Did you know that 75% of Australians have at least one cup of coffee daily?
One in four Australians says they could not last a day without it. It seems like the land down under fell hard for the caffeine-rich drink. Who could blame them? The coffee aroma detailing the dance between sweetness and bitterness is quite irresistible.
But, along with its rising popularity, a significant number of coffee cups and lids end up in landfills. In fact, Australians use 1 billion coffee cups yearly and 300 million of which solely comes from NSW.
With these numbers, coffee consumption has become more than just a morning routine. It’s now also a significant environmental polluter.
Environmental impact of coffee cups
Since coffee cups usually appear made of paper, it’s easy for unsuspecting eyes to assume that they are biodegradable. Contrary to this common belief, coffee cups have plastic polyethylene linings and lids that stick around for a long time.
You might think that these just come in small quantities. But, with the rate Australians consume coffee, these seemingly minute amounts of plastic pile up in landfills. They may even end up in the ocean as microplastics, causing the demise of marine creatures.
Given that, won’t our problems be solved if we use recyclable alternatives? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Are coffee cups recyclable?
As mentioned, coffee cups contain layers of paper, plastics, and contaminants that are too complex for Australia’s recycling facilities to process. As a result, the cups go to landfills.
To address this issue, some cafes have already started using recyclable cups. However, these also come with significant price increases. Many customers and cafe owners are still not cut out to burden themselves with the extra expenses.
Consequently, cafe owners found different ways to make their cups seemingly eco-friendlier. These cups can be classified as the following:
Recyclable: The recyclability of coffee cups and lids depends on the cups’ material and the local councils’ recycling capacity.
Biodegradable and Compostable: Green companies like BioPak have developed paper cups coated with bioplastics. Bioplastics are made from either plants or oils. With this innovative coating, these cups are supposed to degrade or compost over time.
However, composting facilities are not widely available across Australia. Some may be compostable at home. But, when they’re brought onto other places like malls or campuses, they often end up in the red landfill bin.
The situation may seem dire, but the future of coffee recycling is not so bleak. Australia’s government and private companies have come up with viable initiatives.
Present coffee cup recycling initiatives
Responsible Cafes is a program developed by volunteers that engage cafes, councils, and communities in waste education, especially on the disposal of coffee cups. Apart from educating, they’re also rating the responsible waste actions of cafes.
Currently, they are providing waste education tools to 50 councils and many commercial partners.
The Australian government has also taken part in the solution through Simply Cups. It is the country’s first coffee cup recycling program.
Specifically, it helps businesses separate their takeaway cups from other waste streams. Using over 1000 collection sites and new technologies, Simply Cups has transformed used cups into items of higher value
Since its establishment in 2017, it has partnered with over 200 7-eleven stores and diverted 16 million coffee cups from landfills.
KeepCup is an Australian company that produces reusable cups. Compared to disposable cups, the use of KeepCups reduces the production of greenhouse gases by up to 92%.
Apart from being more sustainable, KeepCups are also lightweight and durable, making them the perfect companion for coffee dates.
Australia is moving towards a more sustainable way of enjoying coffee. It’s not too late for you to be part of the solution.
Start by associating yourself with programs and companies that encourage recycling and reusing of waste like Aussie Junk.
With Aussie Junk, you can say goodbye to your coffee cups without worrying about proper disposal, for we take the impact of mismanaged waste seriously.