Separate bins for takeaway coffee cups

Closed Loop

Saturday, 26 November, 2016

Separate bins for takeaway coffee cups

As Australia’s love affair with coffee hots up, takeaway coffee cups continually stack up in our landfills, taking 50 years to decompose. Now, a trial run by Closed Loop has seen separate bins for takeaway coffee cups introduced in three buildings in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

“Coffee has become a part of our cultures, yet there is great confusion about the recyclability of coffee cups,” said Robert Pascoe, MD of Closed Loop. While the exterior of a coffee cup is paper, the plastic inner lining means these cups are not recycled with other paper or cardboard products and require a separate waste stream to reprocess them effectively.

“Takeaway coffee cups are a major recycling issue,” said Pascoe. “If we were to take all the coffee cups that ended up in landfill every year and stack them up, they would stretch along Highway 1 from the Gold Coast to Perth, and back again.”

The aim of the coffee cup trial, supported by the Australian Packaging Covenant (APC), is to prove the viability of a coffee cup collection system and make a business case for a specialised coffee cup recycling facility. Pascoe noted, “We have successfully done this in the UK, where our Simply Cups program has now collected more than 7 million cups.

“This has spurned new recycling technology where, in partnership with an innovative plastic recycling solutions firm, we are up-cycling coffee cups by blending them with recycled plastics and manufacturing into a variety of cafe-related products such as trays, coasters and placemats.”

Representing Melbourne in the trial was a Bourke St office building of 750 workers. The trial resulted in the collection of 3561 coffee cups over four weeks, proving that workers were willing to make sustainable choices when it came to their takeaway coffee cups.

Recycling habits from the trial would divert 24 million coffee cups a year from landfill if replicated in offices across the Melbourne CBD. This equates to approximately 264 tonnes of recyclable material. With a targeted education and marketing campaign, this figure would be expected to increase significantly.

The APC sees the project contributing to a long-term vision where commonly used packaging materials are able to be effectively diverted from landfill and appropriately recycled. APC CEO Trish Hyde said the covenant is “committed to investigating problem packaging types such as coffee cups” and is therefore “delighted to work with Closed Loop Environmental Solutions on this important project”.

Image courtesy of Helen K under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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