How does the Paris Agreement affect single-use coffee cups?

Janice Kanniah
May 20, 2022
How does the Paris Agreement affect single-use coffee cups?

Seven years ago, nearly 200 countries committed to the Paris Climate Agreement: a treaty that aims to reduce the gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

Participating nations’ acknowledged human behaviour contributed to rising greenhouse gas emissions that were destabilising global climates. Furthermore, they agreed curbing environmental pollution would be essential to tackling the effects of climate change.

The global packaging industry makes up 5% of these emissions, which are generated from its manufacturing through to its disposal. In the specialty coffee industry, the largest contributor to this is single-use cups, as millions are produced and disposed of annually, with less than 1% being recycled.

Emission reductions have been insufficient despite collective efforts to adhere to the Paris Agreement. This means many nations are doubling down on their reduction efforts and adapting business models.

Discover how the Paris Agreement affects roasters and cafe owners, and how their choice of disposable cups can help combat climate change.

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How does the Paris Agreement impact businesses?

The Paris Agreement is the most significant global climate agreement to date, and was created to tackle climate change.

It requires participating countries to set targets or contribute financially to help prevent global temperatures from rising 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels. Additionally, it aims for countries to eventually reach global net-zero emissions or carbon neutrality.

Each country must reassess their progress every five years, with the next assessment set to take place in 2023. The general consensus is that countries are not acting quickly enough to facilitate changes.

At the global COP26 summit in November 2021 many countries made bolder pledges and many committed to submitting their plans by the end of 2022. Some experts believe the best way to enact change is in smaller groups, and by sector.

Notably, 2022 marked the first time private corporations and businesses were formally involved in these talks, as more companies realised they play a role in curbing emissions.

As a result, over 1,000 companies with global revenues exceeding $5 trillion signed a Call To Action. This urges governments to adopt policies that reverse nature loss, and compel businesses to act, protect, restore, and conserve nature.

Brown paper takeaway coffee cup sits on metal table with pastry on the streets of Paris.

How the Paris Agreement affects cafés

Due to their size and scale, major corporations contribute significantly to carbon emissions.

That said, smaller businesses such as roasters and cafés can help reduce emissions and many have already been affected by government decisions on a national level.

For instance, the UK government recently implemented a plastic packaging tax for businesses who manufacture or import these components.

As a result, an estimated six out of 10 businesses can expect to pay more for plastic packaging, with increases ranging from 34% to 75%.

To counter this price increase, many businesses are switching to alternative packaging materials. This is also an effective way to appeal to consumers who are realising the environmental impact of their packaging choices.

A 2022 survey shows more than half of Gen Z consumers aged between 10 and 25 are unlikely to make multiple purchases from a retailer whose packaging is not resourceful or sustainable.

Additionally, half of all participants claim to notice sustainability claims on packaging, with almost 80% stating they value the ability to recycle packaging locally.

Disposable cups fall under the umbrella of disposable packaging. While some cafés may not be directly impacted by aspects of the Paris Agreement, it is likely to affect packaging choices, which, in turn, will determine the appeal of tomorrow’s consumers.

Brown paper takeaway coffee cup with white lid sitting on wooden table.

Selecting sustainable single-use coffee cups

For many coffee roasters and cafés, the first step towards making sustainable selections is to step away from plastic single-use cups.

With the impact of Covid-19 still affecting many countries, single-use paper cups are a suitable and affordable alternative. Furthermore, as drive-thru, online and app-based orders become increasingly popular, paper cups allow cafés to continue to offer takeaway coffee services.

However, a 2022 report revealed it is essential for businesses to increase how much of their packaging they recycle.

In the past, paper cups were lined with a polyethylene plastic layer, which makes them difficult to recycle. This is because the cups must be pulped to have the plastic lining removed, and few facilities are equipped to do this.

As a result, paper cups often end up in landfills or may contaminate batches of recyclable plastic or paper waste.

To prevent this, cafés and roasters should consider using single-use paper cups lined with compostable bioplastics, such as polylactic acid (PLA). A PLA coating has no odour or aftertaste as it is resistant to high temperatures, as well as the fatty acids found in drinks that contain milk.

Another way the Paris Agreement could affect those using paper cups is by creating an increased need for transparency. This includes informing customers of what the cups are made of, how they differ from typical single-use coffee cups, and how they should be disposed of.

It is important that business owners find dedicated recycling bins for PLA-lined cups, and inform customers of where to find them. This helps ensure the used cups go to a facility that is equipped to industrially compost them, encouraging a circular economy.

If no such facilities are available, café owners and roasters may want to offer customers  incentives encouraging them to return their used cups, such as discounts fo a free cup of coffee.

Business owners can then send their PLA-lined cups back to their manufacturer to be disposed of responsibly.

Caucasian male with tattoos places three takeaway coffee cups on wooden table surrounded by coffee brewing equipment and packaging.

As countries and governments revisit their adherence to the Paris Agreement, they’ll likely put in place more regulations outlining how businesses operate.

Making the switch to more sustainably produced single-use coffee cups today can help café owners and roasters stay on top of these changes while appealing to tomorrow’s generations of customers.

At MTPak Coffee, we provide specialty roasters around the world with sustainable packaging services. This includes a range of compostable takeaway coffee cups that are made from recycled kraft paper and lined with polylactic acid (PLA), a fully compostable bioplastic made from plant-based starches.

Our range includes double or single wall cups, as well as coffee cup sleeves. We can also help you brand your takeaway coffee cups with details of your business, allowing you to communicate the cup’s recycling qualities to customers.

Furthermore, we offer a range of low minimum order quantity (MOQ) options. This means you can order as little as 500 fully customised units in just five working days.

For more information on sustainable takeaway coffee cups, contact our team.

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