By Vivienne Pearson
The coffee-cup problem will be best solved through an interplay between customers and businesses. Compare it to the quest to reduce plastic-bag use (also well covered by War on Waste) customers need to remember to bring their own cloth bags and shops can encourage this by not offering plastic ones as an easy alternative.
Byron Shire cafes are clearly up for the challenge. The Echo polled local food businesses to get a snapshot of what’s happening on the ground. Common strategies are selling reusable cups, offering a discount for customers who bring their own cup (20–50¢ is the most common range and, given that the cost price of a cup and lid averages around 15¢, anything more than 20¢ is generous).
Being Byron, there are some other great creative solutions around – see responses in the box opposite. All of these businesses deserve a gong for the thought they had already put into the issue, the alternatives they offer, and their further response after the screening of War on Waste.
Though it is understandable that several businesses indicate that their cups are compostable (I too thought many were until researching this story), the current message from Byron Council is for all single-use coffee cups to go in yellow recycling bins (stay tuned for when this changes, it’s hoped later this year).
A great resource for keeping this info up to date is www.responsiblecafes.org. Featured on ABC’s War on Waste, this is a free-to-list service for cafes and eateries to keep customers up to date on their practices.
Lulu’s: We have a 40 cent discount if you bring your own cup for takeaway, and sell reusable cups. We plan to have a week in July (Plastic Fee) during which we will not use single-use cups.
Magic Pot: We’ve sold reusable mugs since their inception. We have maybe 30 per cent of our customers bring their own – anything from a salsa jar to a little thermos to a jam jar in a stubby cooler! – and this number is increasing! I love that people have embraced the idea and made it quirky. As we tend to keep our prices reasonable I hadn’t thought to discount, though we do tend to give random freebies to regular customers.
Mullumbimby Farmers Market: We introduced a coffee-cup washing station in 2015 after a rubbish audit showed coffee cups were the main waste coming out of the market. We would like to have our own compost facilities at the Showgrounds. We will be getting onboard with Plastic Free July with the aim of using this as a springboard to banning plastic altogether.
Poinciana: We have fully compostable takeaway cups and lids and offer a 30¢ discount on BYO cup. We sell a range of re-usable cups and are willing to try a single-use-cup-free period in July.
Puremelt Chocolate: We now offer a 50¢ discount for people who BYO a cup. We have biodegradable cups, sell reusable cups (and offer a free drink with the first one). We discourage lids so don’t offer them. We will be offering ‘Boomerang’ cups in July too (see box below).
Scarecrows: We have fully compostable takeaway cups and lids. We offer a 30¢ discount on BYO cup and sell a range of reusable cups. There is a free seedling service if you bring your compostable cup back: We put little seedlings into some soil and give them away. We are willing to try a single-use-cup-free period in July.
Scratch Patisserie: We sell a range of reusable cups as well as use cups for takeaway that we have been told by Council are being recycled. We contribute 10 per cent of coffee sales to the Red Cross for anyone who brings in their own cup. We are looking into ways in which customers can leave their cups with us to use when purchasing their coffee, as we have found that the most common scenario is that people have good intentions to use reusable cups but they just forget to bring them along.
The Italian Joint / Other Joint: We discount 20¢ if you bring in your own cup. We use the bio-cup, which has a plant-based inner coating, and we will be selling glass keep cups – when purchased, customers receive a free coffee.
Bangalow Farmers Market: This is something we are passionate about. We commissioned our own reusable cups and coffee stallholders offer discounted coffee when customers BYO cup (ours or their own).
Pantry 29: We use cups that are biodegradable or can be recycled. We do a discount for bringing your own cup.
Ga Ga Central: We give a discount of 20¢ to customers who bring their own cups or mugs and have done so for more than three years. We use bio-cups and bio-lids. We have also just started selling reusable glass coffee cups.
Byron Beach Café: We offer 50¢ off takeaway coffees for BYO cups. We’re also soon making available our own ‘Beach Byron Bay’ reusable cups.
Byron Farmers Market: This is something we are passionate about. We commissioned our own reusable cups and coffee stallholders offer discounted coffee when customers BYO cup (ours or their own).
Café Novella: We offer 50¢ discount to anyone who provides their own cup.
Dip Café: We offer a huge $1 discount on coffee if you bring your own cup! Maybe the highest in town I think? We also have fully biodegradable takeaway cups and lids.
Espressohead Café: We have been selling Keep Cups for over a year now and offer a free coffee on purchase and a 30¢ discount on every coffee after (when using the Keep Cup or any other refillable cup). Sales of the Keep Cups has increased greatly since War On Waste was aired, but only about 50 per cent of people who bought them keep bringing them back. People forget and get out of the habit very quickly. The more publicity about it the better, I think, to keep reminding people.
Top Shop: We offer a 50¢ discount to our customers if they bring their own cup. We have two choices for those customers who arrive without their own cup, but don’t want to use a takeaway cup… you can purchase a new reusable cup or you can buy a vintage ceramic ‘TipCup’ cup for 50¢ – see box. We are in discussion with a Melbourne-based company SimplyCups, who are developing a single resource stream of coffee cups to enable the development of a specialised recycling facility.
Spoke Coffee Brewers: We discount the coffee if you bring your own mug. We use no plastic lining in our takeaway cups, and we use only white takeaway cups.
Wild Tahini Café: The cups I use are 100 per cent recyclable (not compostable). I sell reusable cups.
Café Marius Espresso and Tapas Bar: We discount the coffee if you bring your own mug. We use no plastic lining in our takeaway cups, and we use only white takeaway cups.
Flock Espresso & Eats: We discount the cost of the coffee if a customer brings in their own cup. We are in the process of ordering in reusable cups for customers to buy.
Henry’s Bakery: We have a reusable coffee cup range and offer a discount for customers who use any reusable cups – not just ours :). Our reusable cups are sturdy and great quality, so have fewer issues than some of the cheaper ones. We use a special biodegradable cup from Biopak that can be recycled by our local council’s facilities (and yours, I believe).
The Spotted Pig: Our cups are certified biodegradable. Unlike traditional paper cups that use a petroleum-based plastic lining, Cups-To-Grow are lined with a bioplastic lining PLA (poly-lactic-acid) harvested from corn starch, a naturally renewable resource.
Coffee cups are only one slice of the takeaway food waste pie. Though we haven’t included this part of their responses, many cafes also commented on their approach to tackling other waste, such as food containers, plastic bags and disposable cutlery.