Cof­fee cup confusion

Madi­son Reidy looks at the im­pli­ca­tions of our take­away habit.

Sunday News - - NEWS -

EX­IT­ING an Auck­land cafe with a take­away cof­fee in hand, Anna Palmer planned to send the cup to re­cy­cling later.

She was sur­prised to hear the cup and its lid were in fact com­postable and would be best dis­posed of with food scraps.

‘‘There is confusion, es­pe­cially with the stuff about plas­tic coat­ing,’’ she said.

Stan­dard take­away cups are made from pa­per and lined with plas­tic, and cof­fee cus­tomers such as Palmer of­ten do not know how to dis­pose of them cor­rectly. And few com­post­ing sites ac­cept them, given the difficulties of sep­a­rat­ing the ma­te­ri­als and iden­ti­fy­ing which ones are suit­able.

Zero Waste Net­work ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Dorte Wray said it was ‘‘su­per hard for con­sumers to do the right thing. It is a mis­un­der­stand­ing at all lev­els’’.

When com­postable cups were sent to land­fill they cre­ated meth­ane, a green­house gas, when they broke down, she said.

How­ever, help is on the way. The Pack­ag­ing Fo­rum, an ini­tia­tive pro­mot­ing re­cy­cling, is work­ing on a cer­ti­fied logo to show cof­fee drinkers how to cor­rectly dis­pose of their cups, and tell com­post­ing sites how long the cups take to de­com­pose. It hoped to achieve this by June.

The fo­rum es­ti­mates that 295 mil­lion plas­tic cups hit land­fills here ev­ery year – com­postable cof­fee cups in­cluded.

In­no­cent Pack­ag­ing man­ag­ing direc­tor Tony Small said the prob­lem was ‘‘pretty daunting’’.

Cof­fee drinkers typ­i­cally put their used com­postable cups in rub­bish bins, so they went to land­fill, de­feat­ing their pur­pose.

Com­post bins for com­postable cof­fee cups and food scraps should be com­mon­place in city cen­tres, he said. ‘‘We should have had that 20 years ago.’’

New Zealand’s leg­is­la­tion on waste had also never been used to its fullest ex­tent, she said.

In­creas­ing the waste levy, the $10 per tonne charge to dump rub­bish at land­fills, would in­crease the Govern­ment’s Waste Min­imi­sa­tion Fund to pay for lo­cal com­post­ing and re­cy­cling projects.

As­so­ciate En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Eu­ge­nie Sage said she would spend sev­eral months this year look­ing at how the Waste Min­imi­sa­tion Act was be­ing ap­plied and ap­plauded the in­creas­ing num­ber of cafes dis­count­ing cof­fee served in re­us­able take­away cups, known as keep cups.

One such en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious out­let is the Red Art Gallery and Cafe in cen­tral Nel­son, which of­fers a 50c dis­count.

Red barista Ana Gal­loway said she con­vinced be­tween 10 and 15 per cent of cus­tomers to invest in a keep cup by telling them that if they bought a cof­fee ev­ery week­day they would be sav­ing $150 a year.

The Black­bird Eatery near Nel­son’s air­port of­fers a 20 cent dis­count for pun­ters who use their own cups.

Black­bird sells glass and plas­tic re­us­able cups in var­i­ous sizes, and cus­tomers who buy one get their first cof­fee free.

How­ever, Cafe owner Tra­then said many cus­tomers there, too, still used take­away cups de­spite drink­ing their cof­fee on the premises.

‘‘A lot of our clients like take­away cups but they still have them here. They like them be­cause they keep them hot­ter longer. They’re also a smidge big­ger than a have-here cup, you get a cou­ple more mils, which some peo­ple count.’’

Some just ‘‘like hold­ing a take­away cup’’.

Anna Palmer is among many con­sumers con­fused by cup re­cy­cling.

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