Compostable takeaway cups are an increasingly popular option for roasters and coffee shops looking to minimise their environmental impact.
That said, the choice to use compostable takeaway cups comes with responsibilities – many of which do not end once the cup is handed to the customer.
Instead of using traditional plastics made from petrochemicals and fossil fuels, compostable plastics are derived from renewable materials such as corn and potato starch. As a result, they are able to break down naturally in the environment over time without leaving toxic residue behind.
Therefore, compostable takeaway cups must be stored effectively to ensure they are not exposed to any elements that may accelerate their degradation.
To learn more about how compostable takeaway cups should be stored, I spoke with the CEO of Valleys Coffee, Le Kim Trang.
The popularity of takeaway coffee cups
The use of takeaway cups spread from the West to the East following the expansion of international coffee chains and social development.
As coffee consumption became an integral part of social culture around the world, the demand for takeaway cups increased.
Over the last few decades, takeaway coffee has surged in popularity in developing Asian countries.
For roasters coffee shop owners, takeaway offerings provide an additional and convenient revenue stream, while acting as a form of marketing – especially when the takeaway cups are custom-printed with branding.
For consumers, takeaway coffees offer a convenient caffeine boost at a reasonable price.
That said, an increased number of consumers have become aware of the single-use plastic crisis. According to estimates, approximately 2.5 billion takeaway cups are disposed of every year in the UK alone, the majority of which end up going to landfill.
This has seen more coffee shops and roasters switch to recycled plastic or paper cups, including Valley’s Coffee.
“We care about the environment,” says Le Kim, who is also a Q-grader. “At Valleys Coffee, we use recycled paper cups for our takeaway service.”
Le explains that they have chosen to do this because composting services in Vietnam have yet to become popular or easily accessible.
“Currently, we are unable to control how the compostable takeaway cups would be disposed of,” Le says. “It would cause problems if the cups were mixed with traditional waste, as the cups are likely to be improperly classed and end up in a landfill.
“That said, the recycling systems are working well in our country, which is why many domestic coffee chains use recycled plastic or paper takeaway cups.
“We use recycled paper cups made from wood pulp. We use the highest quality paper cups in order to provide our customers with an uninhibited flavour experience,” she adds.
Why should roasters invest in compostable takeaway coffee cups?
Notably, a 2021 survey found 68% of consumers were willing to pay more for more sustainable products, up by 10% from a survey taken in 2019.
As a result, many coffee shops and roasters have chosen to invest in recycled materials, or sustainable alternatives, such as kraft paper, rice paper, low-density polyethene (LDPE), and polylactic acid (PLA).
Compostable takeaway cups often comprise a PLA-lining, which means that they can disintegrate and break down into water, carbon dioxide (CO2), and other inorganic compounds, with zero toxic residues.
Additionally, producing PLA uses 65% less energy than that required to manufacture conventional plastics. More so, the manufacturing process emits 68% fewer greenhouse gases.
Traditional plastics can take up to 450 years to break down and often leave behind microplastics and toxin residues which can wreak havoc on the environment.
In a controlled commercial composting facility, compostable cups can break down within 90 days.
Switching to compostable takeaway coffee cups can help protect the environment, reduce plastic waste and reliance on fossil fuels, and boost sustainability credits for coffee shop owners and roasters.
How should compostable takeaway coffee cups be stored?
Storing compostable cups properly is essential, as they are susceptible to external factors such as heat and moisture.
When shipping takeaway cups, manufacturers will first inspect the quality of each cup before they packaged. Some manufacturers may stack around 50 cups on top of each other, slotting one cup into another.
These “rolls” of cups are then wrapped and packed into cartons that may contain up to 2,000 cups, depending on their size. The cartons are then packed into larger boxes and shipped to coffee shops and roasterys.
The way in which compostable cups are stored is likely to change throughout their use cycle.
For instance, Le says they store their cups in the boxes they receive from the manufacturers.
“In our warehouse, the boxes are stacked on shelves for good stock management. They’re stored in a clean, cool environment, and kept at room temperature, as the average temperature in our city ranges from 28°C and 39°C (82°F and 120°F).”
Ideally, roasters should avoid stacking the boxes on top of each other, as the accumulated weight may cause the cups to buckle or become misshapen.
In the shop, cups that are being used on the barista bar are placed on a clean, dry surface, face down. This is to prevent any dust from accumulating inside the cups before they are used.
Additional cups are usually stowed under the counter, wrapped in plastic from the manufacturers. The wrapping helps prevent the cups from coming into contact with any accidental spills or organic coffee waste.
Investing in compostable coffee cups can help a business reduce its reliance on single-use plastics and lower its carbon footprint.
MTPak Coffee can provide you with sustainable, custom-printed coffee cups made from sustainable materials, such as kraft paper, or PET, with an environmentally friendly PLA lining.
In addition to being strong, waterproof, lightweight, and 100% compostable, our takeaway coffee cups are available to order as either single or double wall.
Our range of cups is available in three different sizes: 8oz, 12oz, and 16oz, and we offer a range of low minimum order quantity (MOQ) options. This means you can order as few as 500 fully customised units in just five working days.