Unfortunately, we still have to accept it because we cannot find a solution or an alternative product.
For many people, the day can only start off well with a cup of hot coffee. Thanks to caffeine, the brain does not seem to receive the “fatigue” signal, giving people an energy source. For those who work intellectually, a few cups of coffee a day have become “life-saving” drinks.
However, a new study published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials warns that the use of long-term disposable paper cups or paper cups for drinking hot coffee or drinks Hot, including eating (hot food) in disposable bento boxes, comes at the cost of health.
Research by a team from the Indian Institute of Technology, has found that hot coffee or hot drinks in disposable paper cups contain tens of thousands of potentially harmful substances. Specifically, plastic particles, microplastics … and they will be mixed into drinks within minutes.
Speaking of microplastics, we are all probably familiar. In recent years, with the mass production and use of plastics, the content of microplastics in the environment is constantly increasing. Microplastic pollution has become a global environmental problem along with ozone depletion, ocean acidification and climate change.
These almost invisible microplastics are becoming a major threat to human health, the researchers said. They are usually less than 5 mm in diameter, or even as large as 1/5 of the width of a human hair.
Earlier this year, an American team discovered for the first time microplastics in human organs. They are thought to cause serious illnesses, even including cancer or infertility. Studies have also shown that microplastic contamination can cause inflammation in animals.
Going back to the paper cups, study author Dr Sudha Goel, of the School of Environmental Science and Engineering, the Indian Institute of Technology, said: “A paper cup is filled with hot coffee or tea. The heat will decompose the microplastic in the cup within 15 minutes. It will release microplastic particles approximately 25,000 micrometres in size into a cup of hot water within 15 minutes. The average person who drinks three cups of tea or coffee in disposable paper cups a day will eat 75,000 plastic beads that are invisible to the naked eye.
It is estimated that in the last year of 2019, paper cup manufacturers produced about 264 billion products, much of which was used to make tea, coffee, hot chocolate and even soup. This equates to 35 paper cups per person on the planet. The continued increase in the number of take away services globally has also driven the demand for disposable products. In the increasingly busy life and work, ordering food to take place has become a daily habit of many people. Disposable lunch boxes are thrown away as soon as they are used up and generally don’t have the same negative environmental impact as plastic boxes and foam boxes.
However, according to Dr. Sudha, this convenience comes at a price.
“Microplastics act as carriers of pollutants, such as ions, toxic heavy metals such as palladium, chromium and cadmium, and hydrophobic organic compounds and can enter the animal kingdom. In the long run, the health effects will be very serious, “the researchers added.
The “shocking” results of the test
In the test, the researchers poured ultra-pure water into disposable paper cups between 85 and 90 degrees Celsius, then let it sit for 15 minutes. The researchers then analyzed this hot liquid under a fluorescence microscope and also examined changes in the physical, chemical and mechanical properties of the plastic lining.
“The results are amazing. We scan with electron microscopes and confirm that microplastics have been released into ultra-pure water. A disposable paper cup exposed to hot liquid for 15 minutes will creates about 10.2 billion submicron particles (microscopic components), “said Sudha.
A sensitive technique for chemical separation has identified microplastics in hot water. But the most worrying thing happened, when the analysis of the plastic film revealed the presence of heavy metals in the lining.
“This study shows that it is necessary to consider carefully before promoting alternatives to bio-toxic products and environmental contaminants, such as glass cups,” according to Prof. Virendra. Tewari. Tewari also advised that people could go back to the traditional, disposable clay mugs, still used in many parts of India.
But Mr. Sudha said that the convenience of paper cups makes it difficult to find suitable alternatives. In a modern office environment, these products are being used in conjunction with vending machines and other hot drink machines.
A spokesman for Ecolife, an environmental charity, said: “Coffee or tea vending machines can be seen everywhere in the office environment and it is definitely a driving factor. The thin plastic in disposable paper cups will not decompose in landfills and cannot be recycled. The demand for them is increasing and can only be met by continued deforestation.
Ecolife is working on non-plastic and biodegradable plant-based films. Unfortunately, this has doubled production costs and is unlikely to be accepted by the market.