The problems with HuskeeCup – and what they teach us about ethical consumerism

here in Australia we pride ourselves on our first coffee. The lone problem is that pang of guilt every time we throw one of those plastic-lined disposable cups into the bin – adding up to about a billion of them every year. So whenever a business comes up with an advanced way to reduce café waste, we ’ re all matter to. And the latest kid on the barricade is the sculptural, award-winning, re-usable HuskeeCup by startup ship’s company Huskee and the talented Sydney team Vert Design .
From their web site :
HuskeeCup is a considered, design-driven response to a ripen reclaimable coffee cup marketplace. Visually iconic and functionally sophisticated, HuskeeCup ’ s materiality boasts a alone eco-composite polymer which features coffee husk as a raw fabric .
unfortunately, many of HuskeeCup ’ s Unique Selling Points – the lapp ones that have won it fame endorsements and prestigious industry awards – preceptor ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate seem to stand up to scrutiny, as we will see. so as Huskee continues to expand internationally, we should ask : why has there been no critical examen of HuskeeCup ? How do we, as ethical consumers, header with the complexities involved in deciding which products to buy ? And given that Huskee ’ sulfur achiever shows that companies, cafés and coffee-sipping consumers all have a huge will to act environmentally, how do we make certain our positive energies are deployed in the most effective ways ?

Huskee-cup-copy

A closer look at HuskeeCup

Before we step spinal column and count at these big ( and often overwhelming ) questions, let ’ s return to the café, and the satiny reclaimable cups for sale at the antagonistic, and the type of decision we have to make many times each week : whether to buy something new. HuskeeCup ’ second lurch is cocksure and energetic, and rests heavy on its environmental credentials .
By purchasing HuskeeCup, you are helping to recycle hundreds of tonnes of neutralize material from the output of coffee bean .
This waste material is coffee husk, a by-product of the coffee bean bean origin serve which takes position in factories in China. The husk content gives the cup its name and is prominently advertise – to the charge where at least one of the ethically-conscious cafe who stock HuskeeCups near where I live has been led to believe it ’ s made entirely of husks and is therefore compostable at the conclusion of its life .
In fact, the cups ’ primary component is polypropylene, a common, reclaimable plastic that is used to make things like your margarine bathtub and tomato sauce bottle detonator. According to Huskee ’ s FAQ page, polypropylene accounts for at least half of the cup substantial, and ( according to other sources ) ampere much as two thirds .
Huskee, consequently, has efficaciously taken two materials, biodegradable husks and reclaimable fictile, and combined them into a new corporeal that is neither compostable nor reclaimable .
Huskee is less than crystalline about this fact. In several places on their web site they in fact title outright that their product can be recycled, before conceding it is not. They then claim to be taking care of the recycling themselves ( presumably by simply re-distributing old cups for recycle ), but elsewhere admit this procedure is still ‘ in development ’ and will ‘ make HuskeeSwap the ultimate closed-loop ecosystem ’ – a phrase that alone makes common sense if their cups never die. unfortunately, their expected life is about three years .
sol if the composite material is less environmentally friendly than the starting products, what could the incentive have been for Huskee to make it in the first base place ? It seems the only people who could benefit from it are the coffee bean producers, who would otherwise have to find alternative disposal methods for mounds of husks. The core Huskee team does in fact include a director of Yunnan Coffee Traders, which runs grow and milling operations in China .

A closer look at HuskeeSwap

The cup themselves are, however, merely separate of the floor. The HuskeeSwap program allows customers to drop off an empty Huskee cup at a participating cafe and pick up an identical cup wax of chocolate. Irrespective of the cup material, this surely has the potential to reduce the amount of times people use disposable cups .
How much plastic-contaminated landfill might be displaced by this scheme ? Given the weight of HuskeeCup, you ’ d have to use a big one ( 350 milliliter, with eyelid but no discus ) 16 times before you prevent the lapp weight in disposable cups going to landfill. But the average disposable cup is by and large paper, then for an overall decrease in plastic use, you ’ d have to use your small HuskeeCup a 44 times, or your boastfully one a whack 61 ( and more if you besides purchased the saucer ). And until Huskee or participating cafe decide to track cup dollar volume, we have no way to know whether, on average, this is being achieved .
This point is authoritative, so it ’ randomness worth repeat : we have no direction of knowing whether HuskeeCup will have actually made the problem we have paid it to address worse .
In effect, Huskee is providing an answer to the incorrectly doubt. They want us to ask, “ What newfangled product can I buy alternatively of using disposable cups ? ” But a better question might be, “ Is manufacturing newly products – particularly millions each year destined for landfill after a few years ’ use – truly the best way to tackle our waste trouble ? ”
Some cafés in my family township have already shown there are alternative approaches. For a few years now, Merewether Mugs has been providing a stock of second-hand ceramic coffee cups to a few beachside cafés, which customers can grab if they forget a reclaimable one from home ; afterwards they get washed by the café. They may lack the pleasing Japan-influenced aesthetics of the HuskeeCup – but they sidestep the emissions involved in fabrication and transporting a new, unrecyclable product. And it ’ s absolve.

