Dedicated recycling bins for takeaway coffee cups in Australian cities have been well used, but two New Zealand councils say it’s better to focus on using reusable cups instead, because there’s currently no way to recycle the disposable kind.
A trial run by Closed Loop Environmental Solutions placed bins for takeaway coffee cups in three office buildings in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, to make the case for building a dedicated takeaway coffee cup recycling facility.
Over the four-week trial at Sydney law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, 4278 coffee cups were placed in the bins.
Closed Loop Environmental Solutions managing director Robert Pascoe says in a press release: “This trial has shown that coffee drinkers will use an alternative bin for takeaway cups and if a dedicated facility was set up, tens of millions of cups could be diverted from landfill every year”.
Takeaway coffee cups cannot be recycled because they have an interior liner made from plastic, which is a problem for recyclers. This means that even if a takeaway cup is put in the recycling bin, it will end up in the landfill.
Wellington City Council waste minimisation manager Kellie Benner told Healthy Food Guide that “without a dedicated use for the end-of-life coffee cups in Sydney, collecting the cups is pointless”.
“The process in the UK that is turning coffee cups into a plastic polymer is a start, but the plastic polymer that is produced is probably not recyclable, so the products made from it will end up in landfill, which is just slightly prolonging the inevitable. And because this process is not happening in Australia or NZ, it is likely that the coffee cups that they collected in the trial in Australia will be going to landfill as well.”
She says she would not support a trial happening in Wellington.
“Our efforts will continue to go into encouraging Wellingtonians to take responsibility for their waste by not producing it in the first place.”
This was also the view of Auckland Council waste planning manager Parul Sood, who says the council wants to encourage customers to purchase a reusable coffee cup.
“Reusing is always a better option than recycling and some cafes offer a discount on your coffee if you bring a reusable cup. However, we are always keen to include other items in our kerbside recycling which either can’t be avoided or reused, to make it easier for people to recycle more, and we would look into disposable coffee cups if they are viable to recycle.
“We will consider the results of the Sydney trial with interest, but we do believe that reducing or reusing should be encouraged well before creating a product that then needs to be recycled.”
Data from the Packaging Forum show that there are 295 million takeaway cups sold each year in NZ.
Subscribe now for delicious, healthy recipes and expert advice delivered to your door!