Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


How good is my re-usable bamboo cup? (Jun18)

I’ve found a re-usable cup I really like.  It’s made from bamboo, is quite colourful and has a really good lid that stops the liquid from spilling.  My previous versions had lids that fell off, which made them pretty useless for coffee on the move.

Bamboo has become a bit of a thing.  When I eco-renovated my flat in 2012, I put in a bamboo floor and I’ve just been talking to Kate Rawles from Outdoor Philosophy – who sat on the Food Ethics Council with me. She’s recently returned from cycling from the top to bottom of South America on a home made bamboo bike.  The key virtue of the material is that it’s fast growing and ‘sustainable’.  However, critics point out that it’s grown on the other side of the world and its very popularity may make it a less sustainable option.

Back to my E-coffee cup.  The blurb about it says that one of its benefits is that when it has worn out, you’ll be able to throw it away and it will biodegrade. That’s rubbish. Or at least, it doesn’t really make eco-sense.  If I throw my cup into my compost, it may eventually biodegrade, but a long time after the rest of my compost.  If I throw it in the council food waste bin, it will be fished out and discarded, before it gets a chance to do any degrading.  And, if by any dreadful mischance it ended up in the sea, it would be too cold for it to rot. The most likely fate would be in a landfill site, but if it went there you wouldn’t actually want it biodegrading because it would simply be adding to the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.

OK, so the biodegradability angle is not so good. But I’ve just bought my first cup of coffee in it at Waterloo station. They gave me a 10% discount and didn’t insist I had a napkin.  And, I’ve now leant it to my husband on the train, so he’s avoided a single use coffee cup too. But he still insists on having those dreadful little sachets of milk – three of them, for one cup.  And, he caught me having a bag of crisps.  So, we’ve got some way to go – even with my new bamboo cup on board.

Addendum:  My son has just come back from his travels with some re-usable bamboo straws. We don’t think they should go in the washing machine.  Perhaps pipe cleaners might be a good solution…

Kate Rawles made her bamboo bike – and it proved pretty sturdy as she cycled all the way from Columbia to Cape Horn.

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