“Should I throw the whole thing in the recycling bin?” cried my inner dialogue. “Well no, the sign says it’s only for coffee cup lids. That can’t be right – the cup is made out of paper. Surely paper can be recycled!”
"We must understand how this increase in plastic waste globally will impact other systems and their function.” - Nace
In the end, one of my colleagues alerted me to the fact there was a ‘coffee cup tube’ sitting next to the bins designed specifically for such a dilemma. You’re meant to separate the cup from the lid, throw the top in the recycling bin and then put the bottom in the tube.
According to ABC’s War on Waste, I am not alone in my misperception. Almost one million people enter the city of Melbourne every day in a similar state of coffee-cup recycling confusion.
Coffee cups are not depicted on their recycling bins, nor is there any information on Melbourne City Council’s website about the most appropriate way to dispose of them.
After the pleasant task of trawling through Melbourne street bins to see what people believe they should do with their single use coffee cups, host Craig Reucassel found most people think coffee cups should go into recycling bins – which is incorrect.
Paper based cups – such as the one I was clutching while pondering its fate – are usually lined with a membrane of polyethylene (plastic) to make them waterproof, but it means they’re not recyclable alongside paper or cardboard. Nor are they biodegradable.
So, this means that even though I have been going through the process of:
- Thoughtfully separating cup from lid;
- Rinsing out both the lid and paper cup;
- Throwing the lid into the recycling bin; and then
- Placing the paper cup into the ‘coffee cup tube’ sitting next to the bins
….my coffee cups are destined to end up in landfill anyway?!
According to Planet Ark a staggering 50,000 disposable coffee cups go into landfill in Australia every 30 minutes. With that kind of overwhelming statistic staring us down - where do we start in creating a cleaner world for generations to come?
As Trevor Nace wrote in Forbes, “we must understand how this increase in plastic waste globally will impact other systems and their function.”
After the hugely successful World Environment Day employee engagement campaign, ANZ is continuing to beat plastic pollution for Plastic Free July. Plastic Fee July is an independent, not-for-profit charitable Foundation with millions of participants across more than 150 countries worldwide that encourages people reduce their plastic use and improve recycling.
Below, bluenotes takes a deeper look into the worldwide impact of single-use plastics and if our ‘disposable’ lifestyle is really worth it. Suffice to say, I am now using my own reusable coffee cup to get my daily caffeine fix.