What would we do if single use cups were banned?

Posted by Eva Smith on

Coffee is a wasteful industry. As a B-Corp certified coffee roaster, we are always looking for ways to improve our sustainability from the farm to the cup. So in this issue, we are looking closely at the impact of single-use takeaway cups.

For the last decade, we’ve been able to use BioPak's Biodegradable and Compostable takeaway cups, lined with a PLA plastic made from non-oil rapidly renewable resources which produce up to 75% less CO2 than conventional plastics.[4]  As of December 2017, BioPak are placing compost bins for their disposable cups in their cafe and office stockists in Sydney. From here, they will be taken to their commercial composting facility where within a short 8 weeks can then be used as soil compost for gardens.[5] Additionally, if Biopak coffee cups end up in paper recycling plants and not their compostable facilities, the PLA bioplastic lining (made from renewable, non-toxic resources) is designed to dissolve and breakdown during the paper recycling process.[4] We are watching this trial closely to see how this composting strategy could be applied in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast. 

Beyond whether or not the single-use cup can be composted or recycled, we have a significant litter challenge in Australia and second to the use of plastic water bottles, disposable takeaway cups are the highest contributor to litter waste.[1] With 1 billion coffee cups being used in Australia each year and with 90% of those ending up in landfills or as litter, we have a real problem.[1] 

Ceramic cups

At a conference we were at recently,  the question was asked, "what if the government banned the single-use takeaway cup? How would we as roasters respond?" 

Companies such as KeepCup and Huskee Cup are making well designed, reusable coffee cups. (Excitingly after the ABC aired its documentary War on Waste the demand for KeepCup products rose by 690%. [6]

We encourage customers to bring in their own cup at our Roastery Outlet and Espresso Bar and offer a discount. Not everyone remembers their cup every time and even with encouragement, the takeup of our offer is very small.

Sustainable cups

What is the next step for us? We actually see this as a challenge that will take individuals, government, institutions and businesses working together to tackle it and to make real progress. As a Certified B-Corp, we are part of that conversation. As the first steps, we will continue to encourage reusable cups with a discount and we will continue to learn with BioPak about how to create composting solutions in urban and regional areas. If you have more ideas for us to learn about, please get in touch.

Keep Cup

*Further Reading: Check out the 5 Ways to Reuse Coffee Grounds and Leftover Coffee


[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-03/takeaway-coffee-cups-piling-up-in-landfill/7136926   [2]http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-16/ditching-disposable-coffee-cups-war-on-waste/8625018   [3]https://ksenvironmental.com.au/the-truth-about-coffee-cup-recycling/   [4]http://biopak.com.au/blog/biopak-news/paper-cup-recycling-just-the-tip-of-the-iceberg  [5]http://biopak.com.au/blog/biopak-news/biopak-launches-composting-service   [6]https://internetretailing.com.au/keepcup-sees-big-impact-war-waste-doc/    [7]https://resource.co/sites/default/files/World%20Recycling%20League%20-%20Full%20Report%20-%20FINAL.pdf  [8] https://www.biogreenchoice.com/category_s/1866.htm    [9] https://cremacoffeegarage.com.au/blog/truth-about-disposable-coffee-cups-abcs-war-on-waste    [10] https://www.packagingcovenant.org.au .  [11] https://www.canplastics.com/recycling/canadas-plastic-recycling-rate-continues-rise/1003441632/