Should roasters invest in disposable bamboo coffee cups?

Karmen Yoong
December 9, 2022
Should roasters invest in disposable bamboo coffee cups?

In recent years, products made from bamboo fibre have become synonymous with sustainable living.

Increasing concerns over single-use plastics and the negative consequences imposed on the environment have prompted strong demands for more eco-friendly alternatives.

In particular, many have gravitated towards bamboo for its ecological benefits. Bamboo is not only a naturally fast-growing plant which requires minimal energy for production but also an extremely versatile material with a wide variety of applications. 

Other than construction and industrial use, bamboo fibre can also be used to generate fuel and energy, and in the production of textiles and other products ranging from toothbrushes, packaging, and even takeaway coffee cups. 

Learn more about the rising popularity of bamboo coffee cups and how roasters can implement them to help boost sustainability credits.

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An image of example of disposable single-use items made from bamboo fibre, such as bamboo cutlery and disposable bamboo takeaway coffee cups in an article on whether roasters should invest in disposable bamboo takeaway coffee cups.

A surge in disposable bamboo takeaway coffee cups

Plastic pollution poses a serious threat to the ecosystem. 

Each year, over 400 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated, with less than 10% of it being recycled.

This means a few hundred million tonnes of plastic are left in the environment, either accumulating in landfills or finding their way into the ocean. 

More so, plastic pollution is growing at an alarming rate due to the increasing use of disposable plastic items, such as food wrappers, plastic straws, and takeaway cups.

The majority of these items are thrown away within minutes after first use. However, they tend to linger in the environment for many years. 

Takeaway coffee cups, in particular, make up a large proportion of plastic waste. Notably, the US alone throws away more than 50 billion coffee cups every year.

Fortunately, the coffee community has become increasingly environmentally conscious. Additionally, many consumers have gravitated towards more sustainable practices, such as switching to the use of reusable bamboo coffee cups.

Bamboo products have grown immensely in popularity, with the market projected to be worth USD 12.4 billion by 2032.

Lightweight and durable, bamboo cups are the go-to option for many roasters and coffee shops in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint. 

That said, an evaluation of twelve different bamboo cups conducted by the German consumer organisation, Stiftung Warentest, has raised health concerns.

Some potentially dangerous chemicals, such as melamine resin and formaldehyde, have been found in a few reusable bamboo cups. When exposed to high heat, these chemicals can be hazardous.

As the release of these chemicals increases with prolonged use, this revelation has prompted the development of disposable bamboo cups to reduce the risk of chemical contamination.

An image of two bamboo takeaway coffee cups made from bamboo pulp in an article on whether roasters should invest in disposable bamboo takeaway coffee cups.

How are bamboo takeaway cups made?

Most bamboo takeaway coffee cups are made using bamboo pulp. 

Pulp refers to a soft, wet, and shapeless mass of material that is typically used in the manufacturing of paper and other paper products. Traditionally, pulp is made by breaking down the cellulose fibres of plants. 

The manufacturing of bamboo coffee cups begins with the harvesting of bamboo plants. The bamboo is cut into smaller chips, while unwanted particles or “sawdust” is removed from the bamboo chips.

These chips are then washed and cleaned in preparation for the next step of processing. This includes transferring them to a pulping machine to be converted into bamboo pulp. 

The bamboo pulp is then washed and screened to remove any crude residue, dust, and sand. Some manufacturers choose to bleach the bamboo pulp to increase its whiteness for custom printing and help improve its strength.

The pulp is then dried in sheets and prepared for printing. When used to make disposable cups, the sheets are coated with a sugarcane residue before the paper is cut into the desired size for the cups.

An image of a woman carrying a disposable bamboo takeaway coffee cup with a white lid and white coffee cup sleeve in an article on whether roasters should invest in disposable bamboo takeaway coffee cups.

Are bamboo takeaway coffee cups sustainable?

According to Guinness World Records, some species of bamboo can grow up to 2.91 feet a day, or 1.5 inches an hour.

Compared to other trees that may require up to 20 years to be harvested and made into paper, bamboo reaches maturity within 3 to 5 years. 

This makes it a highly sustainable resource, as it is quickly renewable due to its short growth cycle.

Furthermore, bamboo production requires minimal energy, as it thrives naturally without the use of any pesticide and will also self-regenerate from its root system. As bamboo root remains intact in the soil, it offers the added benefit of preventing soil erosion.

The International Bamboo and Rattan Organization (INBAR) suggests bamboo is a critical component in the transition to a circular economy. A circular economy refers to a model in which resources are kept in use for as long as possible.

As opposed to a linear economy where “take, make, waste” is practised, a circular economy promotes a closed-loop system to minimise waste and encourage more effective use of resources.

Importantly, bamboo makes an important carbon sink as it can store more carbon than other species of trees. 

In particular, a study by INBAR estimates one hectare of bamboo plantation can store almost double the carbon compared to Chinese fir trees. This accumulates to 300 tonnes over a 60-year period.

Bamboo is also highly durable with anti-bacterial properties. This is due to “bamboo Kun”, a natural antimicrobial bio-agent found in the plant. 

As such, bamboo is ideal for making food packaging, as it makes the final product naturally safe and hygienic.

An image of disposable bamboo takeaway coffee cups in an article on whether roasters should invest in disposable bamboo takeaway coffee cups.

Overall, bamboo is considered one of the most effective alternatives to plastics. Notably, there is already a growing application of bamboo products, ranging from building materials and textiles to single-use items such as packaging, straws, cutlery, and cups.

Made from plant-based materials, bamboo takeaway coffee cups are compostable and biodegradable at the end of their life cycle. 

With its low carbon footprint and abundant properties that are beneficial to the environment, businesses looking for eco-friendly solutions may consider the switch to bamboo products.

AT MTPak Coffee, we offer specialty roasters and coffee shops a range of sustainably sourced bamboo takeaway coffee cups.

More so, we offer you the option of custom-printed bamboo takeaway coffee cups to ensure they are always aligned with your brand. 

Our additional range of sustainable takeaway coffee cups is made from recyclable materials such as PET and kraft paper, with an environmentally friendly PLA lining.

Our cups are available in three sizes: 8oz, 12oz, and 16oz. In addition to being strong, waterproof, lightweight, and 100% compostable, our cups can be custom-designed using innovative digital printing technology to feature a QR code that leads consumers to your website.

We also 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.

For more information on custom-printed bamboo takeaway coffee cups, contact our team.

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Karmen Yoong
Karmen Yoong

Karmen has been a writer for MTPak Coffee for several years and is very passionate about her craft.

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