Call for cigarette style warnings on coffee cups

WE'VE got used to them on cigarette packets, now there is a call for graphic warnings - both text and images - to be plastered on takeaway coffee cups.

But rather than a health warning, the warnings would be a plea for caffeine addicts to be more sustainable.

Anna Warren, a local government Communications Officer from Sydney, is leading the push. She told news.com.au too few people knew coffee cups were not recyclable and she was trying to break the "ingrained and insidious" habit of grabbing a flat white and then throwing away the drained paper cup.

Graphic warnings would serve to remind drinkers that their morning latte container was not sustainable and nudge them into shifting to refillable plastic cups.

Disposable coffee cup lids and the paper are recyclable. However the lining inside isn’t and that means that the cups go to landfill unless recycled in a specialist processors. Picture: Thinkstock
Disposable coffee cup lids and the paper are recyclable. However the lining inside isn’t and that means that the cups go to landfill unless recycled in a specialist processors. Picture: Thinkstock

Ms Warren has set up a Change.org petition which has reached 23,000 signatures calling for the warnings. But she denied it was haranguing coffee quaffers and claimed similar warnings on cigarettes had made smoking "less cool". She has also given a TedX talk in Sydney about the scourge of the cups.

With plastic bags on the way out, if she could, she'd ban the cups completely. In three years, she told news.com.au, she had used a disposable coffee cup only once - and that was by accident.

Coffee cups are the second most disposed of item in Australia with 2.6 billion paper cups thrown into the rubbish each year.

Ms Warren said that she, like many people, assumed the cups were recyclable. But the plastic waterproof lining within the cups prevents any hopes of that.

Anna Warren, at TedX, talking about how disposable cups aren’t recyclable.
Anna Warren, at TedX, talking about how disposable cups aren’t recyclable.

"I visited a recycling plant and someone was drinking out of a disposable coffee cup and a comment was made that we were in the right place as it could be recycled. But a staff member said they absolutely hated coffee cups because they can't be recycled and they can actually contaminate the recycling.

"I was so mad about it I thought about cigarette packet (warnings) and thought wouldn't it be great if we could put something like that on coffee cups that made them look less cool?"

Now she's in the know, Ms Warren said she was appalled about how blasé people were about using and abusing the one-time only receptacles.

"[Using] coffee cups is such a regular habit. I can't understand why we don't just take our own cups every morning. It's so insidious and ingrained and I'm trying to break that."

Her idea would be to have warnings on all coffee cups with pictures of them being dug into landfill. In large letters on each cup it would say something like "Single origin - destiny landfill".

Anna Warren has urged coffee cups to carry environmental warnings.
Anna Warren has urged coffee cups to carry environmental warnings.

Manufacturers of coffee cups should be encouraged to voluntarily slap the warning on cups. Ms Warren said it would be a good gesture if cafe companies like Starbucks, Toby's Estate, and the Coffee Club, could install bins where coffee cups can be sent to specialised recycling facilities. Convenience store 7-Eleven already does this.

She conceded that knowledge of the challenges poised by disposable coffee cups was growing and many cafes were now offering positive inducements to bringing KeepCups, such as a drinks discount. Wasn't it better to be positive then to make people feel guilty about having a cuppa?

Multiple use coffee cups, such as KeepCups, are superior to disposable cups — so long as you actually used them and don't leave them in a cupboard.
Multiple use coffee cups, such as KeepCups, are superior to disposable cups — so long as you actually used them and don't leave them in a cupboard.

"I would much rather be positive but this is to raise awareness. It's negative but, on the other hand, it's also educational and tells people who don't know that (landfill) is what will most likely happen to this cup."

Ms Warren said she was leading from the front. She takes her plastic cup with her at all times and hasn't had a coffee in a disposable cup just once in three years.

"I was on Sydney's Cockatoo Island with a friend and I sat down at cafe and assumed the coffee would be in a real cup but they brought it to me in disposable coffee."

Naturally, Ms Warren was appalled. The coffee, she said, didn't taste too great either.

Closed Loop Managing Director Rob Pascoe at a Port Melbourne 7 Eleven with the collection tubes that Closed Loop have made to encourage recycling of coffee cups and slurpee cups. Picture: Penny Stephens
Closed Loop Managing Director Rob Pascoe at a Port Melbourne 7 Eleven with the collection tubes that Closed Loop have made to encourage recycling of coffee cups and slurpee cups. Picture: Penny Stephens

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