Everywhere You Go...
Updated: Aug 17, 2020
Always take your reusable cup and utensils with you. And, your common sense too!
Until It Isn’t, It Is! A problem, that is.
Coffee cups, those takeaway parts
How to fix this recycling conundrum.
Now, when the only way we can enjoy the coffee culture of Covid-riddled Melbourne is through a takeaway cup, the environmental consequence will be dire. All over the world, cafes are not accepting reusable tumblers for health and safety reasons, and so it makes it all the more important that we should have had proper handling and recycling streams already put in place. Current options are lackluster and disproportionate to our consumption rates.
Therefore, garbage bins filled to the brim with coffee cups, is not an uncommon sight in the city and back in my little suburb, I am able to collect at least 4-5 discarded paper cups in a 2km stretch on any given day. These days, I am trying not to let this ignorance and neglect get to me. I have to do what I can and hopefully, spread the message through my actions.
In the last few months, I have had to make just two adjustments to my normal habits. And so, this would be the rules to live by during this pandemic:
· If I buy a takeaway coffee, I keep the empty cup with me until I can go to the nearest 7-Eleven that provides coffee cup collection bins through the Simply Cups recycling program.
· If I go for a walk, I bring a plastic bag to collect any discarded cups I find on the streets.
Post-Covid, it has to be:
· the reusable tumbler or no coffee at all.
· If dining in, request to have your coffee in a mug or leave!
It is really as simple as that. If recycling is not available, I will just have to abstain. You too! Why do our needs to have coffee on the go, trump the needs of the rivers and lands these cups pollute? Why?
It really boils down to packaging vs packing. With a little discipline, I believe we can all change our ways to incorporate strategies that will prevent us from having to succumb to this culture of convenience, that grips us by the throat and rips choice from our grasp. Just who tore open our skulls and implanted this concept that we always had to have a coffee on the go? Movies, television… takeaway coffees literally have their own role in shows such as NCIS or The Devil Wears Prada. See also (https://www.treehugger.com/why-did-coffee-cups-and-soda-cups-get-so-big-4855175) for an interesting perspective of the advent of takeaway coffee.
So, what if there is a Starbucks around the corner? Companies like these are no longer relevant if you really care for your environment. My experiences in Malaysia and Japan is that Starbucks served us coffee in takeaway cups even if we were dine-in customers. So, those few bags of compost earth in a rustic looking basket to show that you are a caring company was just a ruse.
There was a time, when men and women packed their coffee from home. When I was young, I would greet my father as he arrived home from work, and he would hand me his big Thermos flask that had sustained him with delicious hot coffee throughout his day. Nowadays, you won’t see a movie about current times, showing Ryan Gosling in a suit, with briefcase and flask anymore. You would see him with a backpack and a takeaway cup. Media framing is everything. You need to watch what you watch!
Speaking of watching, ABC’s War on Waste 2017 documentary featured host Craig Reucassel driving an iconic Melbourne tram filled with takeaway paper cups to drive home the message about the amount of waste we were accumulating through this one habit. I only wish that the cup-filled tram would have been made into a monument to immortalise the plea against waste. This scene was also mentioned in a fantastic article about takeaway cups (https://www.beanscenemag.com.au/no-time-to-waste-would-a-coffee-cup-ban-work/) with some honest views and good ideas by the players and researchers in the F&B industry, on the future of paper cup recycling.
Whilst the article highlights everything I wanted to say and more, I do, however, have issues with the following: “The show saw host Craig Reucassel ride around the streets of Melbourne in a tram filled with 50,000 disposable coffee cups, the estimated number sent to landfill every half hour because they supposedly couldn’t be recycled in Australia.” For me, considering that he did feature Ballarat recycling maverick Dennis Collins and 7-Eleven’s collaboration with Simply Cups, the message I got was that they weren’t being recycled, and from my own personal experience, this is due to the fact that the city’s public disposal system and awareness campaign is inadequate. It is shockingly inadequate, considering that Melbourne is of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.
And, as you read the article to its completion, you will come to the following conclusion: Between composting, recycling and outright banning the cups, the players and leaders have a different take on what is best. This, to me, slows things down and as Dr Robert Crocker, Deputy Director of the China Australia Centre for Sustainable Urban Development and Senior Lecturer at the University of South Australia (UniSA) points out, it is costly to boot. “I’m full of admiration for these companies – they try to walk the talk,” Robert says. “But, without uniformity, standardisation, and regulation, its costs they bear themselves.”
p.s.- Let’s get polystyrene out of the way. Are they still being used for cups? Sadly, yes.
This year however, Dunkin Donuts announced that 100% of its restaurants globally have transitioned from polystyrene foam cups to paper cups (https://www.treehugger.com/dunkin-donuts-moves-all-paper-coffee-cups-4856058) Hint: read the comments as well. Honestly, when you are this late to a party and you have brought a lame present, just slink in the back door and best not to announce your arrival. At this point, no excuse is reasonable.
For more on recycling, here is an enlightening article detailing the technical aspects of recycling mixed material items such as paper cups and milk cartons: https://www.beanscenemag.com.au/cup-of-truth/