We recycled customers’ single-use coffee cups!
Last updated: 15/04/2023
I did it, I sent off customers’ single-use coffee cups to be recycled!
If you’ve been following along with the Jetty Dive Debrief you will have read my journey with trying to find somewhere to recycle single-use coffee cups! I finally got there! I collected cups for months before finding the solution, and have packed it up and sent it off to be recycled!
Single-use coffee cups are not recyclable in our curbside pickup due to the plastic inner layer. This layer is necessary to hold the hot liquid in, but unfortunately means that recycling would have to involve seperating the layer and recycling each part individually. In Coffs Harbour, those facilities are not available. There is not an accurate figure of quantities of single-use coffee cups in landfil. It’s estimated approximately 1 billion are sent to landfill in Australia per year. That’s waaaay too many.
Realistically, day to day I’m not moving mountains with my attempts at recycling. But over time, all small actions add up. It takes lots of people doing a little, to make a lot of difference. Plus, by publishing these post and showing what we’re doing, I hope it encourages more people to use re-usable cups for their takeaway coffee.
I also just hated to see our bin full of coffee cups anytime we ran a course, or had a busy morning dive on.
How did we do it?
I spent a long time researching methods of getting the cups sent somewhere to be recycled. A long time😅. I’ve found some great resources, but unfortunately a lot of these resources have high costs associated. My first 3 months of collecting cups gave us only 100 cups. This is still worthwhile for recycling. However, it doesn’t hit the minimums of a lof of these programs – even if we could afford the cost!
One of these excellent programs is Simply Cups. They have an excellent program for recycling that even services regional areas! But with ours alone we don’t have enough to collect. And even if we joined forces with other businesses to have quantites to recycle, we could not afford the cost long term. Or my hours of administration behind it organizing it.
I had contacted council requesting they look at these programs and implementing then in public areas such as Jetty Foreshores, Jetty Strip, the showgrounds, Coffs Central, and other larger public areas, but didn’t get a response. I have also sent Park Beach Plaza an email encouraging them to participate in this program, and have not yet receieved a response. Additionally, Muffin Break supports Simply Cups nationwide, yet none of the 3 stores in the coffs area participate. I find it quite disappointing to see larger organizations refuse to help, but all I can do is control what we do.
So that’s what I did.
Recycling through Banish’s BRAD program
I discovered this program through some of our customers (thanks Madeline!). Banish is an online store which provides low-waste or no-waste lifestyle solutions. They also provide a recycling program (BRAD) for items that aren’t recyclable in kerbside pickup. Things like makeup containers, old pens, the spray nozzles from cleaning products, medication blister packs, and single-use coffee cups. For us, with no other options, going through Banish is the way to go! Basically I had to pack up all the cups into a shoe-box sized box, and post it to Banish. This costs us $15 per box, and I managed to fit 100 cups into the box.
How we did it in the shop
So my first step was to create an in-store collection point that is easy for our customers to drop their cups into. This is the most important part because if its too complicated people will naturally just dump it in the rubbish. So I used our old recycling bin (which was made redundant with our new bin system), printed a few signs, and made it very clear where to put the cups! Once a week(ish) I empty the bin and wash out the cups that need it, before putting them in a box.
Then when the box of cups is filling up, I get organized, order my label through BRAD, and send them off to be recycled.
How is this viable for us?
In short, it’s not. We’re not doing this to save money, or to make money. We’re doing it because I hate wastage, and having this many coffee cups go to landfill from the bins at my workplace drives me crazy! This means it is a cost to us.
Our first box of recycling was so kindly sponsored by a customer, Brian H! Many thanks to Brian for his donation. It is so nice to see people care for the planet and the ocean and want to make a difference.
We have created an option to donate to our “recycling fund” on our website. You can donate any amount over $1 here to support us. This will help us continue to recycle coffee cups (along with anything else we have here that’s on their list). This donation will go directly to the purchase of the postage labels from Banish (or Upparel for wetsuits, see below). Plus, when I send the cups to be recycled I’ll thank you on our instagram/facebook post! If you want to help us reduce this waste, click here to donate. We appreciate every single dollar!
What are the recycled Coffee Cups being used for?
A great question. Because recycling is all good and well, as long as the recycled materials are being used for something. Thankfully, Simply Cups have provided some information on where their recycled cup material is being used. Click to see where Simply Cups Recycled material is used.
Perhaps the most exciting use is in ashphalt used in creating our roads. This is a newer development (that has been in the making for three years!) and Planet Ark has recently published a blog post with more details on the use of cups in Ashphalt. Essentially, NSW EPA and Transport NSW have sanctioned the use of recycled coffee cups into an ashphalt, called “PAK-PAVE. It’s being tested on 3 roads in Sydney: Penrith, Liverpool, and Erskine Park. They have estimated that it saved over 135,000 coffee cups from landfil, and it has cut 24% from the carbon footprint of this asphalt. They will be assessing the roads’ performance at the end of the year and if it is successful (fingers crossed!) implementing it nation wide.
Incentives like PAK-PAVE are amazing steps forward in the war on waste.
Wetsuit Recycling Fund?
We also endeavour to organize wetsuit recycling. Once again, I have researched and found a company we can recycle with. However the cost of recycling is going to be betwen $5-7 per suit (depending on the suit thickness and flexibility). We are happy to pay this for our own old wetsuits. But I would like to extend this to the local community. Unfortunately due to their size it is not viable for us to cover costs to take customer’s old wetsuits for free. Our idea is to offer a wetsuit drop-off point where you can recycle an old suit for a $5 donation. This Recycling Fund Donation will also go towards wetsuit recycling.
As I did with the cups, I want to send off a box before I advertise to the community. However you can read more about wetsuit recycling on our Donation page in the meantime. Textile waste is a massive problem, and we do not want to contribute towards that in any way.
I am super proud of what I’ve managed to achieve on the coffee-cups front, and can’t wait to get the wetsuit recycling all figured out, too!
About the Author
Tara is Jetty Dive’s Office Manager and IT Lady, Social Media Queen, Crazy-Fish-Lady, and as she likes to say – “Self-Appointed CEO”. You’ll find her sitting at her desk surrounded in pink, but happiest either on or under the water.