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Single Use Cups

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The lifespan of a single-use coffee cup is roughly seven minutes if even. Just think about that: all those valuable resources – virgin paper pulp, water, plastic lining (PP or PLA), plastic wrapping, energy, warehousing, and logistics – come together for something that’s used for a few minutes then discarded, with only a slim chance of being recycled. The reality is stark: after nearly a decade of discussions, over 95% of all single-use cups (even those labelled “compostable”) end up in landfill for more than 30 years – all for just a few minutes of use.

I don’t intend to preach or procrastinate, but when you examine certain “questionoable” types of human behaviour, many can be morally justified due to cost-effective alternatives. The use of single-use cups however is not one of those issues. Several popular, commercially viable, and cost-effective solutions have been available for years, but as an industry and society, we have chosen to ignore them. In these eight years, no one has questioned whether single-use is simply right or wrong. I believe now is the time; in 2024, there is no excuse for single-use.

Since we launched in 2018, we have been trying to tackle this problem providing re-use options for consumers and businesses and eventually eliminating cup in their entirety post covid from February. As a result we successfully prevented in 2023 over 34,000 cups going to landfill or the incinerator which is invariably where these cups end up. The journey has been challenging yet rewarding, with successes and setbacks, hindered by powerful lobbying and misinformation, especially during COVID. But we have remained steadfast in our belief that re-use is the only way forward in solving this massive problem.

In a world-first, in 2023 we partnered with ecoffee cup who began producing reusable cups out of plant resin in Ireland and we managed to eliminate 100% of our single-use cups from Bread 41, Our OWN/LOAN cup schemes have removed over thousands of single-use cups from waste streams, proving that re-use can be highly effective and popular with consumers. We initially thoughts our coffee sales would drop but our customers supported this project and our coffee sales increased by 8%. Doing good is actually good for business not to mention we saved over €7,500 in purchasing single use cups.

International Coffee Day is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the industry as a whole and to seek real, commercially viable alternatives to the status quo. Sustainability (if we must use that vague term) for to-go beverages needs to move beyond endless press releases and “trials” to the adoption of an industry-wide best-practice model, free from product shills and half-truths. However, without a collective understanding of what is “right,” we seem stuck – unable or unwilling to make simple changes to remove single-use from supply chains.

As part of our committment to being B Corp certified and our committment to SDG12 around responsible production and consumption we have shown that removing waste is good for business on multiple levels.


  • Most single-use “paper” cups contain a polyurethane coating, making recycling difficult and rare. Less than 2% are recycled.
  • Half a trillion single-use cups are made globally each year; over 70 for every person on the planet.
  • Over 40% of plastic created annually is for single-use items.
  • Four billion trees, or 35% of trees felled, are used for paper.
  • Most single-use cups contain 0% recycled material.
  • Most compostable single-use cups require a dedicated waste chain and commercial composting facilities. These either don’t exist or are at capacity. Most of these will end up in landfill.
  • Globally, we consume nearly 300 million tonnes of paper each year; 70% from native forests, not plantations or recycling.
  • Annual consumer waste has increased more than tenfold from 40kg in the 1950s, to 560kg of waste per person now.
  • 10,000,000,000,000 single-use items are made each year.