The Truth Behind Your Bio Coffee Cup

Recycling cardboard and plastic material is not as easy as it may seem. Some forms of the material are recyclable, while others are not. Thinking that all these components have the ability to be recycled is a common misconception and ends with trash wrongfully ending up in recycling bins. For example, the plastic bags you’re given at the grocery store are non-recyclable; along with cling wrap, foam trays, some hot drink cups, cereal box liners, and certain bottle tops, just to name a few. When it comes to cardboard, the recycling decision can also become a bit blurry. Pizza boxes, for instance, cannot be recycled properly because of the oil that seeps into the normally recyclable box.

Most one-use coffee cups are also a contributor to the world’s waste, due to the polyethylene coating that prevents leakage in the cup. While some countries have built the machinery necessary to keep these sorts of cups out of landfills, Australia has not yet invested in the costly venture. Citizens have decided to take this problem into their own hands by opening private undertakings in the form of environmentally aware cafes.

Bent on Food and Garden Grub, both located in Wingham; along with Wild Figs Wholefood Café and Centrepoint Café in Taree are treating their customers to discounts when they bring their own cups. The establishments all use compostable bio-cups when their customers elect to not bring their own cups. While both options sound like they would be sustainable, the truth of the matter is that the bio-cups end up in landfills more often than not. Brendan Lee of Closed Loop Recycling states that “they are made of compostable material, but unless you collect them and take them to a composting facility, mix them with earth, introduce lots of bacteria that will process them, then they’re going to end up in a landfill as well”. So while the bio-cups have the ability to leave a zero waste trail, odds are they don’t due to lack of labor resources and funds.

Many consumers interpret the name “bio-cup” to be biodegradable when in reality most are simply compostable. The fallacy makes a massive difference when it comes to eco-friendly practices. Joost Bakker, a zero-waste advocate, and founder of Australia’s first zero-waste café tested the bio-cup delusion himself. Bakker says he “tested the bio-cups in three different compost systems and none of them were able to compost. The supposedly compostable cups which are manufactured in Taiwan”.

For now, while bio-cups have the potential to become a zero-waste option with the proper regime, bringing your own reusable cups can guarantee a landfill free transaction. The takeaway from this is that not all sustainable-sounding products are as green as they lead you to believe. Education on the topic is essential to becoming proactive in the fight towards zero-waste.


Driscoll, Julia. “Takeaway Coffee Cups Not Recyclable.” Gloucester Advocate. N.p., 10 June 2017. Web. 12 June 2017.

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