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Why You Can’t Compost Compostable Cups At Home

compostable cups not home compostable
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What’s the problem with compostable cups? Well, they’re not as compostable as you might think…

So, compostable coffee cups or compostable packaging. As it’s single-use then it’s not the best solution, but it’s also not the worst. Right?

Well, it turns out those compostable cups and other compostable packaging items aren’t quite as compostable as you might think. These items cannot be put into your kerbside recycling or home compost bins, unless you have a specific Hotbin. Instead, they must be sent to industrial composting facilities.

Aren’t all local authority compost facilities industrial? Sadly not. Industrial composting facilities are not widely available. There are only 50 in the UK,. And not all of these currently accept and deal with compostable packaging products. Therefore, many local authorities don’t have access to this type of facility. This makes it almost impossible to correctly recycle compostable packaging.

You might be wondering why industrial composting facilities are not more widely available. Especially given the benefits of using compostable materials in favour of plastics. The reason is that the UK’s food waste sector has been led by government subsidies and guidance that favours anaerobic digestion (without oxygen) as the preferred method of food waste treatment. Therefore, the majority of the UK food waste collection and treatment infrastructure is orientated accordingly, and not set up to deal with compostable packaging products that require oxygen to break down.

What’s the problem with compostable cups?

Compostable cups and other types of packaging, such as those made by Vegware, may be made from natural materials. However, compostable coffee cups take years to breakdown at the average local authority composting facility. Meanwhile, food and garden waste takes around six weeks. Hence the problems that these materials cause.

This means that any compostable cups found in food waste bins are being fished out and sent to landfill. Compostable cups are therefore well-meaning, but in these circumstances can be worse for the environment than recyclable plastic cups.

compostable cups bad for environment

What Should Go Into Your Kerbside Bin / Home Composter?

The only compostable non food/garden waste items that should go in your food waste bin are the compostable kitchen caddy liners that have the EN13432 seedling logo on them, like these ones. Bags with this logo on them are made from potato starch so break down at the same rate as food and garden waste. This means they don’t cause the problems that compostable cups or lids do.

Compostable cups, lids and other packaging also won’t compost in a standard home composter as temperatures are unlikely to get high enough to compost these items.

What’s The Answer To the Compostable Cup Problem?

The simplest answer is to only sit in at a cafe. Before ordering, do check that the cafe offers standard reusable cups/mugs. I have been caught out before by cafes using disposable cups even for sitting in customers.

The other answer is to try to remember your reusable coffee cup when you go out. My favourite reusable coffee cup on the go is the Stojo cup. This is a collapsible silicone cup that when flattened down takes us very little room in your bag. When you are ready for a hot beverage it simply pops up in seconds.

If your local coffee shop uses compostable cups, let them know that these can’t be composted unless they have a special paid-for collection arrangement with Vegware (only currently available in parts of Scotland, Bristol and Gloucestershire), or a paid for postal return service.

If you are a coffee shop owner, why not offer your customers a discount for using their own cup. Worried about accepting reusables at the moment? Check out this video on making contactless coffee. Alternatively, take inspiration from the Boston Tea Party coffee shop chain, who do not use any form of single use takeaway cups.

PS: here’s why you shouldn’t recycle receipts either.

Home, Home and Garden

Our Hallway Renovation & My Understairs Office

It’s been AGES since I gave you an update on our house. And particularly our hallway renovation.

Over the last five years, we’ve slowly been working on home renovation projects. Our house had sat empty for a few years before we moved in, and hadn’t been maintained for an even longer period of time. This meant it had all sorts of issues that needed resolving. It has been a LONG process of saving up to do the work when we can afford it. However, we’re finally at the stage where there is light at the end of the tunnel!

Why Did We Renovate Our Hallway?

The hall in particular needed a huge overhaul. The existing stairs did not comply with Building Standards. This was mainly in terms of head height clearance, which there was no easy fix or workaround for.

There were many issues that we knew of when we bought the house, but replacing the stairs wasn’t one of them. I think I nearly cried when the Building Standards officer from the council told us that the whole staircase needed replacing. But it needed doing so we could get the necessary paperwork signed off, so needs must.

