The wasteful habit of drinking takeaway coffee

27 March 2017

Written by: Samuel Findlay

A look at the wastefulness of disposable coffee cups.

Like using plastic bags at the supermarket, the habit of purchasing coffee in takeaway cups is an afterthought for many.

For those that don’t have the time to sit down and enjoy a coffee at a cafe, reusable coffee cups are an environmentally friendly alternative.

Nowadays, they come in many shapes and sizes, and are even specifically made to be light and convenient for people on the go.

KeepCup are leading the way in making reusable barista standard cups.

KeepCups for purchase at Brother Baba Budan. Source: Samuel Findlay

KeepCup co-founder Abigail Forsyth started the company after opening a chain of cafes in the late nineties, and realising just how many disposable takeaway cups end up in landfill.

“My brother and I started a cafe business called Bluebag in Melbourne in 1998,” Abigail tells upstart.

“As the business grew, we became increasingly concerned about the volume of packaging waste our business and our customers consumed,” she says.

“KeepCup is a simple product that has given people permission to do the right thing.”

According to research conducted by KeepCup, there are an estimated 500 billion disposable cups manufactured worldwide each year. These cups do not break down properly and contain chemicals such as polyethylene.

“Disposable cups are lined with polyethylene and have a polystyrene lid, so there is enough plastic in 20 disposable cups to make one small KeepCup,” Abigail says.

“People purchase KeepCups to be sustainable and many small acts will make a phenomenal difference.”

A study conducted by the University of Queensland estimates that disposable coffee cups generate 7,000 tonnes of waste each year in Australia alone.

Disposable coffee cups are the second largest contributor to waste behind plastic bottles and are consistently piling up in landfill, as reported by the ABC last year.

Many cafes in Melbourne sell reusable cups like KeepCups to help lower their waste. They also give discounts to customers who help save on waste and bring in their own reusable cup.

Everyday Coffee in Collingwood gives customers 30 cents off their coffee if they use a reusable cup, and sell both KeepCups and other alternative brands. Dukes Coffee Roasters in the CBD offer 50 cents off for customers who bring their own reusable takeaway cup, and Brother Baba Budan, also in the CBD, offer a first free coffee to people who buy a KeepCup from them.

Sammi Li, a full-time barista at Brother Baba Budan, explains just how many disposable cups go out the door and into the bin on a day-to-day basis.

“The workplace we’re in sees roughly about 600 plus disposable cups used a day,” she tells upstart.

“I reckon 40 percent of our regulars use KeepCups.”

Even as someone who makes and drinks a lot of coffee, Li never drinks takeaway coffee and always drinks her filter coffee or espresso at the cafe she is at.

She tries to encourage people to sit in to have their morning, midday or afternoon brew if they have the time.

“I always drink coffee in instead of getting takeaway,” she says.

“I do recommend people to drink in instead if I get the chance to speak to them.”

Will the habit of drinking out of disposable coffee cups be replaced by the use of reusable takeaway cups?

There are people in the coffee industry who are aware of the issue, and that is certainly a start.

Samuel FDSC_0675indlay is in the final year of completing his Master of Communication (Journalism Innovation) at La Trobe University. You can follow him on Twitter: @SamuelFindlay