- When a hot beverage is in the paper cup, its plastic lining releases thousands of microplastic particles into the liquid, plus some heavy metals.
- Paper cups do not decompose and can not be recycled.
- Researchers work on a more eco-friendly version of paper cups.
- Meanwhile, using a thermos jug for hot drinks might be the best option.
A humble disposable paper cup is an object that made an aspect of our lives so trouble-free. The demand speaks for itself: last year, there were over 260 billion paper cups produced globally. But there’s also a price we pay for the convenience.
Why hot drink and a paper cup is not the best choice
In a recent study, researchers analyzed ultra-pure water at 190-194 °F (85—90 °C) under a fluorescence microscope after it was sitting in a paper cup for 15 minutes. They saw tens of thousands of microplastic particles released into hot water.
Lead study author Sudha Goel was disturbed by the results. “Microplastics act as carriers for contaminants like ions, toxic heavy metals such as palladium, chromium, and cadmium, as well as organic compounds that are hydrophobic (water-repelling) and can cross over into the animal kingdom,” she said. “When ingested regularly over time, the health implications could be serious.”
Furthermore, not everybody knows that paper cups can not be recycled and do not decompose in a landfill. Again, because of the fragile plastic lining that holds the beverage inside the cup. Considering the health damage paper cups can cause if used frequently, plus the environmental concern, scientists now work on creating non-petroleum, plant-based films for disposable paper cups. However, they might be two times more expensive than the ones we use at the moment.
Meanwhile, the perfect solution right now seems to be carrying your thermos jug or some sort of reusable cup when taking your favorite hot beverage to-go. It’s both environmentally-friendly and poses fewer risks to your health.