The Plastic Purge: Takeout Containers and Coffee Cups

Welcome to the Plastic Purge: May edition! This month, we are focusing on a large source of single use plastic in our lives: takeout containers and single use beverage cups. These products have become a common everyday item in our lives, but many of us don’t take time to consider the impact that these products have on the environment around us. Hot coffee cups are typically not recyclable due to the plastic lining on a cardboard cup, and while the cardboard insulator and takeout containers are normally recyclable, they often are not recycled or are put in the recycling without washing first. These items have lives beyond their one use, as Lisa can attest: we found several iced coffee cups and take out containers at our Earth Day Clean Up.

So what can we do to reduce the amount of single use plastic ending up in landfills as well as littered along roads? If you often get takeout, coffee, or other beverages in single use containers, consider opting for a reusable container instead. Bring a container with you if you plan to go out to eat, and you can take your leftovers home, guilt free, without waste! Bring a reusable mug to your local coffee shop for your morning coffee or tea. As a bonus, some coffee shops will offer discounts if you bring your own mug. Reusable coffee mugs are also available in a wide range of styles, colors, and patterns, so take the opportunity to invest a little more in something that makes you happy!

In the event you forget your reusable container and you use a single use plastic, remember to clean it out well and then recycle whichever components are recyclable in your area. Take out containers and coffee cup lids will often have a recycling number on them- if your local recycling accepts that plastic, wash it out and put it in the recycling! If your coffee sleeve is cardboard, it can also go into the recycling. Hot coffee cups are typically not recyclable, while cold cups may be recyclable in your area. Don’t forget to check the recycling number!

Reducing plastics requires us all to be a little more mindful of what we use and, more importantly, where it goes when we are done using it. By making sure you have durable containers around when you need them, you will be able to reduce your footprint considerably and feel good doing so.

Happy Earth Day, everyone!