is always the little things that we continue to do over a period of time that makes the biggest impact.  Although companies are creating alternatives to single-use cups, we as consumers must shift our mindsets to be more conscious of our habits, and bringing a reusable cup is a small step that can create a greater impact than you think.

Nikki is a junior at LMU from Honolulu, Hawai'i and is majoring in Communications Studies with minors in Journalism and Health and Society. She is the Senior Editor of Her Campus LMU.
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