Inner West Independent

Inner West joins the fight against single use cups

Customers of Inner West Café, The Buddha Bowl, join the fight against single use cups. Photo: Adam Chalk

By Sarah McLenaghan

The Inner West Council has partnered with Responsible Cafes to reduce the environmental impact of disposable coffee cups.

The Responsible Cafes initiative encourages local cafes to encourage customers to bring their own reusable cups by offering discounts and other benefits.

Mayor Darcy Byrne said the priorities of Responsible Cafes are in line with Council’s ongoing commitment to reduce waste.

“We look forward to seeing more cafés in the Inner West join up, and more coffee lovers getting their caffeine fix with reusable cups,” he said.

Head of Operations at Responsible Cafes, Rachel Draper, shared her excitement over the new partnership, “We are thrilled to have Inner West Council partner with Responsible Cafes as this shows a dedication and understanding of the issue of single-use coffee cups, and is the start to creating a positive impact and reducing the use of cups amongst their residents.

“As a NFP, we rely on partnerships with Councils to…continue to work together to educate the community and businesses to empower them to make a change.”

Almost 40 cafes in the Inner West area are already participating in the initiative.

An early adopter was The Buddha Bowl Cafe, a vegan and vegetarian establishment in Newtown which has been involved in the program since it first opened its doors in June 2017.

The Buddha Bowl’s owner, Adam Chalk, explained why he decided to become involved in the program, “We joined Responsible Cafes right from the beginning because it represents something that we strongly believe in.

“It’s about a shift away from single use take away cups that are not entirely recyclable…this program helps us to help consumers make a more sustainable choice in regards to their daily coffee routine.”

The response from customers has been promising according to Mr Chalk, “As Buddha Bowl Cafe is located in an office building, Flourmill Studios Newtown, we have a lot of regular coffee drinkers who work upstairs.

“We are pleased to say that these customers have embraced the concept well, with about 90% of these in-house customers regularly using a reusable cup.”

According to Mr Chalk, “The customers enjoy contributing to a good cause (reducing waste) and are happy to be rewarded with an ongoing discount each time”.

The Buddha Bowl Cafe offers a 50c discount for any hot drink in a reusable cup including coffees, teas, hot chocolates and health lattes.

This is the norm for most businesses joining Responsible Cafes who generally offer between 50c and $1 off for BYO cup users.

University of Technology Sydney student Sarah Gittoes shared her reason for making the switch, “I use a reusable cup because I’m hoping that even the little things like reusable bags and cups can make a difference for the environment.

“I know so many people believe that it’s pointless to do such tiny changes but I think every little bit helps.”

It’s attitudes like Ms Gittoes’ Responsible Cafes rely on as they try to reach their goal of keeping one billion coffee cups out of landfill by 2019.

Takeaway coffee cups end up in landfill because they are lined on the inside with a plastic film, making them notoriously difficult to recycle because most waste facilities don’t have the infrastructure to do it.

With an estimated one billion disposable coffee cups used by Australians each year, this equates to a staggering 2,700,000 paper coffee cups thrown out every day.

Ms Draper explained recyclable single use cups may not be a viable alternative, “There is a lot of confusion as to whether they are recyclable, compostable and biodegradable, so consumers and Cafes may feel they are doing the right thing by disposing of their cup in kerbside recycling, or opting for a compostable option, but sadly they all have their issues and the resources that go into the production and waste management is extensive.”

It’s not only the reduction in landfill that makes reusable cups an ideal replacement.

Statistics show that over the course of a year, use of a KeepCup reduces a coffee drinker’s coffee related greenhouse gas emissions by up to 92% compared to those who use disposable cups.

Ms Draper emphasised the wide reaching implications this simple initiative can have for the future, “We have found coffee cups to be a gateway to behaviour change.

“Once consumers question and change their usage of single-use cups, we have found they are then looking into other uses of single-use plastic such as water bottles, straws and plastic bags.

“We want to help Cafes and the community look beyond coffee cups and work with like-minded initiatives and businesses to empower them to create a change.”

Greenpeace campaigner, Simon Black argued that promoting the use of reusable cups on an individual basis is part of the answer but not a complete solution in itself.

“Large companies also need to commit to using 100 percent recyclable alternatives and lessening our dependence on single use plastic across the board,” he said.