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19 January 2010

Replacing throw-away takeaway cups with reusable coffee cups

Are throw-away coffee cups heading for a tipping point like plastic grocery bags and bottled water?

Look in a public rubbish bin on the street and it will most likely be full of coffee cups, plastic bottles and take-away food containers.  Some of this could be recycled if there was such a facility in public places, but landfill is the only option for the plastic-coated paper coffee cups.

We have noticed in the last year a growing realisation that disposable coffee cups can not be recycled.   I was putting coffee cups in our household recycling bin until early 2009 because I did not realise.  The takeaway coffee businesses do need to better inform their customers that the cups can not be put into recycling.

Any local Council serious about reducing the amount of waste going to landfill must also address takeaway coffee cups.  As with disposable plastic water bottles and plastic bags, there seems to be only four choices:
  • a ban,
  • a tax or levy on the price of the item,
  • a container deposit type system (so that the seller has the responsibility for recycling), or
  • public education by coffee businesses and government to encourage people to bring their own reusable cup.
Most people would likely prefer the last option.  We're doing our little part at Biome by talking to our customers and finding practical, affordable alternatives.

Keep Cup reusable coffee cup a great Australian invention made from high quality, BPA-free plastics in Australia, with an estimated lifespan of 4 years.  We had great experiences using our Keep Cups over the Summer holidays.  Five of our group had a KeepCup under the tree and the coffee shops we visited were very happy for us to provide our own cups.  We were enjoying the best of our beautiful environment at the beach and it felt so good to be reducing our waste each day.  Some places even offer a discounted price if you bring your own reusable coffee cup.    Great for Mothers Day gifts.

Klean Kanteen insulated bottle with cafe cap - a great innovation from the Klean Kanteen people.  Not only a reusable option, but the double-walled stainless steel insulated cup will keep the contents hot or cold for six hours.  You could use them for coffee, tea, soup or yoghurt.  The bottle comes with a loop cap, but you can purchase a cafe cap to transform your bottle into a sipping mug.

Whenever you head out, just remember to grab your reusable coffee mug and your reusable shopping bags.  

Author & Editor

Tracey Bailey is the founder of Biome Eco Stores and mother of two. After working in corporate communications and starting a family, she made a choice to be part of the solution to our planet's future and started Biome Eco Stores. Tracey is passionate about educating the community about living eco-friendly and sustainable lives through her extended product, chemical, health and environmental knowledge.


Megan Evans said...

I think at this stage only the last option is feasible. I usually get weird looks when I use my KeepCup, but over time I hope it will become more mainstream - particularly if coffee shops promote and provide discounts for use of reusable cups. There is still the issue of plastic water bottles...a national campaign targeting plastic bags, bottles and coffee cups would be wonderful.

John Retallick said...

Are these reusable cups really better in the long run when we take a whole of lifecycle into account? I'm thinking of buying one but am not convinced yet. We are encouraged to use ceramic cups at work and the cafe's nearby all accept them.

Silicone cups look good on the manufacturing side but are not biodegradable. Recyclable yes but biodegradable no.

Surely it would be better to use fully recyclable, renewable and biodegradable paper 'one use cups' as a starting point. Designers can surely come up with one. After all they are really convenient.

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