Reviving reusable coffee cups for plastic-free July

Global experts unite to confirm reusable cups and containers are safe for use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Around 83 million disposable coffee cups are used every month in Australia – a statistic Responsible Cafes is hoping hospitality venues can unite to help curb the rest of this month for Plastic Free July , in the wake of the signed statement by 130+ global experts confirming reusable cups and containers are safe for use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 130 scientists from around the world, including e pidemiologists, virologists, biologists, chemists and doctors, have issued a signed statement to confirm that reusable containers and cups can be used safely with basic hygiene measures, based on the best available science and guidance from public health professionals, noting ‘s ingle-use plastic is not inherently safer than reusables, and causes additional public health concerns once it is discarded’.

Joanna Horsley, general manager of Responsible Cafes , said, “Most single-use cups take enormous amounts of resources to create, used for a few minutes, and then enter landfill, to emit harmful greenhouse gases. We are seeing more cafes signing up with us to confirm they are accepting reusable cups again, and we’re hoping to see awareness grow about the advice from global experts.”

Contact-free coffee for reusable cups: Best practise use of reusable cups and containers includes a contact-free system, as advised by global health experts. Responsible Cafes have created the ‘contactless coffee’ method, which allows for zero contact of a barista with a customer’s reusable cup .

Three steps to contactless coffee:
1. Sit reusable cup on porcelain saucer or napkin on a tray.
2. Make coffee in a porcelain ‘drink-in’ cup.
3. Transfer into the reusable cup without touching and hand back to customer via the plate.

The method is championed by author and activist Sarah Wilson , who is a passionate advocate for getting reusables back on the table as soon as possible .

Compostable cups are no environmental ‘silver bullet’
Compostable cups are thought to be a more environmentally choice than traditional plastic-lined options – but independently conducted research has found they are actually the worst when it comes to environmental impact.

“The overwhelming majority of single-use cups cannot be recycled, even the ones marked ‘compostable’, because of their insulative lining. Most need to be industrially composted and so instead, end up in landfill creating as much harm as plastic-lined cups.

“With less than 1 in 5 councils offering a dedicated waste stream for 1 organic waste, and limited businesses offering drop-off services for industrial composting, compostable cups and lids should be disposed of in landfill bins. They are not recyclable and can contaminate recycling streams, which can mean everything surrounding that cup will also need to go to landfill.”

“These can be unintended consequences for well-meaning cafes and their customers, so the best thing you can do as a business is establish clear signage in your venue of how to
dispose of single-use cups and other waste depending on the type you use,” said Horsley.