Why Are Plastic Cups a Threat to Environment?

Over recent years, we have seen the environmental impact of plastic cups around the world. Through decades of producing plastic that is cheap and convenient, we have failed, as a planet, to recognize the devastating impact it has had upon wildlife and natural habitats. From the highest mountains to the deepest oceans across the globe, plastic pollution has left its mark upon the world.

If you don’t have a complete understanding of why plastic cups are such a threat for the environment, we’re prepared to break it all down in this article. And provide some ways that you can make a difference, even if it’s just by making small changes.

Why Are Plastic Cups a Problem?


Coffee cups are a huge source of plastic pollution, as they contain a plastic paste known as polyethylene which helps the cup keep your coffee warm, but also prevents it from being recycled.

16 billion paper cups are used every year, leading to 6.5 million trees being cut down, 4 billion gallons of water going to waste, and enough energy to power 54,000 homes for a year also goes to waste.

You can help the environment by using reusable cups, rather than plastic or paper. This reuse and refill model is starting to be employed in supermarkets and cafes.

Environmental Impact of Plastic Cups

Non-Recyclable Plastic

Contrary to the notion that most plastic can be recycled; this is in fact false. A large amount of plastic cannot be recycled due to the type it is; this is because of the chemical compound used to form the plastic. Most plastics, for example, originate from crude oil and are thermoset plastic. This means that you cannot remold and recycle it in any way. Therefore, simply throwing your plastic cups into the recycle bin after use will not guarantee it a sustainable outcome.

Plastic in Paper Cups

People are becoming increasingly aware that your takeaway cup of coffee or cup of water is not as recyclable as previously believed. This is due to the plastic wax that sits on the inside of the cups. Unfortunately, people are still putting their paper coffee cups and plastic drinking cups into the recycle bin after use. The misconception of how recyclable these items are is partly due to the disconnect from both the claimed recyclability from the manufacture and the rate at which they are recycled. The complication in the design of these products has blurred the lines and confused as to what is recyclable and what is not.

Global Impact

This is a serious issue around the globe.  Discarded plastic cups can be found everywhere and are causing more harm than good. The inability to biodegrade plastic poses an alarming threat to the environment.  Since most cups cannot be recycled, they remain in our landfills and pollute the environment, both on land and in the sea. 

On land, the plastic buried in the landfills releases toxic chemicals which seep into the groundwater.  Contaminated groundwater and plastic debris make their way into the ocean, which has many devastating effects to the marine wildlife.  It disturbs the ecosystem, leading to the deaths of thousands of whales, seals, turtles, and birds every year from plastic inhalation.

Despite how worrying these facts can be, all is not without hope. There is a lot that we can do to fix this issue and protect future generations and the world as a whole.


The environmental impact of plastic is alarming. There is plenty of evidence showing how it is disrupting wildlife from habitats to their food supply. Not only is it impacting wildlife but it is also affecting many parts of the world through global warming and pollution.

The common belief that simply discarding your plastic waste in a recycling bin is enough, has simply proved not to be the case. Therefore, it is the responsibility of governments, businesses, and individuals to take action and look to a more sustainable solution to the issue surrounding plastic. Our collective responsibility to take necessary measures will inevitably benefit our future generations and the planet as a whole.

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