Brewed Trouble: The bitter consequences of our coffee cup wastage  

By Mya Ward

Over 50,000 coffee cups are thrown out every 30 minutes in Australia, with 90% going straight into landfill. So, after watching Saltburn at the cinemas, that’s over 210,000 coffee cups in the bin. Hidden beneath the frothy lattes and aromatic long blacks is a bitter reality – a mounting coffee cup waste crisis that threatens to stain our beautiful shores. It is time to confront the consequences of our disposable cup habit and lift the lid on coffee cups once and for all.  

I understand how important your morning coffee is, but do you really need to consume it in a single-use cup at the cost of the planet? It is undeniable that the coffee culture in Australia is an ingrained part of our identity; in fact, Australian coffee is often lauded as the best on the planet. However, the production and disposal of these cups contribute to global warming and pollution, with less than 1% being properly recycled. The term ‘paper cup’ sounds innocuous, but it’s deceiving. These so-called paper cups are lined with a plastic interior that prevents liquid leaking, but also means they cannot be properly recycled.  

When War on Waste first aired in 2017 on the ABC, many Australians realised how many of their coffee cups are taken to landfill each year. But now, it would seem that since enduring a global pandemic and suffering through increased inflation, society is sleeping on the disposable coffee cup crisis. Sleeping on the fact that over twenty million trees are being cut down each year to produce single-use paper cups. Sleeping on the issue that the production of every four paper cups results in just under half a kilo of CO2 emissions. Wake up Australia! 

With plastic pollution of our oceans projected to triple by 2040, we as a society need to pivot from single-use plastics to reusable options. The solution is obvious. Western Australia and South Australia have already put in place laws to ban single-use coffee cups in 2024 – other states need to follow their example.  

Whilst this issue is impacting Australia, a silent storm has been brewing on a global scale. Australia’s struggle with disposable cups is just a microcosm of a much larger issue. We need to zoom out and recognise that the consequences of this waste crisis spans much further than our borders; 500 billion disposable cups are discarded globally each year. Even worse, the plastic lining on these cups can take up to 30 years to break down. That’s a lot of cups in landfill when we could choose sustainability over convenience. From our local Coffee Club in Australia to the bustling streets of Tokyo and iconic landmarks of Europe, we need to brew a better solution so that our future generations are not stained by the spills of our coffee culture.  

Australia – let’s be conscientious consumers, not lazy, greedy ones who can’t be bothered to bring a reusable cup because they “forgot,” or because “they are expensive.” Hit up Kmart for a cute $2 reusable cup…saving the planet has actually never been easier. Or, if you want to achieve that bougie aesthetic and be on a first name basis with luxury, grab yourself a Frank Green or Yeti.  If I have convinced you of the significance of this issue, then be like the others who have signed the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s petition to urge Australia’s governments to ban all single-use cups with plastic linings in 2024.  

It’s time to filter out our single-use habits. Our love for coffee can coexist harmoniously with our love for the planet. Start being the barista of change.  

Mya is currently studying Business (Management) and Communication (Digital Media). If they are not trying to earn a buck or catching up on lectures, they enjoy all things gastronomical, thrifting, and the latest in Kmart trends. Mya’s experience as a barista has exposed them to the woeful waste of disposable coffee cups and it is something that they feel needs urgent public attention.


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