Can You Drink Hot Coffee From A Plastic Cup? Yes and No!

can you drink hot coffee from a plastic cup

Plastic cups are extremely convenient. They can be used in nearly any situation, with their unique color patterns and designs. They can be used for nearly any purpose, from holding milk in the morning to plopping scoops of your favorite ice cream. However, many of us may be wondering… Can you drink coffee from a plastic cup?

As a general rule, it is not recommended to drink coffee or other hot liquids from plastic cups. When plastic reaches higher temperatures and begins to melt, it begins to leach toxic chemicals into the food or drink it contains. Glass and stainless steel make excellent alternatives.

Key Takeaways

  • Disposable plastic cups are not safe if you use them for hot liquids like coffee.
  • Plastic can be more expensive and less versatile than alternative options.
  • There are a number of useful alternatives to choose from, like ceramic, glass, and stainless steel.

Plastic cups are a convenient option for hot beverages, but is it safe to drink hot coffee from them? Our guide makes sure that you are aware of the dangers and the alternatives for your safety.

Understanding Plastic Cups

The answer to the question “Can you drink coffee from a plastic cup?” does not have a simple answer because there are many factors to consider. Information like what type of plastic the cup is made of is extremely important. Understanding why it’s so important is key to making the right choice for your coffee habit.

Plastics Used To Make Plastic Cups

There are two main types of plastic cups: disposable plastic cups and plastic tumblers. There are a variety of plastics used to make disposable plastic cups. Among the most common are: 

Types of Disposable Plastic Cups

Type of Plastic UsedMelting PointDescription
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)255℃/491℉These types of cups are generally made of a lightweight, clear material.The material PET cups are made of is considered heat-resistant and shatter-proof. Not environmentally friendly because it is not biodegradable.
Bioplastic/PLA Plastic170-180℃/338-356℉PLA plastic is more environmentally friendly than PET because it is biodegradable.These cups are incredibly functional and durable.They are most used in restaurants, coffee shops, etc.
Polypropylene (PP)130℃/266℉A more affordable option compared to the others.They can accommodate both cold and hot beverages.These cups do not contaminate the food or drink they carry when they reach a certain temperature.
HDPE Material130℃/266℉This is a strong, shatterproof material that withstands much pressure.Because of the strong material, these cups are less likely to spill or fracture.

Melting Point And The Release of Harmful Chemicals

While using plastic dishes and cutlery, like plastic cups, can be a convenience, it’s possible that it’s hazardous to your health. Some studies have discovered that as some types of plastic reach a certain temperature, they begin to leach certain chemicals that are not healthy for humans. 

Unfortunately, over time, these chemicals can lead to major health problems. Some of the prolonged health problems include:

  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Infertility
  • Metabolic problems

Are Plastic Cups Safe For Hot Liquids?

Most plastic cups, particularly disposable ones, are not safe to drink hot liquids out of. Even FDA-approved plastic cups could threaten your health long term as they get too hot or scratched. 

One study shows that toxic chemicals can be leached from “food grade” plastic cups even in a short period of time. Bisphenol-A can be released from plastic cups, causing possible negative long-term effects like:

  • Long-term negative effects of fetuses
  • Behavioral problems in adolescents
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Increased blood pressure

Environmental Impact of Using Plastic Cups

Aside from personal safety, there is one more thing to take into consideration before choosing a plastic cup. Did you know that plastic cups take 450-1000 years to decompose in a landfill or the ocean? 

Well, according to this article, as plastic cups break down, they release toxic chemicals into the surrounding soil. Animals and humans alike are at risk from the toxic soil. People living in the immediate surrounding area are at an all-time high risk. Utilizing alternatives is a step in the right direction to protect the planet.

Best Practices For Using Plastic Cups For Hot Coffee

Hot coffee is a must, and the convenience of a plastic cup is extremely appealing. Even though there are reasons not to use a plastic cup, sometimes it’s unavoidable. So, how can you use a plastic cup safely? Is it possible? 

Tips For Using Plastic Cups Safely For Hot Coffee

Clearly, there are a number of concerns with using plastic cups for hot beverages. The good news is that there are a few things you can do to safely use a plastic cup for hot coffee. Check out these tips to lessen the chance of your plastic cup getting too hot:

  • Fill the cup with cold water just before putting any hot liquid in it.
  • Avoid a heat source on top of the heat already coming for the drink.
  • Try to drink the coffee fairly quickly, so it’s not in the plastic cup too long.

Avoiding The Microwave

It’s difficult to make a plastic cup completely safe to use for hot coffee. To make things a bit safer, avoid the microwave altogether. Do not put your plastic cup in the microwave. The chances of waxes and other hazardous materials leaching into your coffee are much higher the hotter the cup gets.

Alternatives To Using Plastic Cups For Hot Beverages

Although plastic cups offer a great deal of convenience, there are clearly some unavoidable dangers as well. Fortunately, there are safe alternatives to using plastic cups for your coffee. From tumblers to disposables, ceramic to glass—they all offer their own benefits.

What Are The Best Alternatives?

Below we have some of the best alternatives to plastic cups:

Alternatives to Using Plastic Cups for Hot Beverages

MaterialsProsCons
Glass CupsRetains heat extremely wellRecommended for hot beverages as it’s safe when brought to higher temperatures.Most are dishwasher safe and thus are convenient and easier to clean.Less durable than other materials making it easily breakable
Stainless Steel CupsMuch more durable than other optionsSafe for both hot and cold liquidsWork well to keep liquids at the correct temperaturesReusable and most are dishwasher safe, making them convenient choicesMany are lightweightTend to be on the more expensive sideSome end up leaving a metallic taste
Ceramic CupsDo well to retain heatMore durable than some of the other optionsVery easy to cleanCome in a variety of extravagant designs and colorsEasily breaking, therefore less durable than others
Starbucks Plastic CupsOne of the more affordable optionsFairly durableOffer a variety of epic designsCould possibly still release harmful chemicalsLess eco-friendly than the reusable options
Starbucks TumblersEco-friendly, reusable optionEngaging variety of designs offeredPerfectly safe for hot beveragesDo well to retain heat for long periods of timeMay have trouble competing with other materials to retain heatMore expensive than most other options
Plastic TumblersShockingly durable and lightweightAn affordable optionCome in a variety of designs to choose fromHave the possibility to release potentially harmful chemicalsNot necessarily the best choice for hot liquidsNot very eco-friendly
Steel TumblersDo a nice job retaining heatMore eco-friendly than plasticFairly durableSuitable for hot liquidsMore on the expensive sideMore likely to dent or scratch

In Conclusion

While plastic cups may be the most appealing option to use for your coffee, it is definitely not the best option. Technically, there is nothing stopping you from using a plastic cup, but the benefits of using an alternative outweigh the convenience.

Plastic cups are harmful to both you and the planet on which you live. There are alternative options like stainless steel tumblers and glass cups that serve as terrific replacements. Enjoy your coffee knowing that you’re helping save the planet—and yourself. They both thank you!

FAQ

Can you put hot coffee in a plastic Starbucks cup?

Yes. You can put hot coffee in a plastic Starbucks cup. However, before doing so, make sure that the cup is considered food-grade by FDA standards.

Can hot coffee melt a solo cup?

Technically yes. However, it is not at all recommended.

Is it healthy to drink coffee from a plastic cup?

Not really. There are much safer and eco-friendly options like ceramic cups, stainless steel tumblers, etc.

Can Starbucks tumblers hold hot coffee?

Absolutely, but it may have a difficult time in comparison to a stainless steel tumbler—and be more expensive.
Christopher Mize

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