Last Updated on May 16, 2022 by John Moretti
Styrofoam is an easily recognizable substance used for everything from iceboxes to packaging to food containers. Styrofoam coffee cups are extremely common, and you’ll hardly make it through a day without seeing a Styrofoam cup. However, people have become more focused on what they are putting in their bodies. Thus the question of whether Styrofoam cups are safe for hot coffee has arisen.
Simply put, you shouldn’t use a Styrofoam cup for hot beverages, such as coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. Styrofoam cups can potentially leach harmful chemicals, such as polystyrene, into warm liquids. These chemicals are suspected carcinogens and should therefore not be ingested.
Despite being suspected as harmful to humans, Styrofoam is still widely used for take-away cups and food containers. This article discusses why you shouldn’t put hot coffee in a Styrofoam cup and what better alternatives to Styrofoam coffee cups you can use. We will also discuss the environmental problems associated with Styrofoam coffee cups.
Why You Shouldn’t Put Hot Coffee In A Styrofoam Cup
The problem with Styrofoam coffee cups can be divided into two sections – potential dangers to humans and environmental issues. We will now discuss these sections in more detail.
1. Potential Health Problems Of Styrofoam Coffee Cups
Styrofoam cups are made of polystyrene foam, a type of plastic. Polystyrene is known to leach chemicals at temperatures higher than 175°F. Remember that water boils at 212°F. Therefore, one can assume that a Styrofoam cup will leach polystyrene chemicals into a hot beverage.
There are various health concerns related to polystyrene and the chemicals it can leach into your coffee. The biggest health concern is that polystyrene is a suspected carcinogen. Carcinogens should be avoided and should certainly not be ingested.
Furthermore, many people who work in polystyrene factories develop various illnesses.
While there is still research being conducted to determine whether or not the amount of polystyrene chemicals leached into coffee when served in a Styrofoam cup is dangerous, it is best to avoid using Styrofoam cups in general.
There are many other convenient alternatives to Styrofoam disposable cups. A Styrofoam cup can be identified with the number six on the recycling label of the cup.
This brings us to the second fault of Styrofoam cups. They are not recyclable and detrimental to the environment.
2. The Effect Of Styrofoam Cups On The Environment
Polystyrene is identifiable by the number six on the recycling label. This number indicates that the product can be recycled. However, the worth of a recyclable product is determined by its weight. Because Styrofoam cups and containers are so light, they are often not recycled.
Therefore, they make it to landfills, taking up to one thousand years to break down. In the meantime, they will start to leach polystyrene chemicals into the soil and groundwater. The groundwater eventually makes it into public water systems and is later ingested by people and animals.
So, even if the amount of polystyrene chemicals you ingest from using a Styrofoam cup is harmless, the added amount you consume from contaminated water might build up and cause health problems.
In addition, some of these Styrofoam cups and containers make it into the ocean, where birds, fish, and other sea creatures eat them. This leads to many sea animals dying and causes an upset in the ocean’s ecosystem.
As you can see, Styrofoam cups are dangerous for one’s health when serving hot beverages, such as coffee. In addition, it is also harmful to the environment and non-biodegradable. Therefore, you should avoid using Styrofoam cups altogether, even though they are safe for cold beverages.
For disposable cups, paper or plastic cups are a better option. Paper cups are bio-degradable, and plastic cups can be recycled. However, we should be trying to minimize the use of single-use items and try to utilize reusable items in these times.
Better Alternatives To Styrofoam Cups For Hot Coffee
Fortunately, many alternatives to single-use items, such as Styrofoam cups, are available. Here are the best reusable cups for hot coffee and other beverages:
1. Stainless-Steel Travel Mugs
Stainless-steel travel mugs are a great alternative to single-use Styrofoam cups. Not only are they reusable, but they also do a better job of keeping your coffee hot as many of these mugs are insulated. Although they are also not bio-degradable, you can use one stainless-steel travel mug for many years.
Stainless-steel travel mugs don’t leach any chemicals into your beverages and are safe for hot and cold drinks.
2. Ceramic Travel Mugs
Ceramic travel mugs are another great alternative to single-use coffee cups. Although they are more fragile than stainless-steel mugs, they have more of a coffee-cup feel. Ceramic travel mugs are beautifully decorated and do a fine job of keeping your beverage warm. Some ceramic mugs also come with a silicone sleeve and lid to keep the contents from spilling.
The great thing about ceramic mugs is that they are biodegradable. Although you can also use them for years, if they should make it to a landfill, they will break down and cause little damage to the environment. They also don’t leach any harmful chemicals into your drinks, whether hot or cold.
3. Reusable Plastic Cups
Although plastic isn’t biodegradable, reusable plastic cups are still better for the environment than single-use Styrofoam coffee cups. However, these cups could also potentially leach chemicals into hot beverages. Therefore, it is best to use either ceramic or stainless-steel travel mugs when looking for a reusable coffee cup option that is harmless to humans.
Note that we have not included bamboo coffee cups in this list. Bamboo travel mugs are not environmentally friendly or safe for your health. This is because deforestation occurs to make space for bamboo plantations. In addition, bamboo travel mugs are made from bamboo powder mixed with melamine and formaldehyde.
Both materials leach chemicals at higher temperatures, and formaldehyde is another known carcinogen. Therefore, bamboo travel mugs aren’t environmentally friendly or safe for hot coffee.
Styrofoam cups are not safe for hot coffee, as polystyrene chemicals leach into hot beverages from the mug and potentially have many health concerns. Furthermore, Styrofoam cups aren’t environmentally friendly. However, fortunately, there are many great alternatives to Styrofoam coffee cups, such as stainless-steel travel mugs and ceramic travel mugs.