Are Coffee Cups Recyclable? – And Other Useful Info Re Recycling Coffee Grounds
If you are anything like me – you drink way too much coffee every day! At one point I was up to c. 8 cups a day – and thankfully have weaned myself down to 3 a day – aiming for two! One of the big questions people have about take away coffee is the environmental impact and are coffee cups recyclable?
We will cover that question in today’s blog – and also some other questions about coffee pods and also coffee grounds – i.e. what is left over once the coffee is poured.
At least we will all know a bit more about our brew – next time we go to the cafe!
Check out our infographic on how two similar cafes can pay very different waste costs – due to recycling.
Waster works with small and medium Aussie companies to boost recycling, keep waste management costs down and consolidate all services in one easy invoice etc.
You can check prices and arrange services for cafe grease trap cleaning, book organic waste bins or get a zero waste box from Terracycle for your coffee pods (see more detail below).
So – are coffee cups recyclable?
If you think about how many disposable coffee cups are used in Australia every year – you would think we must have a recycling solution that is viable on a large level.
Unfortunately – the fact is that we do not! See our blog on what packaging is recyclable and compostable.
The problem is huge – Melbourne Uni states :
“It is estimated Australians use 1 billion disposable coffee cups each year. That’s approximately 2,700,000 paper coffee cups thrown out every day! “
Why can they not be thrown in the cardboard or even commingled bins?
It would be understandable to think that these cups are made out of cardboard (at least the cup – excluding the plastic lid) – but they are not really.
Traditional and most common cups – are made of a mixture of materials – that are too complex for existing recycling plants in Australia to deal with – i.e. they are cardboard mixed with plastics. This results in c.90% of cup ending up in landfill every year.
“Richard Fine, who founded biodegradable coffee cup manufacturer Biopak a decade ago, estimated up to 90 per cent of all disposable cups ended up in landfill, equating to around 60,000 kilograms of plastic waste per annum.”
The microplastics that are contained in these cups can cause huge damage to our oceans and sea life in particular – and basically last forever. A coffee can last a few seconds – but the cup may last pretty much for eternity.
See our recent blog on the new labels that aim to clarify recyclable packaging.
See some blogs here on the issue with sea pollution.
What can we do?
Fundamentally – there are two options to solve this problem. I am going to be honest – it is highly unlikely that new advanced facilities will be built to recycle the existing coffee cups – so we need to look for a new solution.
Recycling of normal bottles, cardboard and packaging is under threat in Australia in 2018 – due to the changes in Chinese regulations – and very little progress from Australian law makers on new recycling approaches.
Option One – the simple option is to have a reusable cup.
Clearly the easiest solution would be for people to actually take a break – and sit down with an old fashioned porcelain cup. Think about it – if we worked less hard and took 5 mins to sit and enjoy our tea or coffee – we would avoid this entire issue completely.
The other option of course is to bring our own reusable cup with us – such as these ones.
This options is so super simple – but would require Aussies to actually chill out and slow down. The modern world is so stressed – and people feel they always need to keep moving – I think this option is doubtful. We would not need to worry are coffee cups recyclable!
Option Two – find an alternative take away cup
There are numerous suppliers of biodegradable coffee cups – and we would stress that they need to be compostable – otherwise the problems with micro-plastics could be worse than the original problem.
Biodegradable can often just mean that plastic breaks down into smaller pieces of plastic – which is a nightmare for the environment – as they blow around and still last forever,
Compostable – means they are an organic material that breaks down into organic matter. There are lots of reputable suppliers for compostable cups such as Vegware or Biopak.
I argue that relaxing and sitting down with a real cup is the best option – but option 2 should be made legally required in Australia. We have seen following the Coles plastic bag fiasco – when commercial interests meet the environment – cash will win.
What about coffee pods?
If you have a home system like Nespresso or equivalent – you may wonder can they be recycled. The answer is thankfully yes – using Nespresso stores or collection points.
For other pods – you can use Terracyle boxes such as this one.
How about coffee grounds?
Conclusion – are coffee cups recyclable:
When we ask are coffee cups recyclable – the answer in 2018 is no – and that will not change unless we as a society care more – or alternatively chill out and actually sit down to enjoy our coffees!
We covered how some Italian towns are now “slow living” and loving it and how the slowest Japanese city has the highest recycling rate.
Maybe this tells us something?
For more information about recycling, check our “Recycling Facts Australia Need to Know” infographic.