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Advocates push to allow reusable cups at Aussie cafes again

3 July 2020 at 4:43 pm
Luke Michael
A number of major chains are yet to lift their ban on reusables       

Luke Michael | 3 July 2020 at 4:43 pm


Advocates push to allow reusable cups at Aussie cafes again
3 July 2020 at 4:43 pm

A number of major chains are yet to lift their ban on reusables        

Australian coffee-lovers are being urged to go back to using reusable cups at their favourite cafes, as experts confirm they are safe for use during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As Plastic Free July gets underway, a signed statement by more than 100 global experts states that it is “clear that reusable systems can be used safely by employing basic hygiene”.

But while some Australian cafes have already heeded this message, several major chains such as McDonalds, Gloria Jeans and The Coffee Club are still refusing to accept reusable cups.

Advocates note that using reusable cups was never broadly advised against or banned by state or territory health departments, who say there’s no proven benefit for switching to disposables.

Now a petition has been launched by Responsible Cafes calling for reusable cups to be reinstated across all major coffee chains and fast-food restaurants.

It aims to drive groundswell support from conscious coffee drinkers who want the ban lifted so they can once again reduce their waste with reusable cups and containers.

Joanna Horsley, general manager of Responsible Cafes, said advocates were seeking 10,000 signatures in 30 days.

She told Pro Bono News there were a number of ways cafes and chains could safely use reusable cups despite the pandemic.

“One option would be to go to a cafe and ask them if they would consider doing a contactless pour. And that means that the barista is not actually handling the cup but directly pouring into it,” Horsley said.

“A barista could pour the coffee into a porcelain ‘drink-in’ cup and then the customer just pours that into their reusable. Some cafes also have in place a swap cup system.” 

Responsible Cafes has published a list of cafes already accepting reusable cups.             

But Horsley said it was vital that big chains came on board, given their wide reach and influence.

“We are concerned that if they aren’t going to be accepting reusables than the smaller businesses are not going to come on board,” she said.

“But I’m trying to stay positive and use this opportunity to bring the issue back onto people’s agendas. I do feel like our work has made a huge impact. We have now 5,000 cafes across Australia that have committed to accepting a reusable cup for a discount.” 

Responsible Cafes is now trying to broaden the ways that cafes can engage with the movement.

They are rebuilding their website in response to COVID so that businesses can register to do things like offer discounts to reusable cup users, implement a swap system, or have a cup loyalty program where customers get an extra stamp for using their own cup.

Horsley said with the right education, people would realise that they can reuse and protect the environment. 

She added that the movement was broader than just limiting coffee cup waste. 

“It’s not just the fact that we’re saving billions of cups from landfill a year,” she said. 

“We feel that if we can get a consumer to think differently about an everyday action like a cup, what else can they change in their daily lives?

“We just need to get people on that waste free journey, and it starts with the cup every day.”

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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One comment

  • Louise says:

    I’ve carried a reusable cup in my bag for some years, but if I were a barrista now I’d be very wary of touching someone else’s cup. Who knows what that person’s level of hygiene is? If it has to be washed first by the barrista, the excess use of water is also bad. No easy answer, but I’d like to get back to reusable if I could


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