The Renovation

Here is the sorry sight before our hallway renovation:

hallway renovation project before photos

Whilst the stairs were being replaced, we decided it was a good opportunity to remodel under the stairs. Instead of one big cupboard that was really impractical – reaching anything at the back of the cupboard took about two hours – we opened up the space to create more living space. We live in a little terraced cottage, so any extra space we can create is welcome!

Here’s a photo from during the hallway renovation works. We all had to sleep downstairs for a few days!

hallway renovation in progress

And here it is now!

small home office under stairs

The Hallway Remodel

To retain some storage, as part of our hallway renovation we had doors installed as far back as we could under the stairs. This is for things that we need daily access to like the vacuum cleaner. We then got the joiner to make overhead cupboards for things that we don’t need so often, like our camping gear. We have really high ceilings, so putting overhead storage in doesn’t impinge on the headroom of the space. The joiner also revamped the existing built-in shelves, which you can see from the photos, were in a shoddy state.

Originally we were going to put our dining table in this space. The dining table lives in the living room, as we don’t have a separate dining room or space in our galley kitchen for it. However, it turns out we over-estimated the size of the space, and it isn’t big enough for a dining table and chairs!

home office under stairs

What it did give me room for was a small home office. Pre Covid-19 I had one child-free day a week to work on the blog . Therefore, it wasn’t supposed to be a full-time work station. But since March it’s been my full-time workspace whilst I work my day job from home, and it has worked pretty well.

The Furniture

Furniture wise, I couldn’t find a small enough desk to fit the space secondhand. So I got this beautiful console table made in the UK from reclaimed wood from MuJu Furniture on Etsy* (gifted) that I use as a desk. MuJu Furniture makes their furniture in a variety of sizes, and I went for the smallest size, which fits perfectly. I really love the desk. It’s such a beauty of a thing!

I do love Etsy for buying pieces for the home. Although the desk was gifted, I’ve personally bought lots of bits and pieces for my home over the years. I love being able to support independent sellers and shop products according to my values.

I bought the chair secondhand from Drum Farm Antiques on the outskirts of Edinburgh (currently closed due to Covid-19). This is a wonderfully eclectic place to while away a few hours wandering around the barns and storage units. However, I’ve found their pricing to be a bit erratic. I did find this chair for £10 though, which I was delighted with. The seat pad needs recovering, so I have an offcut of blue velvet to recover it with. I planned to use the tools in my local tool library to do it, but it has been closed since early March, so it needs to wait for now.

After losing the cupboard door that we used to hang our coats on, I got a coat rail for the wall opposite my desk. This came from Off The Grain Co* (gifted), a Yorkshire based husband and wife team who make beautiful handmade wooden furniture and decor and sell on Etsy. No, our rack doesn’t always look this tidy, but the internet doesn’t need to see our medley of coats! It’s almost too pretty to cover with coats!

hallway renovation completed

The Compromises

Like any renovation project, there are always compromises. We had wanted to sand and oil the original floorboards that were underneath the old laminate flooring. Whilst we were taking up the old laminate this looked like this might be possible. That was until the very last section that we removed, where the floorboards had been cut out at some point in the past and replaced with MDF. Angry was not the word!

I could not find any affordable reclaimed flooring. A local supplier quoted £54 per square metre for flooring that needed fitting, sanding, and sealing on top of the initial cost. Given the unexpected costs of replacing the stairs, this was way way out of our price range. Particularly as we need to floor the living room as well. So we had sadly to opt for cheaper laminate flooring instead. We did pick a classic oak style that I hope will age well.

under stair home office ideas

What’s Next?

We haven’t quite finished up our hallway renovation. Covid-19 came along before we could finish painting the stairs or carpeting them. The thing is, we need the kids out of the house when we do jobs like painting. They have been here since March, and will be until mid-August at the very earliest, so who knows when we will do it! I honestly don’t know how people have managed to do DIY in lockdown with kids around! We started the hallway project in December 2018 though, and have done different bits at different times as we can afford it, so we’re in no hurry!

We have one room left to do in our house now – the living room – which we are currently saving for, and then we are officially done! I’ve also painted my UPVC front door, which has made a surprisingly huge difference to our house.