Life & Style Weekend - - Big Read - WORDS: COURT­NEY LYNCH

Lon­don. Rome. Mel­bourne. Sin­ga­pore. Seat­tle. Welling­ton. Vi­enna. Sun­shine Coast. No mat­ter where you go in this world, one thing is clear: peo­ple are ob­sessed with cof­fee. Whether your drop is a long black, cap­puc­cino or a cof­fee-less turmeric latte, it’s not un­com­mon for peo­ple to take away their favourite hot bev­er­age mul­ti­ple times a day. The ques­tion, then, is: what hap­pens with the plas­tic-lined pa­per take­away cup that be­comes the won­der­ful ves­sel for our 3pm pick-up, morn­ing fix or “just be­cause” hit? When you hear peo­ple talk­ing about the Sun­shine Coast you hear firstly of its beauty – its pris­tine oceans, white sandy beaches and re­lax­ing, ca­sual life­style. Fam­i­lies flock to it come school hol­i­days, many wed­dings take place amid the scenery and young back­pack­ers take ad­van­tage of the sur­round­ing at­mos­phere for hol­i­days and week­end ad­ven­tures. But what you of­ten don’t hear about is the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts of the waste caused by dis­pos­able cof­fee cups. To be clear, this waste is a na­tion­wide prob­lem but be­ing sur­rounded by this beauty ev­ery­day, it seems rea­son­able to ex­pect res­i­dents of the Sun­shine Coast to have a nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­men­tal con­science – maybe even an obli­ga­tion. There are over 300,000 Coast res­i­dents, with a fur­ther 1.3 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional tourists and 6.8 mil­lion do­mes­tic tourists vis­it­ing each year. When you re­late that to fig­ures re­leased by the Aus­tralian Bureau of Statis­tics that de­pict 46 per cent of the na­tional pop­u­la­tion drinks cof­fee, it equates to a scary amount of waste, gen­er­ated from cof­fee cups alone, pol­lut­ing the beau­ti­ful Sun­shine Coast. ABC’S pro­gram War on Waste has shone a light on this is­sue and the 1 bil­lion cof­fee cups thrown out in Aus­tralia each year. The prob­lem of these cups buld­ing up in landfill has pro­fes­sion­als scratch­ing their heads, as they try to fig­ure out ways to lessen the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of this mon­strous cof­fee ad­dic­tion. Sun­shine Coast com­pany Pot­tery for the Planet is one group that has recog­nised a prob­lem and strives to in­crease aware­ness of this is­sue and re­duce landfill by sell­ing hand­crafted, re­us­able ce­ramic cups that pro­motes the idea of “bring­ing your own”. Lo­cals Claire Bot­field and Ren­ton Bish­opric started the com­pany and ex­panded to sell the prod­uct na­tion­ally. The pair say it was their pas­sion for sus­tain­abil­ity that drove them to cre­ate the hand­made prod­uct. “We are both very pas­sion­ate about the en­vi­ron­ment, so a few years ago we came up with the idea be­cause nei­ther of us like us­ing pa­per cups, ever,” Claire said. “It’s all about try­ing to pro­mote peo­ple to get a hand­made, lo­cal and sus­tain­able prod­uct that is all to do with re­duc­ing waste.” The Univer­sity of the Sun­shine Coast has also been spear­head­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity push across the re­gion by rolling out mul­ti­ple ini­tia­tives re­lat­ing to wa­ter, waste, build­ing and trans­port. The Univer­sity’s Re­think Your Drink pro­gram en­cour­ages stu­dents, staff and vis­i­tors to bring their own cup or, al­ter­na­tively, bor­row a cup to re­turn af­ter use. Ac­cord­ing to statis­tics from the univer­sity, about 250,000 dis­pos­able cof­fee cups are sold on cam­pus each year. The univer­sity only sells cof­fee cups that are com­postable and can be used in its on-site com­post­ing ap­pa­ra­tus to en­sure 50 tonnes of or­ganic waste (in­clud­ing those cof­fee cups sold on cam­pus) can be com­posted and re­cy­cled ef­fec­tively. How­ever, even with this tech­nol­ogy to com­post most cof­fee cups, there is still an is­sue of ex­cess. In 2016, the com­poster reached full ca­pac­ity which meant com­postable waste still ended up in landfill. The univer­sity re­ports pos­i­tive feed­back and in­creased aware­ness in its Re­think Your Drink pro­gram with more peo­ple choos­ing to bring their own or bor­row as they go. So, is change im­mi­nent or is this en­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness a fad? Will we use our re­us­able cup un­til it breaks and then go back to take­away? Or will the mes­sage stick? As a lo­cal barista, Me­lanie Law has worked at mul­ti­ple cof­fee shops across the Sun­shine Coast for the past eight years, serv­ing up com­fort in a take­away cup. She has been in the in­dus­try long enough to no­tice a change and said as an em­ployee, she pushed her em­ployer to get on board the re­us­able-cof­fee-cup band­wagon which she be­lieved was the way of the fu­ture. “It’s nice to see peo­ple ac­tu­ally start­ing to care about the en­vi­ron­ment,” Me­lanie said. “So of­ten peo­ple and reg­u­lars will come in mul­ti­ple times a day and they’ll get a take­away cup each time with­out a sec­ond thought. I think it’s im­por­tant as an or­gan­i­sa­tion we try and make peo­ple aware of the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of sin­gle-use cups be­cause a lot of peo­ple don’t know that they aren’t re­cy­clable. “At my work­place, I have asked my boss to change the type of take­away cups we are giv­ing out to a more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly cup.” Me­lanie said younger peo­ple such as stu­dents and back­pack­ers seemed to have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the en­vi­ron­ment and con­nected more to their sur­round­ings on the Coast. “It’s no longer un­cool or ‘hippy’ to care for the planet,” she said. While it seems take­away cof­fee cups won’t be fac­ing the same fate as plas­tic bags any­time soon, it does feel like the times are slowly chang­ing. No longer are we lim­ited to bland, com­pany-branded, free, re­us­able cups that we scored from our lo­cal mem­ber or at a real es­tate open day. We now have choices of quirky, fun, and lo­cally hand­crafted cups, which means sav­ing the planet and re­duc­ing waste has never been trendier. And, if we can curb these old plas­tic habits, our ad­dic­tion, hope­fully un­like take­away cof­fee cups, won’t be go­ing any­where.

Na­tional Re­cy­cling Week will run from Novem­ber 12-18.

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