Time for the Reuse Revolution in Australia

In a major new report (Choosing to Reuse in Australia), the Boomerang Alliance is calling for Australia to rapidly increase its use of reusable packaging to reduce plastic pollution and carbon emissions.

The report outlines the many opportunities that are currently available, particularly for takeaway services, and just waiting for government and business support.

‘According to the latest UN report (Turning off the Tap 2023) global plastic pollution needs to be slashed by 80 per cent by 2040. ‘Refillable bottles, bulk dispensers, deposit return systems and packaging take-back can reduce that pollution by at least 30 per cent,’ said Toby Hutcheon, National Campaign Manager of the Alliance of 55 NGOs.

According to the ANZPAC Plastics Guide, a BYO coffee cup has lower carbon emissions than a single use cup if used at least 4 times.

Many Australians already use a BYO coffee cup for takeaway, and an increasing number of businesses also offer reuse cup and food container services but to make a significant impact these need to be mainstreamed by government policies and business practices.

In the Choosing to Reuse in Australia report, the Boomerang Alliance, outlines a range of ways change can be made. These include at public events, at takeaway outlets, at supermarkets and shops and at controlled environments such as workplaces, food courts, festivals, and sports stadiums.

Many corporations are switching to reusable cups for their staff, festivals and stadiums could offer reusable cups at events, retailers should look to provide refillable containers to their customers and public events could install wash-up stations for their on-site reusable foodware. Bonza Airlines now provide reusable cups for their in-flight services.

In Europe, TOMRA who provide Reverse Vending Machines for container collection depots, are now trialing a public reusable cup and container collection system in Aarhus in Denmark with other EU cities considering similar proposals.

Boomerang Alliance is calling on the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments to act by:

  • setting a 30% national target for reusable packaging to be achieved by 2030
  • introducing national standards for reusable, compostable and recyclable packaging that ensures all products are collected and recovered in practice
  • banning the use of disposable food ware for customers dining-in at cafes and fast-food outlets
  • requiring all coffee shops selling disposable cups to also offer or sell reusable cups to their customers
  • introducing a levy on all disposable cups and containers sold to customers
  • including reusable bottles as eligible for a refund under state container refund schemes

‘Reusable cups and containers offer a new and practical solution to our intractable plastic waste problems. All that is lacking is government policies to encourage uptake and business involvement in changing practices.’ said Hutcheon 

Download the Boomerang Alliance Choosing to reuse in Australia report

Fast Facts:

  • Australians are the second highest per capita generators of plastic waste in the world (Minderoo Foundation)
  • Australia’s plastic use produces more than 16 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, equivalent to 5.7 million cars on the road every year. (AMCS/WWF)
  • Australians use over 1.8 billion single use coffee cups (1.4 billion lids) every year
  • Many European countries have banned disposable cups for dine-in and require cafes to also offer reusable cups to takeaway customers
  • In Europe, reusable cups at sporting events and festivals are now commonplace
  • In an October 2022 supporter survey over 89 per cent of Clean Up, AMCS and Boomerang Alliance responders agreed that cafes and sports stadiums should provide reusable cups to customers.
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