Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 222222
Loughborough University

Sustainability

Ecoffee Cup

Ditch the disposable for the Loughborough Cup.

The Loughborough cup is an ecoffee Cup, here’s how it’s made…

The base material of Ecoffee Cup is made with naturally organic bamboo fibre combined with non-GMO corn starch to form a paste which is then mixed with a resin created from amino acids. When plant fibre is put into warm, damp conditions, like a compost heap or buried in the ground, the resin will start to break down which in-turn allows the fibres to break down; eventually the product will biodegrade unlike conventional plastic. This process usually takes 24-36 months depending on environmental conditions. Which means at the end of its life the cup base is biodegradable.

About bamboo
Bamboo is a grass species that can grow up to two feet a day. When harvested, it re-shoots from its extensive root system and does not require replanting.

Yield and Land Use
As the world's seven billion people compete for water, food and shelter, land use is becoming an issue of global importance. Sustainable land use practices provide both economic and environmental advantages. Bamboo can be used as food, fibre, substrate and shelter and due to its ease of growth and extraordinary growth rate - it is a cheap, sustainable and efficient crop. Because it is a grass, not a tree, bamboo grows very densely and its clumping nature enables a lot to be grown in a comparatively small area, easing land-use pressure. Yields of bamboo of up to 60 tonnes per hectare greatly exceed yield of 20 tonnes for most trees and only 1-2 tonnes per hectare for cotton - with a one-time planting for bamboo and little care and maintenance needed.

Farming
The ecoffee cup bamboo is sourced from either old-growth native bamboo plantations, or new plantations planted on distressed or abandoned agricultural farmland; much of which has suffered from soil degredation due to poor farming techniques. It is not sourced from bamboo forests planted at the expense of other native forests.

Pesticides and fertilizers
A great benefit of using bamboo as the organic base for tbio-plastic fibres is that there is no need for pesticides or fertilisers when growing bamboo. This allows a natural eco-system of insects, birds and small animals to exist in harmony with the bamboo. Bamboo also contains a substance called bamboo-kun - an antimicrobial agent that gives the plant a natural resistance to pest and fungi infestation, though some pathogen problems do still exist in some bamboo plantations.

Greenhouse Gases
Growing forests absorb CO2, but increasing deforestation results in fewer trees to soak up rising levels of CO2.

Bamboo helps minimise CO2 and generates up to 35% more oxygen than equivalent stands of trees. One hectare of bamboo sequesters 62 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year while one hectare of young forest only sequesters 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

Deforestation
Planting bamboo can help slow deforestation, providing an alternative source of timber for the construction industry and cellulose fibre for homewares and other industries. It allows communities to turn away from the destruction of their native forests and to construct commercial bamboo plantations that can be selectively harvested annually without the destruction of the grove. Tree plantations have to be chopped down and terminated at harvest, but bamboo keeps on growing. When a bamboo is cut down, it will produce another shoot and is ready for harvest again in as little as one year. Compare this to cotton - harvesting organic cotton requires the destruction of the entire crop causing bare soils to bake in the sun and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Before replanting next years crop the cotton farmers till the fields which releases yet more CO2.

Durability
We have recently tested the durability of the Ecoffee Cup ourselves to ensure that it will last even with those mishaps we all tend to have, such as dropping it or when it falls out of our car in the morning. After dropping it twice from two different heights on four different surfaces we found that the cup is extremely durable. Although it can break when dropped, this depends on a number of things such as surface and angle. A representative from the company Ecoffee Cup said that the cups ‘should last for years if treated well’. On the packaging it says not to put the cup in the microwave as this causes the material to become brittle but both the cup and the silicone are safe to go in the dishwasher. n.b. be careful not to crush the cup when carrying it around in your bag.

Water Use
Very little bamboo is irrigated and there is sound evidence that the water-use efficiency of bamboo is twice that of trees. This makes bamboo more able to handle harsh weather conditions such as drought, flood and high temperatures. Compare bamboo to cotton which is a thirsty crop - it can take up to 20,000 litres of water to
produce 1 kg of cotton and 73% of the global cotton harvest comes from irrigated land. Some estimates indicate that cotton is the largest user of water among all agricultural commodities.

Soil erosion
Yearly replanting of crops such as timber and cotton leads to soil erosion. The extensive root system of bamboo and the fact that it is not uprooted during harvesting means bamboo actually helps preserve soil and prevent soil erosion. The bamboo plant root system creates an effective watershed, stitching the soil together along fragile river banks, deforested areas, and in places prone to mudslides. It also greatly reduces rain run-off. Conventional cotton-growing also causes a severe reduction in soil quality through the impact of constant use of pesticides on soil organisms.

Biodegradable
As a natural product derived entirely from plant cellulose, bamboo fibre is biodegradable in soil by micro organisms and sunlight. Having reached its useful life, products made from bamboo fibre can be composted and disposed of in an organic and environmentally friendly manner. Plastics are not biodegradable and remain in landfill for ever.

The Lids and Sleeves
Ecoffee Cup lids and sleeves are made from food-grade Silicone, a rubber made from bonded silicon (a natural element abundant in sand and rock) and oxygen. Silicone rubber is chemically inert and stable, meaning it will not react with or leach into food, nor outgas vapours. It is non-toxic to aquatic or soil organisms, nor is it hazardous waste. While it is not biodegradable, it can be recycled after a lifetime of use. Silicone does not contain BPA and has Europe, Japan and US FDA food safe approval.

So the ecoffee cup is:

 

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