Asking the right questions

When I point out Huskee ’ s contradictions to friends, the interview I ’ thousand often asked is, “ So how do I work out which intersection I should actually purchase ? ” The belief is that if we good know which website to visit, or which information booklet to pin to the electric refrigerator, then we will know which plastic types are ‘ bad ’ or ‘ good ’, or which companies we can trust to be ethical, or which companies respect their workers ’ rights – and then we can make the perfect choice .
It ’ second no accident that we do think it ’ sulfur our job as individuals to make ethical buy decisions. This goes right back to the first days of disposable food packaging in the 1950s, where the Keep America Beautiful anti-littering campaign was a highly effective market tactic funded by a cohort of food companies and plastics manufacturers including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonalds, Nestle, Dow Chemical and Mobil ( itself one of the top 20 firms responsible for a third base of all carbon paper emissions since 1965 ). The theme was to shift the blasted from themselves onto individual citizens, and they were so successful in this that they wrong-footed governments into abandoning proposed or established bans on disposable promotion, allowing the companies to profit from the manufacture of litter while demonising the ‘ litterbugs ’ ( a term coined by their marketeers ) for despoiling the landscape .
This theme of end-user duty has now become so deep-rooted that even luminaries like environmentalist Jane Goodall are exhorting us to thoroughly inquiry all our purchases before we make them. She says, “ People should think about the consequences of the fiddling choices they make each sidereal day. What do you buy ? Where did it come from ? Where was it made ? Did it harm the environment ? Did it lead to cruelty to animals ? Was it cheap because of child slave labour ? ”
But is this very accomplishable ? And what would it look like in practice ?

What’s involved in evaluating HuskeeCup?

As we ’ ve seen, even having spare time and energy for research are insufficient to work out if HuskeeCup makes a net income positive shock. Without mugwump research to track the turnover and use of their cups, no-one will be able to say for certain whether HuskeeCup is causing a decrease in plastic lay waste to .
The environmental benefits are only the first of Huskee ’ s main claims. Without an technology degree, I would not been able to tell that their second claim about thermodynamics is highly doubtful. ( In brief, it ’ s impossible for the fins to both keep your hands cool and coffee hot at the like time. ) And regarding HuskeeCup ’ s health credentials, the caller both appeals to assurance ( saying the cup materials are FDA approved, while admitting the final product has not been tested or certified so far ) and rejects it ( telling us it contains no chilling BPA – although this material is besides FDA approved ) meaning the consumer is expected to know better than government regulative bodies. You ’ d besides have to be on exceed of the latest science to know whether it is indeed safe to microwave or even drink hot beverages from, although at least some experts think not .
That ’ s an impossible sum of clock and expertness to expect from a consumer, particularly one standing in a denounce compare products. Fans of television receiver show The good topographic point might be reminded of the life style of Doug Forcett, a character who goes to extremes attempting to carry out every action in the most ethical means possible. ( Spoiler alarm : it doesn ’ thyroxine lead to a good biography – or afterlife. )
unfortunately, I ’ m besides however to find a place where Huskee ’ south claims have been critically examined, even by journalists profiling Huskee for major newspapers or by the design diligence which has cited Huskee ’ mho claims as the reasons for giving it esteemed awards. If even these professionals can miss things, what hope do we have as individuals ?

Things can be different

Imagine what it would feel like to live without having to worry about eco-guilt every time we made a purchase. This would be a populace where we could be intelligent about the impact of products we purchase – possibly, for exemplar, HuskeeCup promotion would feature mandate, clear data telling us how many times we ’ vitamin d have to use it rather of a disposable cup before we ’ vitamin d see a net decrease of carbon paper emissions or plastic waste. And ideally we wouldn ’ t have to research things at all, knowing that the ongoing environmental crises are then important that products with the worst impacts have been banned or disincentivised .
Does this sound impossible ? It ’ s not, because we take this kind of system for granted in other parts of our life, like food and health condom, where regulation and central, diaphanous oversight keep us dependable. sometimes these systems are fallible, but no one would ever suggest that a patient who was a victim of bad hip replacements was to blame for their lack of research into the company that covered up their dangers, and it makes international news program when companies are caught trying to introduce potentially harmful substances into the food chain for profit. so why should we accept lesser standards for products that contribute to our environmental crises ?
The good news is that we know there are adequate excite people out there to make substantial change. HuskeeCup, after all, was funded by a highly successful KickStarter campaign, where over a thousand members of the public pledged $ 113,508 to support its industry. That ’ s a batch of people who have invested clock time and money to try and make a remainder – including the Huskee and Vert Design teams themselves. And it means that we have both the energy and the means to do real full – we just need to find the most effective place to direct them .
ultimately, the best fight is for the type of future where some of these burdens of ethical decision-making are lifted from the shoulders of consumers, and the problems of waste are tackled at the source. entirely then will we be free to enjoy a rightfully relax flat white.