While plastic coffee cups are responsible for 36,000 tonnes of waste each year, more and more people are turning to bamboo cups, which are much more attractive and supposedly biodegradable. However, this material would not be that good, especially with regard to mugs, alert the German Federal Institute for Toxic Risk Assessment (BfR). According to the body, these cups made from melamine, a polymer resin reinforced with bamboo fibers, contain dangerous compounds. If the melamine itself is not toxic, the heat does not succeed. When exposed to high temperatures, it breaks down into monomers and formaldehyde, classified compounds carcinogenic.
To reach these conclusions, experts conducted tests on 228 types of bamboo mugs. They found that by pouring liquids over 70 ° C, in 35% of cases, the European limit values for toxins were exceeded. Sometimes with levels thirty times higher than the safety threshold for adults and 120 times for that of children. What’s more, the amount of melamine released from the cups increases with repeated exposure to hot or slightly acidic liquids like sodas.
Fortunately, the other cups in melamine but without bamboo fillings display much lower levels of toxic substances. Bamboo fibers would degrade the network formed by polymers within melanin and the hot liquid would accelerate the hydrolysis and decomposition of the resin, experts suggest.
Not really recyclable
While occasional exposure to large amounts of these chemicals is not necessarily harmful, using a bamboo cup regularly is a health risk, concludes the BfR.
This summer, the German consumer group Stiftung Warentest had already alerted to possible dangers bamboo mugs after testing 12 different cups. In addition to the health risks, the group had pinned down the commercial lies. Indeed, while it was noted on several mugs that they were “biodegradable” or “recyclable”, if the natural bamboo fibers biodegrade over time, the cups themselves do not rot, despite the years. The only option is therefore to burn them.
Therefore, if you’ve decided to do away with plastic, instead of using a bamboo cup, get a reusable cup made of a material like stainless steel, porcelain or polypropylene.
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