How to avoid leaks and spills from takeaway coffee cups

Hayley Osbourne
January 20, 2023
An image of a leaking takeaway coffee cup with a custom printed design in an article on how to avoid leaks and spills in takeaway coffee cups

A growing number of consumers are prioritising convenience when it comes to purchases, and many expect retailers to help them save time and effort. 

The specialty coffee industry is no different, adapting to offer high-quality takeaway options to consumers on the go. 

Notably, the evolution of takeaway coffee cups has been remarkable. They have transformed from tin communal dippers and polystyrene contributors to the plastic crisis to compostable items that break down organically.

Despite advancements in technology and design, one issue consumers still face with takeaway coffee cups is leaks and spills. 

So, is it the design of the cup, the lid, or is it just human nature? 

While leaks and spills are something that is completely out of the barista’s control, there are precautions coffee shop owners can take to help prevent them.

Read on to learn how to avoid leaks and spills from takeaway coffee cups. 

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What is the likelihood of coffee spills and leaks?

Takeaway coffee offers customers the opportunity to have high-quality barista-made coffee on the go. 

The convenience of takeaway coffee continues to push its popularity. Notably, the global takeaway coffee market was worth $37.8 billion in 2022.

Furthermore, more consumers are choosing coffee over carbonated soft drinks and energy drinks. These have been linked to several health issues, such as obesity and hypertension. 

The majority of takeaway coffee consumers tend to drink their beverage while on the move. This can be during a commute or while running errands. 

The unpredictable movements of transport and the erratic fast-paced movement of walking are likely to increase the chance consumers will spill the coffee. 

Interestingly, a survey revealed over half of Millennials have admitted to spilling their coffee within the past year, compared to 35% of baby boomers.

An image of a takeaway coffee cup with a seam and takeaway coffee cup lid, showing how to line them up to prevent spills or leaks, in an article on how to avoid leaks and spills from takeaway coffee cups.

Avoiding leaks from takeaway coffee cups

Traditionally, many single-use paper takeaway coffee cups were lined with polyurethane plastic to avoid the liquid seeping out.

However, recent studies found this type of lining can release up to 5 trillion plastic nanoparticles per litre when hot liquid is poured into the cup.

Researchers did note the total amount of particles leaked fell under the safe human consumption levels set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

That said, a 2018 study found takeaway coffee cups with this lining can contaminate the local environment when they end up in a landfill.

More importantly, a polyurethane plastic lining often prevents takeaway coffee cups from being recycled.

Therefore, a sustainable, environmentally friendly alternative was implemented: a lining composed of polylactic acid (PLA). 

A PLA lining is compostable and biodegradable as it is made of resin from corn starch or other plant-based starches.

In addition to being non-toxic, PLA is less likely to alter the odour or flavour of the coffee inside.

How can coffee shops avoid spills from takeaway cups?

Predominantly, when handing takeaway coffee cups to consumers, the barista should ensure the lid fits and is secure. 

On the majority of takeaway coffee cups, there is a seam that runs along the cup and onto the rim. 

When a lid is placed on the cup, the sea where the seam reaches the rim can create a small opening, as it is often uneven. 

If the drinking spout sits on top of this opening, it creates a space where the coffee can leak through when the consumer takes a sip. 

To decrease the likelihood of spills, the drinking spout should always be on the opposite side of the seam on the cup. 

Another way to help consumers is to use a larger cup size for foamy coffee offerings. 

The bubbles in the foam can act as an anti-spill device. This, coupled with a larger cup to prevent the foam from overfilling the crevices of the lid, can help consumers prevent spills.

Alternatively, coffee shops can invest in spill stoppers, which can be used to temporarily plug the spout. Spill stoppers, also commonly known as stir sticks, can prevent spills and help retain the heat of the coffee.

That said, coffee shops should ensure spill stoppers are made from recyclable plastics or renewable materials, such as bamboo. 

Notably, a study mentioned in The Washing Post explains how the liquid in a coffee cup is more likely to splash around than liquid in a wine glass.

This is due to the size and shape of the vessel. The study also found spills and often leaks are partly due to the motion the consumer’s wrist introduces to the cup while walking.  

As a result, researchers suggest consumers carry takeaway coffee cups with a claw-like hand: gripping the rim of the cup from the above, instead of the side or bottom. 

In this position, there is less movement of the wrist, helping to minimise leaks and spills.

An image of a barista handing a consumer a takeaway coffee in a takeaway coffee cup in an article on how to avoid leaks and spills from takeaway coffee cups

At MTPak Coffee, we can provide roasters and cafe owners with sustainable takeaway coffee cups made from renewable materials such as recycled kraft paper with an environmentally-friendly PLA lining.

Strong and lightweight, our range of cups is the ideal choice for roasters and coffee shops looking to reduce the impact on the environment and communicate their commitment towards sustainability.

Our range includes double or single wall cups, compostable takeaway coffee cups, as well as coffee cup sleeves.

Our recyclable takeaway coffee cups are available in five different sizes: 4 oz, 8 oz, 16 oz, 12 oz, and 24 oz.

We can also help you fully customise your takeaway coffee cups or coffee cup sleeves with details of your business, allowing you to communicate the cup’s recycling qualities to customers.

We only use innovative and eco-friendly digital printing technology with sustainable, water-based inks that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

This means that while they are highly resistant to abrasion, water, and heat, they are also compostable and easy to remove for recycling.

Furthermore, we offer a range of low minimum order quantity (MOQ) options, allowing you to 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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