To bin or not to bin

Which bin should single-use coffee cups go in? Photo: Bronte Holmes.

On February 27, the Western Australian government placed a ban on single-use coffee cups.

Although this ban won’t be in full effect until March 2024 Perth cafes will have to phase out these cups in the next 12 months, but what will replace these single-use cups?

Each year, Western Australians use more than 182 million takeaway coffee cups, but there are no integrated recycling options with most cups ending up in landfill.

Founder of Donut Waste Sharka Hornakova says single-use items such as coffee cups are polluting the environment.

“Single-use cups are creating incredible amounts of waste.”

“I think the government has decided to step in and do something about it,” she says.

The City of Canning has recently started a bin tagging initiative where it audits people’s bins and gives them a ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ tag to explain how residents could improve their recycling.

It was found that many residents are placing their single-use coffee cups in the wrong bin.

“The single-use cups have plastic linings which means they can’t be recycled and have to go to landfill,’ says Hornakova.

“It’s really difficult to separate the two layers meaning they can’t be recycled.”

Curtin University student Jemma Pistorius says she’s unsure of which bin to place the coffee cups in.

Curtin University student Jemma Pistorius at a local cafe. Photo: Bronte Holmes.

“There are so many different types of bins now and there is no clear description of which ones I should put coffee cups in,” she says.

“I don’t even know if I should be separating the lids from the containers.”

Which bin should single-use coffee cups go in? Photo: Bronte Holmes.
The wrong bin for single-use coffee cups. Photo: Bronte Holmes.

Once the ban is in place cafes are going to have to find a new way of giving out takeaway coffee.

“It’s all about pushing the reusables and teaching the market and the people the right behaviour,” Hornakova says, “swapping a single use for single use, it’s not really the correct behaviour.”

Cafes are offering incentives to encourage people to bring their keep cups to their café as a way to reduce waste.

“The easier version of the ban would have been no single-use coffee cups and let’s only do reusable,” she says.

Simply Cups is an innovative company that is collecting single-use coffee cups and then upcycling them with the ability to mix with other materials to produce items of higher value.

Simply Cups sorting tubes at Curtin University. Photo: Bronte Holmes.

“We collect the coffee cups, we do some preliminary processing of them and then we supply that flaked material to a bunch of different users,” says Circular Economy manager Brendon Lee.

A suburban road in Penrith NSW uses PAKPAVE which is the first road in Australia to incorporate recycled coffee cups into its construction.

Lee says this technology is now readily available to be used in WA.

Donut Waste’s Sharka Hornakova says contamination is another major reason why single-use biodegradable coffee cups can’t be recycled.

“The more contamination there is, the more work for the people in the facility and more likely it is to be sorted into landfill.”‘

Lee says the benefit of innovations such as Simply Cups because they can be used even if they are contaminated.

“We ask that the users of simply cups throw out any liquid before they sort them,” he says.

“So if there’s any sort of residual, if there’s half a cup of coffee, we ask it that that gets tipped out before they slide the cup into the tube.”

“If there’s just a little bit of spillage in the tube or on the cup, that’s fine.”

Hornakova says if there’s not going to be a full ban on all single-use items the Western Australian government should support the existing solutions.

“They could just help those little start-ups that are trying to do the right thing and have the solution to actually be viable.”

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