Ecoffee Cups South Africa

overall Rating:

1.75

planets

Jose Padilla Diaz
8/1/2021
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Though we have a global community of coffee lovers who frequently visit cafes, many of these coffee shops rely heavily on single-use cups that contribute to the continuous consumption and dependence on fossil fuels. Created in 2014, Ecoffee Cups are light, durable bamboo and silicone-based reusable cups with a cardboard-like feel. The cups come in a variety of patterns/prints and a 14 oz (400 mL) cup typically costs R225; 225 South African rands are equivalent to about $15.25. Aside from being reusable for a few years, the cost of one (1) Ecoffee Cup is equivalent to purchasing 3 single-use cafe beverages, thereby making the purchase worthwhile. Single-use coffee cup consumption plays a large role in many societies, yet many are unaware of the external costs imposed by societal consumption and the unsustainable industrial supply chain systems. I like how Ecoffee Cups has some transparency elaborating on some of their environmental practices and product’s circularity, however, this does not exempt the lack of transparency on if working conditions/wages are even sufficient for employees. As an environmentalist, I value our planet and think its protection and sustainable use are important, and so is addressing and combatting any industry-caused environmental injustices. Additionally, corporations tend to inflict social injustices upon the people in the environment they are exploiting, making them even more vulnerable to potential climate disasters and unsatisfactory standards of living. Even though the Ecoffee Cup has achieved success in only some areas of sustainability and social justice, it’s a durable product that lowers our waste-stream impact.

what it's made of:

2.5

Single-use paper coffee cups have been around for 3+ decades, yet their lifespan is usually 13 minutes, and only ~1% actually get recycled. Ecoffee Cups are primarily composed of organic bamboo fiber w/ matte, food-grade silicone for the lid and sleeve. Bamboo is a circular material because it’s upcycled with cornstalk and other products from local farmers that would otherwise be incinerated. Since bamboo is a fast-growing grass species, it does not require industrial agricultural methods like fertilizers and pesticides which degrade the environment and nearby ecosystems. On the website, it’s apparent that the product is bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalate-free, both of which are contaminants of emerging concern and plastic byproducts that can leach into our food or drink at very high temperatures. As a consumer, I find value in the ingredients chosen because it demonstrates a commitment to consumable ingredients that depend less on fossil fuels and are non-toxic/non-reactive to humans and the environment. Though silicone is harder to recycle depending on one’s location, the production consumes less energy than single-use items since it isn’t petroleum-based. Another disclaimer states that the company uses a plastic-like resin coating containing melamine in accordance with EU Food Safety Regulation 10/2011. Melamine concerns rose because it has been linked to toxicity in humans, however, the levels tested in these cups were significantly lower than the threshold concentration. Leaching of melamine requires high heat conditions, therefore, it makes sense the cup was declared “not microwave-safe." Despite having over 100 different cup designs, I was unable to find what materials were used to create them; so, from the lack of transparency, I inferred the company may have some unsustainable practices. Being 100% sustainable is close to impossible, but it should not be a reason deterring small-scale efforts nor disregarding accomplishments because some action is better than none. I praise the company for steps towards sustainable product materials that are dishwasher safe, naturally sterile (prevents weird aftertaste), and reduces our waste stream and reliance on single-use items.

how it's made:

1.5

Although Ecoffee Cup’s core materials reflect sustainability, they lack transparency regarding some supply chain practices. The primary thing that caught my attention was no mention of renewable energy use, implying their energy source is dependent on a fossil fuel-based source. This was disheartening because they push against petroleum-based single-use cups and plastics, yet still contribute to the dependence on fossil fuels. Shipping products around the world to consumers is likely to be the bulk of this company’s carbon emissions, however, with no reports, we cannot accurately estimate the negative implications. There are over 100 different cup designs, but little is said about how these designs are made except that “they are useful and beautiful, embodying what William Morris held true.” Morris helped create a deep-seated commitment and respect for the environment through his social activism to the revival of traditional (less industrial-like) textile arts and production methods. Historians of the Green Movement - the 1960s environmental movement promoted among the “Flower Power Hippies”- also consider him a forerunner of modern environmentalism. Mentioning William Morris seems like greenwashing - a deceptive marketing technique to appear eco-friendly - to me, and it appears as though they only mention him in relation to design aesthetics. Also, we do not know the percentage of cup designs that comply with Morris’ techniques, making it unclear if any design materials may harm people or the environment. Even though some concerns on sustainability exist, I cannot discount the plethora of single-use cups diverted from our waste stream. Furthermore, Ecoffee Cup’s partnership with Terracycle shows product circularity because consumers can send off the cups to be recycled at the end of its lifecycle. However, this should be emphasized and elaborated on for better clarity.

who makes it:

1.5

Although Ecoffee Cup’s core materials reflect sustainability, they lack transparency regarding some supply chain practices. The primary thing that caught my attention was no mention of renewable energy use, implying their energy source is dependent on a fossil fuel-based source. This was disheartening because they push against petroleum-based single-use cups and plastics, yet still contribute to the dependence on fossil fuels. Shipping products around the world to consumers is likely to be the bulk of this company’s carbon emissions, however, with no reports, we cannot accurately estimate the negative implications. There are over 100 different cup designs, but little is said about how these designs are made except that “they are useful and beautiful, embodying what William Morris held true.” Morris helped create a deep-seated commitment and respect for the environment through his social activism to the revival of traditional (less industrial-like) textile arts and production methods. Historians of the Green Movement - the 1960s environmental movement promoted among the “Flower Power Hippies”- also consider him a forerunner of modern environmentalism. Mentioning William Morris seems like greenwashing - a deceptive marketing technique to appear eco-friendly - to me, and it appears as though they only mention him in relation to design aesthetics. Also, we do not know the percentage of cup designs that comply with Morris’ techniques, making it unclear if any design materials may harm people or the environment. Even though some concerns on sustainability exist, I cannot discount the plethora of single-use cups diverted from our waste stream. Furthermore, Ecoffee Cup’s partnership with Terracycle shows product circularity because consumers can send off the cups to be recycled at the end of its lifecycle. However, this should be emphasized and elaborated on for better clarity.