Despite its innocent papery appearance, your disposable coffee cup is doing more damage than you might think. The ABC’s War on Waste clearly identified take-away coffee cups as a major sustainability issue. Contrary to common belief, they are not recycled. The plastic lining ensures that they almost never make it to a recycling plant (regardless of what bin you put them in). They don’t biodegrade either, so Australia’s astronomical demand for its daily coffee fix means these cups reach landfill in plague-like proportions. It is estimated that disposable coffee cups are the second largest litter waste product, outdone only by plastic bottles.
One solution stands out as fairly straighforward: BYO cups. The movement is growing in Australia with environmentalists everywhere encouraging co-workers and friends; and some coffee shops offering discounts for customers who bring their own cup. But for those who struggle to remember that cup when they leave the house, there are other options.
Another solution is in-house office coffee. Investing in a good quality office coffee machine can make a huge difference to sustainable office practice. Machines like the Nespresso pod system deliver a quality caffeine fix with a low environmental imprint (Who knew George Clooney was such an environmentalist?). The aluminium coffee pods that Nespresso uses are entirely recyclable, and they make it as easy as possible for you to send them in. When the used coffee pods are returned, 100% of the aluminium is recycled and the used coffee grounds go into compost.
However you decide to tackle it, the hidden menace in your disposable coffee cup doesn’t have to be the end of the story.