TAKE IT HOME
MONDAY MARKS THE BEGINNING OF NATIONAL RECYCLING WEEK AND ONE ISSUE AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE MOVEMENT IS THE THROW-AWAY COFFEE CUP. AS ONE OF THE LARGEST CONTRIBUTORS TO LANDFILL, HOW CAN ATTITUDES CHANGE?
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.