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What’s so good about our new cups?

Did you know that Kiwis sip their way through 295 million single use cups every year? Take a moment to look around you, how many takeaway cups do you see in your office? Or how many people were lining up at the cafe this morning ordering their regular morning brew?

Our Kiwi takeaway culture impacts hugely upon our environment. Most of these cups will eventually end up in landfill or worse, the ocean, and will take years if not centuries to break-down.

At Just Water we care about the environment, which was why we made our cups biodegradable, but recently we have felt that just “biodegradable” wasn’t enough, so we decided to take it a step further.

These days, there are so many buzz words thrown around like biodegradable, compostable and recyclable, but do we really know what it means? We decided to do some research to find a better alternative to our biodegradable cups.

What does biodegradable mean?

Biodegradable means that a product can break down to its original, basic components given the right conditions and presence of microorganisms and fungi.

Most paper cups are lined with plastic material such as PE (polyethylene) or PLA (polylactic acid) so that it can hold the liquid without leaking out. PLA is a man-made bioplastic produced from renewable sources such as corn starch, tapioca roots or sugarcane. Our previous cups used a very fine PLA lining made of corn starch, which made them biodegradable.

Everything is biodegradable if you give it long enough, however, unfortunately materials like plastic can take several hundred years. Products that are labelled as biodegradable need specific machines that create the perfect environment for the product to degrade within a specific time frame, but unfortunately this doesn’t happen very often in New Zealand. Instead, the biodegradable cups get grouped with regular take away cups and sent to landfill. In landfill, the bioplastics break down over time but while doing so they release greenhouse gases including methane.

This is why we wanted to improve our cups further.

What about compostable?

If a cup says that it is compostable, this usually means that it has been tested in a commercial composting environment and will not necessarily compost in your own home’s compost bin. All compostable products are biodegradable, but not all biodegradable products are compostable.

Commercial composting environments are designed to operate at higher temperatures, with optimum air flow and moisture. These favourable conditions mean that microbes can eat the plastic to accelerate the breakdown process. In return, the product is composted. However, less than 1% of all PLA cups make it to commercial composting facilities.

If you do notice that your plastic is certified commercially compostable, check to see if there is a composting facility in your area that will accept it, giving you the best option to dispose of those cups. However, we wanted to be even better than commercially compostable too.

And recyclable?

If takeaway cups are made from paper, shouldn’t they all be recyclable? Unfortunately, often the answer is no. Because of the PE or PLA lining of most paper cups, they cannot be recycled. In fact, the environmentally conscious coffee lover may do more harm than good when placing their paper cup in the recycling bin, as that may contaminate a whole load of paper and cardboard and cause the whole lot to be sent to landfill.

PE and PLA not only contaminate the paper, but it also clogs up recycling machines, so to play it safe, recycling stations simply take all paper cups and put them in landfill, as it is too hard to separate recyclable ones from non-recyclable ones.

The great news

Now, what we have been dying to tell you… Is that our new cups don’t have any PE or PLA lining (and don’t worry, we have tested them to make sure they don’t leak!), so they are biodegradable AND compostable, even at home. Technically they are recyclable too and we can’t wait for the day that NZ recycling centres catch up and start accepting these cups (in the meantime please don’t put them in your recycling bin as they won’t be accepted). Even if they do end up in landfill with the other cups they are made with natural fibres that will break down quickly.

Not only that, our new cups are also made with FSC certified paper, meaning it’s made from sustainable forestry. You can be assured that all boxes are ticked when it comes to natural sustainable materials that are plastic free, recyclable, and compostable.

Keeping New Zealand clean, green, and beautiful is what we at Just Water want to achieve. The best option is always to use a reusable cup or bottle like our My Wally bottle. But, when single use is the only option, we’re proud to have a cup that doesn’t use plastic and replaces it with a more sustainable alternative.

We hope you enjoy our new cups just as much as we do!