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Sustainable Coffee Cups

Ban on disposable cups from Jan. 2024

From Jan. 1, 2024, the use of disposable cups will be banned by European law. The Dutch government is adopting these measures from the European Single-use plastic directive (SUP directive). This European Union directive contains measures to reduce plastic waste in the environment. This regulation is an attempt to reduce disposable waste and promote more sustainable consumer behavior. The ban on single-use coffee cups will have a major impact on companies whose offices still largely rely on single-use coffee cups. This is because even the seemingly paper cups from which much coffee-to-go is drunk contain a layer of plastic. With 10 offices in the Netherlands, this is also a problem for Arcadis. Inspired by changing regulations, Arcadis wants to offer only the most sustainable coffee cups in its offices. Arcadis commissioned a study by Dispersed on the environmental impact of three alternatives to disposable cups, with the aim of informing decision-making regarding the future use of alternatives to coffee cups.

Mapping alternatives

The most obvious alternatives to disposable cups are coffee mugs made of ceramic or glass. However, the use of these cups presents practical challenges, such as the availability of dishwashers in the office and the willingness of employees to change their consumption patterns. Therefore, the analysis chose to include a full service solution. This means that a facility services provider will take care of supplying and also washing the coffee cups externally. This relieves Arcadis and its staff of all concerns regarding coffee cups.

The most sustainable choice

Our research yielded clear results regarding the environmental impact of different types of coffee cups. The findings show that reusable coffee cups, especially glass and ceramic cups that are cleaned locally at Arcadis offices are significantly more environmentally friendly than disposable paper cups. On the other hand, bio-PE cups, which are collected and cleaned at an industrial facility as part of a full-service model from a facility services provider, have a lower environmental impact than paper cups, but these positive effects are partially offset by the greater environmental impact of transportation during the collection process. Overall, glass and ceramic cups are the most sustainable choice, especially from the perspective of reducing Global Warming Potential. An important practical consideration for choosing between CupXchange and ceramic/glass cups is whether it is possible to consistently ensure a high dishwasher load at the Arcadis office.

This research provides insight into the most environmentally friendly choices for coffee cups, thus simplifying the decision-making process for Arcadis. It allows Arcadis to carefully weigh all relevant factors when making choices that are beneficial to both their staff and the environment.