Adelaide City Council calls for compulsory compostable takeaway cups in CBD

Adelaide City Council’s Sandy Verschoor is proposing a pilot program for Adelaide CBD cafés to use compostable-only or reusable takeaway coffee cups in exchange for financial or reward-based incentives.

The pilot program was motioned at Adelaide City Council’s general meeting on the evening of 12 April.

“I wanted to see if the council had an appetite for the idea, and they did. The response was fantastic. Everyone was supportive of the idea. There was not one rejection,” Sandy told BeanScene.

The project will now be put forth to Adelaide Council administration to develop the pilot and scheme, assess the cost, and then bring it back to council for discussion. Sandy says its difficult to put a timeline on the implementation of the project, but she hopes – all going well – it could be trialed in the next month.

Sandy says a number of key movements drove her decision to make the motion to the Adelaide City Council. This included the council’s recent endorsement of a strategy to become carbon neutral by 2020, it’s drive towards sustainability projects in the city, Sandy’s research on the impact of landfill, and her attendance to Adelaide’s WomAdelaide festival in March. She says seeing festival exhibitors using cornstarch-based takeaway cups instead of plastic fuelled her idea until it was one she couldn’t shake from her mind.

“I read that one of the biggest contributors to landfill was take away coffee cups, many of which are plastic-lined that just don’t break down. I knew then that things needed to change,” she said.

Sandy estimates that Australians use one 1.2 billion non-recyclable take away cups each year, contributing to tonnes of plastic in landfill each year.

“It’s time to change our ways,” Sandy said. “Yes it may cost a little more to bulk buy fully-compostable paper cups, but surely it’s worth it. The difference in bulk buys between compostable (corn-based bioplastic) and non-compostable (petroleum-based plastic-lined) cups is only between 5 to 10 cents depending on cup size.”

According to a closed survey Sandy conducted, she said people responded by saying they would be happy to spend an extra 10 cents for a coffee if they knew it was fully compostable and benefiting the environment.

To fuel the change, possible financial or reward-based incentives could include a 20-cent discount for a compostable coffee cup, more recycling bins in the city, and a council-sponsored bulk-buy scheme so businesses could purchase compostable cups at a cheaper price.

“I really hope everyone gets on board with this idea, from café owners to customers and cup suppliers. It’s a movement that I hope will one day become a normal reaction. Ten years ago there was only ever just one type of bin that everyone put rubbish into. Now there’s a recycling bin [and garden waste bin], and people are in the habit of using each. I hope it’ll be the same for using compostable cups,” she said. “We, as a planet and a city have to do everything we can to change the way we use our resources. I hope it will become an every day normal activity. It’s just one more step.”

Sandy adds that that same approach could be adapted to coffee pods, to which reports state that Australians consume around 3 million single-serve coffee pods each day.

“There’s many ways people can make an environmental impact, even by using BPA-free biodegradable coffee capsules,” she said. “It’s a shame that some consumer’s purchasing decisions come down to price point, that they would rather purchase the $4 option than a $6 option, but we always have a choice. I hope this new incentive-based project will encourage people in multiple ways to change their habits.”

Already Sandy says the Adelaide Council Office is changing their own habits, by using a reusable KeepCup each day.

“Now I go into cafés and I can’t help but see what sort of cups they’re using, what the material is, and whether it’s compostable. People who know me – professionally and personally – have been texting me to say they’ve been at a café and checked out the type of takeaway cups they use. That level of awareness is so important.’

Sandy says other Australian cities are adopting similar sustainable movements to use environmentally-friendly compostable cups, but she’s hoping Adelaide may lead the charge permanently: “We need to become better at the way we look after our environment and the future, and it starts with one idea.”

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