(BeWellBuzz) Environmental awareness had made people all over the world become more stringent when it comes to the use of plastic and other non-biodegradable materials. While a majority focus on avoiding plastic bags, cups, etc., not many are even mindful of the fact that coffee cup lids are harmful to both the environment and our health. Read on to know why you need to be a lot more mindful of that next cup of coffee.
We all know that plastic has its share of myriad harmful effects. If one statistic about Westerners having at least a kilo of undigested plastic in their systems is to be believed, an overwhelming number of individuals are at risk of suffering from hormonal imbalance due to plastic exposure.
The first rule of thumb for avoiding dangerous plastics is to inspect the bottom of any plastic object and see the number within the small triangle. If the number in this triangle is either 3,6, or 7, one must never proceed, since these numbers represent harmful plastic.
Know your plastics
#1: Polyethylene terephtalate, also known as PETE or PET. This plastic is used to make water bottles and IS recyclable.
#2: High-density polyethylene, or HDPE. This plastic is used to make milk jugs and detergent bottles and IS recyclable.
#3: This represents PVC or vinyl and is most commonly found in children’s toys, plastic shoes, plastic food packaging and shower curtains. The 3 range of plastics is a threat to our health because it consists of phthalates, whose side effects include a negative effect on the formation of a male baby’s genitals. This type of plastic is also detrimental to our well-being upon breakdown over time and heating in a microwave. It is NOT recyclable.
#4: Low-density polyethylene, or LDPE. This is what plastic shopping bags are made of. It requires a special recycling process and should not be intermingled with other recyclables.
#5: Polypropylene. This plastic is used to make yogurt cups and other opaque containers. It IS recyclable.
#6: This mostly represents takeaway containers, plastic cutlery, and coffee cup lids, and the main component is polystyrene or styrofoam. Polystyrene is a known carcinogen and a neurotoxin, especially when heated. This is a cause for concern given that most coffee cup lids fall in this category. These items are NOT recyclable and they are NOT biodegradable.
#7: These comprise ‘miscellaneous’ plastics that don’t fall in the other categories, that is, mostly Bisphenol A or BPA. BPA disrupts the hormones and causes behavioral and neural problems in children. These plastics are used to make everything from iPods to food storage containers. These are usually NOT recyclable.
Why coffee cup lids are dangerous
1. The plastic
Most juice and coffee cup lids are extremely toxic since they fall in the 6 and 7 classes of plastics. As such, one must never heat them or even sip from them. Fortunately, however, there are better alternatives made from Grade 5 polypropelene plastic. All said and done, it goes without saying that the best option is a china or glass cup.
To elaborate further on coffee cup lids, the problem lies in the fact that almost all of them cannot be recycled, and that they can also leach dangerous toxins in the coffee. The plastic lids are made of polystyrene, a Grade 6 plastic which is the denser form of Styrofoam. This component can not only leach harmful chemicals that mimic hormonal action into food, but also increase cancer risk.
Biodegradable coffee cups lids are present in the market, but most retailers or coffee shops don’t use them. The best solution in this case is to avoid the lid altogether when you buy your beverage. Another option is to use a reusable stainless steel mug that has a Grade 5 low-leaching and recyclable plastic lid.
2. The bacteria
A study conducted by the University of Arizona revealed that plastic coffee cup lids were breeding grounds for bacteria. Though bacteria are all around us, they are aplenty on disposable coffee cups. In the study, 40 coffee cup lids were tested. The results determined that they were riddled with microorganisms that weren’t too harmful.
If you’re concerned about BPA toxicity in your food, these 3 quick tips will help you limit you and your family’s exposure to this potentially toxic chemical.
- Always check the number on any plastic bottle or food container. Look for are 1, 2, 4 and 5 as these plastics have the least amount of BPA (or none at all).
- Stay away from heavy-duty rigid plastic (i.e. the plastic that is nearly impossible to break or shatter) as BPA levels are much higher in such plastics.
- Avoid canned food and drinks. Most cans are usually lined with BPA. Soft drink cans also contain BPA… just another reason to drop your can-a-day habit.