Whether it is warm or cold outside, you can usually find me at a booth in Deet’s Place. The delicious aroma of coffee and soothing lighting makes Deet’s the perfect spot to study or to hang out with friends. Considering all of the delectable pastries Deet’s has to offer, you probably will not be making many guilt-free choices there; however, one thing that you can feel good about is producing less waste by using Deet’s compostable coffee cups, which have been available since 2017.
If you’ve been too infatuated with the delicious hot chocolate to even notice the cups they’re in, that’s understandable — but you probably have missed the small print at the bottom of the cup that reads, “This cup and lid are fully compostable.”
If you are confused about what this means, here are some some facts about compostable products that will make you grateful that Virginia Tech Dining Services uses them in Deet’s.
Compostables break down at a rate similar to organic matter, which is around 180 days, according to the Biodegradable Products Institute. This is impressive, considering that plastics take hundreds of years to break down and styrofoam takes even longer than plastics. Styrofoam is what the dining centers previously used; however, styrofoam releases chemicals during its manufacturing process, which can have negative health effects like headache, fatigue or even depression. Compostable products leave little to no visible or toxic residue when they break down, making them the most ideal products to use.
If you look at the lid of the Deet’s cups, you will see that Virginia Tech purchases its cups from World Centric, which is a socially responsible company that provides fair trade, zero waste and compostable products. These new cups do not contain polyethylene, like other traditional hot liquid cups, which makes the cups impossible to compost and difficult to recycle.
Instead, the cups are lined with a polymer that is derived from plants for a leak-proof barrier. The paper used for the cup is bleached without using elemental chlorine. Paper that is chlorine-bleached is bad for the environment, especially the hydrosphere. The cups are also double-walled, so that the need for a paper cup sleeve is unnecessary, which at the same time reduces more waste. The lids are also 100 percent compostable and are made from corn stalks. With all of these beneficial characteristics, it’s hard to believe that they work exactly like traditional non-renewable cups. These compostable cups can withstand hot foods up to 220 degrees Fahrenheit, are microwave and freezer safe (although it is not recommended to put them in the microwave) and are soak-proof.
Even more admirable, the cups are Rainforest Alliance Certified. This means that they meet the standards that are required for environmental, social and economic sustainability. The Alliance works to conserve forests and also supports sustainable lifestyles by teaming up with businesses and industries to use their products.
Many people may be asking themselves, “Why didn’t Virginia Tech make this change to compostable cups sooner?” One of the reasons it took so long to switch over to compostable cups was the cost. Per unit, the compostable cup costs 10 cents more than the non-renewable cups, which is significant when you take into account how many cups are used daily at Deet’s. Albeit this may have caused a slight increase in the price for the cups, non-sustainable cups are no longer an issue at Deet’s.