Culture Cup

Thursday, 22 February 2018

“I’ll have a skinny mochachino latte grande, with extra fairy dust, matchu pichu sprinkles, topped with topaz and diamond syrup and rare Polynesian rehydrated cream”. Ok, that’s not my usual beverage of choice, but you get the jist. It’s funny how, within the last decade or so, the craze for drinking coffee from a coffee shop has exploded. So much so, that you almost seem bizarre for making a hot drink in a mug….at home! (shocking).

The topic may seem innocuous, but so much in society is these days. The effects of drinking coffee on a regular basis is often discussed, but not as much attention is given to the polystyrene cups that are used in coffee shops.

It’s so common to walk down any high street and every next person is clutching a cup of *insert name of favourite drink here. It’s almost become part of a uniform, along with a Michael Kors hand bag and the latest iPhone.

I’m a great believer in social conditioning: That is, that companies in particular control what we do, without it seeming like they do. It all started with Friends. No, not your mate Tracey from next door, but the overly popular comedy show from the 90s. The depiction of best buddies hanging out in Central Perk coffee shop was beamed across the world and no doubt ignited the desire for many of us to bring some of that Friends-magic into our lives via a takeaway hot drink. 

Ok, so let’s get a bit boring: the Oxford English dictionary definition of polystyrene is: “A synthetic resin which is a polymer of styrene, used lightweight form and film”.

Any hot liquid poured into such a container will naturally absorb any of the harmful synthetic chemicals which will be present in these materials. In other words, when we drink coffee (or any hot drink) from a synthetic made vessel, it will invariably contain residue from that material. In this case a polystyrene cup. “Yeah, but so what?”, I hear you say (not that I can really hear anyone saying that through this blog…that would be impossible). It matters because whilst it may not be as well documented as the dangers of consuming too much sugar and over processed food, it seems to me that the widespread use of polystyrene and other synthetic materials (like plastic) in our daily lives and its long-term effect on our health (not to mention the environment) is simply "killing us softly"

Of course, they’ll be those who will roll their eyes, shrug their shoulders, tut under their breath and say I’m taking things farrrrr too seriously. Yes may be, but since writing this post, I saw a story on the BBC website about the, no proven, dangers of drinking water from plastic bottles (read it here). 

I guess the point is that you don’t need to completely cut out using polystyrene cups (although I try to), but perhaps, to use a very millennial word, be more mindful, not just about what we consume, but also about the container/packaging it comes in (plastic wrapped fruit and veg, vacuum packed fish and meat, etc) and the effect these synthetic materials may be having on our health long term. 

One small solution to this conundrum is to try a reusable, glass, cup, There's this one from Planet Organic, or there's a wide variety on Amazon here. Try buying fruit and veg from a market, rather than a supermarket, where most items are cosseted in plastic. 

'Til next time my lovies :)

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