Sorry, but takeway coffee cups aren’t recyclable.

#Sorrynotsorry if I shattered your illusions, takeaway coffee cups ain’t recyclable. Let’s dive deeper?


“But takeaway coffee cups are made of paper aren’t they?”

Yes, but the paper is lined with plastic or wax. Fusing two materials together requires unfusing to sort materials for their respective circular resource streams.  This is beyond the capabilities of the vast majority of recycling programs in Australia.

“The cafe I go to uses compostable coffee cups.”

Okay cool, they’re clearly trying to do the right thing in the face of additional expense, but let’s be real, are you actually composting your cup or just tossing it in the landfill? If it’s the latter, that’s not actually helping. You have to compost to collect your brownie points. You can help your local cafe owner reduce the impact of cafe operations by bringing your own cup.

eco coffee cup
Not all eco cups go to Heaven.

“What if the barista refuses my reusable coffee cup?”

Sydney’s coffee scene is too competitive to piss off a regular. To smooth the transition, ensure your cup is fit for purpose (mason jars are not the best choice for hot drinks you plan to carry) and bring it in clean. And smile that charming smile of yours as you explain to them that you just can’t abide wasted materials.

reusable cup

Now, the rewards don’t stop with gaining a smug sense that you’re helping reduce landfill waste – you can also save cold hard cash. Many a cafe will offer a discount for those who bring their own cup. Check out Responsible Cafes’ map of participating locations Australia-wide to find the cafe nearest you. You could save up to $0.50 off your long black!

“It makes me look cool”

Think about how silly that even sounded to read. Granted I don’t think anyone would admit to believing this, but monkey see monkey do, and we live in a visual culture, friends. As long as Pinterest lifestyle blogger types glorify the single use cup as prop (or boxed water for that matter, don’t get me started..), we’re going to be battling the the trickle down effect of this absurd aspirational cachet. Don’t fall victim to this fashion crime. Choose to reuse instead. It looks better on you.


4 thoughts on “Sorry, but takeway coffee cups aren’t recyclable.

  1. Thank you for this, LIz. I’ve come across too many people to count who who tossed their “to-go cups” (as we call them here in the United States) into the recycle bin instead of the adjacent trashcan, and I don’t think they were being careless. They just didn’t KNOW. But that’s what you’re doing, teaching us, so THANK YOU!

    1. In a perfect world, they might sit down to enjoy those coffees and never need a bin at all 🙂

      I am originally from Vancouver, and have appreciated that cafe culture in Australia is much more dine in focused than anywhere I’ve been in North America. It’s just so much nicer to drink a beautifully made coffee out of ceramic.

  2. My city council thinks they can recycle coffee cups, it even says so on their recycling guide. Although the wording is “cardboard coffee cups”. I am really curious how they manage that, but I haven’t asked around.

    1. Hi Krista, I believe there are a few councils in ACT and South Australia that accept them for recycling. It’d be interesting to know the detail on yours if you look into it.

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