Melbournians have continued to fund their caffeine addictions with takeaway coffee during the COVID-19 lockdown, and in turn, support their local cafes. However, reusable cups have become a thing of the past and single-use coffee cup consumption is again on the rise.
Disposable coffee cups are just one type of takeaway rubbish starting to pile up as cafes across Melbourne no longer accept reusable cups due to COVID-19 health concerns.
According to Statista, Australia is estimated to reach approximately 5 billion dollars in revenue from coffee shops and cafes in the 2020 financial year. And when it comes to how we like our coffee, 23 per cent of all coffee orders are takeaway, making Australia the fourth-highest takeaway coffee consumer.
Now let’s turn that once 23 percent into 100 percent. COVID-19 lockdown has forced cafes and restaurants to trade as purely takeaway stores, so that’s 77 percent more single-use coffee cups filling our bins and piling up at our local tips.
Zulal Rogers, the owner of Cafe Z situated in the leafy suburb of Research, Victoria, has seen firsthand how trading as a takeaway store has impacted her business and surrounding environment.
“Our packaging orders have tripled since this lockdown, it’s a big expense to go from serving food and coffee on plates and in cups, to serving everything in takeaway containers. Not only is that an expense for my business but our rubbish bins are constantly full,” Rogers told Upstart.
Rogers is concerned that with the higher volumes of plastic and paper coming from food stores throughout the suburb that her surrounding environment is going to feel the impact.
Her local council has had to increase how often communal bins are emptied in the area, and with a lack of recycle bins available, any packaging that can be recycled is being put into general waste.
“People aren’t using the rubbish bins the way they should,” she said.
Rogers admitted that while biodegradable packaging would be ideal during these times, the costs are too high to even consider buying those products especially when sales are already low. However, she does believe that the local community will revert to BYO post-COVID-19.
“We are being careful as cafe owners because the costs are extreme, buying wisely when things are on special is all we can do to save on the cost,” she said.
“Customers will go back to using their keep cups after all of this, we still have customers asking if they can use them now, so I have no doubt especially in this area.”
Russel Dycer works for Four Seasons Waste mainly working under Yarra City Council. His job as a garbage collector has meant he has been able to observe the increase in rubbish throughout the community since COVID-19 restrictions began.
While cafes and restaurants are supplying takeaway meals, households are the main source of rubbish especially with delivery services available such as Uber Eats and Menulog.
“There has been an increase of waste and I’d say it’s [probably] 20 to 30 percent higher since the COVID restrictions have come into place compared to pre-COVID days. More people are home which is creating more household rubbish especially from delivery services. We have a lot of residents that will ask if they can bring extra rubbish bags out because they wouldn’t fit in their bin,” Dycer told Upstart.
Restrictions on cafes and restaurants are expected to continue for many weeks ahead, but Yarra City Council hopes to improve the way that rubbish and recyclable materials are disposed of to improve the local environment.
“They currently have a trial going which includes separate glass bins and [food waste] collections going. Due to COVID there has been a delay in moving forward with a bigger trial area, but later this year they are still planning on rolling out glass bins to the whole council zone,” he said.
Dycer believes that while cafes and restaurants are the main cause of increased rubbish currently, it’s the responsibility of the community that will help change habits post-COVID-19. With better education and an awareness of the impact single-use packaging can have, it’s an opportunity to learn.
“Its people at their residential properties that really need to lead the way with how they recycle. We are very strict in what is allowed and not allowed in each bin,” he said.
“[If] we find a household constantly doing the wrong thing the council will actually send someone to the address to help educate the residents on recycling and how it impacts [the environment].”
Local councils are hoping to see a return of reusable cups, containers and shopping bags post-COVID-19 as well as better recycling habits and more education. The aim is to see Australia contend with the rest of the world when it comes to our rubbish system.
“Over multiple councils the last few years there’s been massive pushes to help aid the recycling industry, as in Australia we significantly lag behind rest of the world. Yarra Council [is] pushing to aid local recycling to create more jobs, but to limit the amount of recycling the we are sending overseas,” Dycer said.
Get ready to dust off those keep cups post COVID-19 and continue supporting your local cafes minus the single-use cup.
Photo: Wine turns meal into a banquet by Tim Ellis available HERE and used under a Creative Commons Attribution. The image has not been modified.