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  • Charlie Sykes


Take away coffee cups are a hot topic in Australia at the moment, especially

since the War on Waste ABC program had a 50 minute segment on them.  More than

1 billion disposable coffee cups are used by Australians each year. Approximately

92% of those end up in landfill! Every time you go out for a take away coffee, we are provided with what is now perceived as a dreaded take away coffee cup. Whilst many of us think that coffee cups recyclable, especially if they have the recycling symbol on them, a lot of the time they are not. 

Take away coffee cups are usually lined on the inside with a plastic film. The lids are usually plastic, however made of a soft plastic that often cannot go in your normal recycling bin. Therefore, even if we do

place a take away coffee cup in a recycle bin it will often end up in landfill. Not all take away coffee cups are bad. Lots of cafes are making a conscious effort to buy compostable packaging that is made of starch, a plant base material. This has been heavily influenced by the Responsible Café movement. Organic coffee cups can be recycled, but more importantly they can be placed into the green organics bin and are fully compostable! A bug bear however, is that often the lid of the cup is the same PLA plastic that is non compostable. Look out for this! 

To make matters worse, most, if not all of our public bins across Australia are only general waste bins and do not often a recycling or organics bin option. This means that even where cafes have made the effort to buy a recyclable or organic cup, if you put it in a public rubbish bin it all goes to landfill anyway. If you are like me, often you look at the cup and are unsure if it can be recycled, put into the organic bin or whether we are just wasting our time and should just put it into the general waste bin.

While the answer isn't simple, we always suggest these small things to get to the bottom of the coffee cup fiasco:

  • ask the café where they have bought their packaging and if it is compostable or recyclable. If it is, take it home with you and put it in an organics bin – DO NOT put it into a random council bin on the street, this will result in your cup ending up in landfill

  • Choose to buy from cafes that are making a conscious effort to buy the right packaging – check out the responsible cafes website

  • Finally, a very simple solution is to #BRINGYOUROWNCUP

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