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Out of sight, out of mind?
s takeway culture becomes more entrenched in our everyday lives disposable coffee cups are on the rise,” says University of Canterbury (UC) sustainability advocate Dr Matt Morris. Until 2013 the university was able to recycle takeaway cups and their plastic lids, but now these cannot be recycle and instead end up in landfill, and according to Dr Morris, coffee cups are just the tip of the rubbish iceberg. Although there are no statistics for how many cups Kiwis throw away, a recent report suggest that across the Tasman, our Australian counterparts churn through an estimated one billion every year. Even though Britons go through around 2.5b a year, there are still only a handful of recycling plants in the UK that are equipped to adequately recycle coffee cups. Three options currently on the table are sending everything straight to landfill. Far from ideal, not only from the standpoint of upholding New Zealand’s proud clean and green image, but also from an economical perspective, being the most expensive waste disposal option available. Composting disposable packaging is obviously ticks the environmental box, ensuring that the resources used in the manufacturing of the product are returned safely back to the earth. However, this option presents a two problems. Firstly, most waste service providers will simply not accept coffee cups for composting, regardless of whether they are certified ‘compostable’ or not, as their mechanical systems are not designed to compost these materials. The second difficulty is that there are so many kinds of takeaway coffee cups
and most either have a plastic or wax lining that prevents it from being compost-friendly. Product Manager global packaging specialists, Shannon Sealey explains that with coffee cup’s polyethlene lining, in order for the cups to be recycled, the complexity of the process would require the lining to be separated from the paperboard in order for it to be reusable. The third option is to ban use of singleuse coffee cups, which many businesses are doing, as are some cafes who encourage their customers to bring their own reusable
cups. However, this option brings with it the need for both policy development and sometimes new equipment, as many cafes nowadays don’t have space for a dishwasher, so they rely on takeaway coffee cups instead of crockery. As there has been no directive coming from the waste companies themselves and at this juncture banning takeaway coffee cups altogether is not a viable option, the UC Sustainability Office has taken matters into their own hands with a two-year pilot that will test a separate collection system for
takeaway coffee cups that tests them in a mechanical composting system. The experimental trial’s focus is first on the agenda is creating an alternative collection system, and explore what sorting requirements are and whether the system is easily operated. Thus far, the operational trial has diverted a staggering 30,000 cups from landfill with the ‘blue bin’ system. Testing the compostability of the cups and confirming that the process runs smoothly the team then hopes to convince cafes on campus to stock only certified compostable cups. If all goes well they would like to expand the service to include other forms of singleuse food packaging, such as burger boxes, juice cups, and sushi containers. Contrary to popular belief, no takeaway coffee cup is in fact recyclable and only a small percentage is biodegradable or compostable. So, until a better solution is found your best bet is to bring your own reusable coffee cup with you to the cafe or take time out to drink in. That way it’s guaranteed you won’t be contributing to the problem. If you do have to take the cup, ask for no lid, otherwise remember to dispose of the lid and cup separately or they’ll both end up in landfill.
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Fendalton Ilam Gazette 27-09-16