Combating plastic waste one coffee cup at a time

Friday, 19 August, 2022 | Supplied by: Veolia Australia and New Zealand

Combating plastic waste one coffee cup at a time

The Department of Defence (Defence) has been working with Veolia to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill in the form of disposable coffee cups.

Veolia has partnered with Defence and the Army & Air Force Canteen Service (AAFCANs) to collect and recycle over 45,000 single-use coffee cups from the Williamtown RAAF base near Newcastle. This relationship is the first step in the process of completely removing this sort of plastic-lined, disposable cup across all Defence bases in Australia.

Such cups are classified as “hard to recycle” due to the specific treatment that they need to undergo in order to remove their plastic layer, which serves as a way of protecting the paper shell. Typically these cups are sent to landfill due to the difficulty of this process.

As part of the plan to tackle this problem, Veolia and Defence have instituted a trial of cups with removable linings, installing seven dedicated recycling bins for easier disposal. Over nine months, almost 50% of the coffee cups used on site were collected in these bins.

Tony Roderick, Veolia’s chief operating officer for waste, said the results of the trial have been very promising.

“We have seen a clear, upward trend in the use of dedicated recycling bins by the men and women at Defence which is really encouraging and something we’re confident will continue to grow,” he said.

“It takes effort from everyone to drive environmental change. Working with Defence on this progressive initiative, we saw a peak rate of an incredible 82% recycling in the last month of the initial trial. This is what ecological transformation looks like.”

Defence has introduced stronger policies since it introduced the recycling program, such as those that reduce waste and make waste management more efficient under its National Waste Policy Action Plan. This includes a goal to eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastics by 2025.

Roderick said the initial trial is just the first component of a larger sustainability strategy.

“Working closely with Defence, we are now looking to undertake a trial of compostable cups that will test new and better ways to reduce impact on the environment,” he said.

“You can’t help but be excited by the fact your caffeine hit doesn’t have to come at the expense of the environment.”

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