Bamboo cups have been the hype for the most eco-friendly and sustainable alternative to disposable coffee cups for a while now. If you go into your local store, I’m confident you will come across these. But what would you say if I told you that they might not be as good as advertisements claim? Whilst, you might feel eco-friendly when drinking your Americano double espresso. New research by German consumer group, Stiftung Warentest shows that you could be putting your health at risk all at the same time.
Imagine that? Bamboo cups for drinking on-the-go coffee are designed to be fully reusable and long-lasting. And then when they finally break, or you don’t enjoy the look of it any longer. The bamboo cups can be soaked in boiling hot water and thrown away for compost. Sounds too good to be true, right? That’s the problem. Whenever we invent something to help improve one problem, there’s usually a new problem formed thereafter. I get you, it’s frustrating!
These bamboo cups are also supposed to be fully recyclable. There’s no ‘sort-of.’ Therefore, they’re meant to be better than other materials like plastic, glass, and metal because they leave absolutely no trace in the environment. These sound so good that you might even be able to eat them… Okay, jokes aside. Don’t eat them!
It’s madness how quickly the world hopped onto this bamboo coffee cup trend before knowing the in’s and out’s. I want to find out whether the hype is worth it and if we should take note of what the Germans say.
Bamboo Cups Might Be a Health Threat
When we think of eco-friendly materials to use for our daily products, we often turn to bamboo. It’s relatively easy and affordable to grow and perfectly safe for the health and longevity of our planet. Therefore, I understand why inventors reached for bamboo when producing these bamboo cups. For good reason too. Apparently, according to data cited by German consumers from the reputable Stiftung Warentest foundation. Disposable coffee cups create 40,000 metric tons of trash every year in Germany alone. It was shocking, so something had to be done!
The only issue is that we somehow missed the effects that these bamboo cups would have on our health. The foundation recently stated that they have discovered potentially dangerous chemicals in all 12 of the bamboo cups they tested. This is not good news for avid users. In fact, this also proves that nearly all the brands for bamboo cups have been making false advertising promises on their origins and their environmental impact.
Resin Hazard in Our Bamboo Cups
According to the Food Packaging Forum, buyers are generally given the impression that they are buying natural products.
This is because the descriptions on the bamboo cups have phrases like ‘bamboo mug’ or ‘made from bamboo fibers’ written all over them. Yet, it doesn’t state anywhere on the packaging that these bamboo cups are made from a powder of finely-ground bamboo fibers. Nor does it state that they are then glued together.
These bamboo cups were all put to the test, and they found each one to contain melamine resin. This is a plastic glue made from formaldehyde and melamine. Researchers explained that melamine is suspected of causing damage to the bladder and kidneys. Moreover, formaldehyde causes irritation and might even cause cancer if inhaled. Having many does not consider melamine dangerous, so long as it is kept under certain conditions. Apparently, the melamine must be kept under 158 Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius). However, I don’t think we should be promoting it as natural and healthy if there’s a chance that it’s potentially harmful.
What’s worse, is the results were sometimes higher after the seventh test. This suggests that harmful chemicals don’t evaporate but continue to seep into drinks with prolonged use. So you’re basically poisoning your body every time you take a sip.
If you’ve been using bamboo cups for your on-the-go coffee don’t feel too bad about it. Good on you for trying to do your part. However, we all easily fall victim to false advertising. This is why I make it my mission to inform you of the truth today. Scientists explain that you’d be better off using reusable containers made from materials other than bamboo cups.
And remember, your coffee can get pretty hot.
I’ll Get A Coffee-To-Go
Nothing wrong. We understand the vital importance of getting your coffee fix for the day. Just be careful how you do it.
The Stiftung Warentest researchers tested the cups by filling them with a slightly acidic liquid, analogous to coffee, and then keeping it at a temperature of 70 degrees Celsius for two hours. They then tested the fluid for chemicals. The process was repeated seven times. Guess what happened? Due to the high heat, there was a very high release of melamine and some release of formaldehyde.
Sadly, only one out of 12 of the bamboo cups was found to have no ‘harmful chemical problem.’ Therefore, all bamboo cups have been misleading users. Then this brings me to the microwave. SO many people have placed their cold coffees into the microwave for instant heating. What happens? The microwave process damages the bamboo cups. This results in more toxic chemicals being released. Therefore, I think it would be best to simply warn buyers not to microwave their coffees if they’re using bamboo cups.
Experts also warn that although the bamboo cups and their associated companies state that they’re fully biodegradable. The facts say differently. These bamboo cups are not because the only form of recycling is burning the bamboo cups for fuel. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen and gives us more reason to question the brands promoting their ‘eco-friendly’ coffee cups.
Watch Out For The Packaging On Bamboo Cups
I’d say this is where most manufacturers get sneaky and where we all go very wrong. It’s hard to tell because you’re meant to be able to trust the labels on the products you purchase. Unfortunately, we can’t trust everything we read, and that is why we need to do our research to make ourselves more conscious of matters like toxic bamboo cups.
The Stiftung Warentest foundation also criticizes the manufacturers of bamboo cups for not warning people about the dangers of placing the bamboo cups under high heat conditions. Whether it’s in a microwave, left in the sun, or exposed to boiling hot coffee. The bamboo cups will begin to decompose. But as I said earlier, the cup’s surface is destroyed. This will then release even more melamine and formaldehyde.
All that was written on the packaging of one brand was that it should be kept out of the microwave. Their reason for stating this was not because of the chemicals it will release, but to preserve its longevity. How bizarre! Lastly, they are dishonest in stating that these bamboo cups will simply ‘decompose.’ It’s physically impossible. Sure, natural bamboo fibers will bio-degrade over time, but the cups will not decompose even if you give them years.
In fact, bamboo cups can’t even be recycled through standard methods. The only option is to burn them which is a mission and very few people would be able to do this. So your best bet is to simply reach for another kind of coffee cup. Not the bamboo kind.
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