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The Compostable Cup Challenge

The humble take-away coffee cup has been up for debate recently and we thought we would put our compostable cup(s) through its paces.


It's estimated a whopping 2.5 billion cups are thrown away each year! We've been using fully compostable cups a number of years now but never actually tested them ourselves... So here it starts 22/02/2020:


The Runner Bean Coffee Cup

Here is one of our used 12oz compostable coffee cups, strategically placed in the elements outside our office. The terms "Compostable", "Biodegradable" and "Recyclable" are thrown around a lot in the industry... sometimes unscrupulously. Let's find out how "compostable" our cups really are!


We will add to this blog post monthly to document the progress. It's worth a side note that we aren't actually using a compostable bin so it may take longer than usual.


The following information is taken from Natures Path:



Biodegradable

"Anything that is plant-based, animal-based or natural mineral-based product is usually biodegradable. However, they will break down at different rates depending on the original material it’s made out of and how much it has been processed. According to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) biodegradables are anything that undergoes degradation resulting from the action of naturally occurring microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae. Although quickly is not defined biodegradable products are broken in way less time than non-biodegradable products like plastic for instance. Biodegradable objects can be much more than plants, as most people assume. It can be papers, boxes, bags, and other items that have all been created with the ability to slowly break down until they’re able to be consumed on a microscopic level."


Compostable

"Compostable means that a product is capable of breaking down into natural elements in a compost environment. Because it’s broken down into its natural elements it causes no harm to the environment. The breakdown process usually takes about 90 days. The ASTM defines compostables as anything that undergoes degradation by biological processes during composting to yield CO2, water, inorganic compounds and biomass at a rate consistent with other compostable materials and leaves no visible, distinguishable or toxic residue."


What's the difference?

"Looking at the definitions of both terms it’s pretty understandable why they are so easily confused but there’s a difference. While all compostable material is biodegradable, not all biodegradable material is compostable. Although biodegradable materials return to nature and can disappear completely they sometimes leave behind metal residue, on the other hand, compostable materials create something called humus that is full of nutrients and great for plants. In summary, compostable products are biodegradable, but with an added benefit. That is, when they break down, they release valuable nutrients into the soil, aiding the growth of trees and plants."


So overall its wroth noting "compostable" products/packaging could be argued to be friendlier for the environment.


Lastly why not use a fully reusable cup? Here at the Runner Bean Coffee Co we offer a discount on the purchase of any hot drink we using a reusable cup.


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