Reusable cups and coronavirus

reusable cups coronavirus

While many cafés across Australia have been holding off serving coffee in reusable cups for fear of spreading coronavirus, state and territory health departments advise this may be unnecessary.

According to the Northern Territory Government:
There is currently no evidence to suggest there is any benefit in switching to disposable single use food and beverage containers, cutlery and crockery. A business may continue to use standard containers, cutlery and crockery with appropriate hygiene, cleaning and sanitation processes in place. Businesses may continue to accept reusable cups and containers provided by the customer with appropriate hygiene and sanitation processes in place.

In the Victorian Government’s advice for food businesses, it says:
There is currently no evidence to suggest there is any benefit in switching to disposables. It is important that the measures we take to minimise transmission are effective. The most effective measures you can take are practising good hand hygiene and cleaning, with particular focus on shared, frequently touched surfaces.

The #breakfreefromplastic movement has pointed out that single-use disposables can also carry viruses and pathogenic bacteria, which can settle on them from manufacture, transport, inventory stocking, and eventual use.

Reusable cup manufacturer KeepCup recommends only accepting visibly clean and dry reusables and ensuring the customer keeps hold of the lid. For a contactless pour some cafés are dosing from a reusable café cup to a KeepCup.

Responsible Cafes​ – a network of 5000 cafés across Australia striving to reduce waste and curb emissions – has suggested a “contactless coffee” method, which allows for ​zero contact of a barista with a customer’s reusable cup​.

This method includes:

  1. Sitting the reusable cup on a porcelain saucer ​or ​napkin on a tray
  2. Making coffee in a porcelain ‘drink-in’ cup
  3. Transferring it into the reusable cup without touching and hand back to customer via the plate.

The method is championed by author and activist ​Sarah Wilson​, who is a passionate advocate for​ getting reusables back on the table as soon as possible​.

​“The collective ‘pause and reflect’ that isolation has imposed on us has seen many Australians gagging to get on with creating a better world on the other side. Simple consumer gestures, like reducing disposables, feels like a tangible, doable step,” Sarah says.

Responsible Cafes says the abandonment of reusable cups due to COVID-19 virus concerns has stalled the growing movement away from disposables, triggered by ABC’s War on Waste, which has so far saved millions of cups from entering landfill.

Jo Horsley, General Manager of Responsible Cafes, says their initiative aims to show cafe staff and customers that with little effort, a contactless coffee is possible in just three steps.

“Cafés across Australia are welcoming customers to bring their reusable cups back into play by using the ‘contactless coffee’ method, recognising the valuable contribution they make to reducing waste. In Australia, that’s to the tune of ​2.7 million disposable cups per day​,” Jo says.

She adds that, depending on how a café is set up and the placement of their coffee machine, an alternative could simply be customers popping their reusable cup down on the counter and the barista pouring in the coffee shot from a drink-in cup and milk from the jug.

Jo says as long as social distancing and proper hygiene is in practice, reusable cups can be a zero-contact method of enjoying a coffee from your favourite café.

Ruby Lane in New South Wales is one café to continue offering service in reusable cups.

“While it pained us to do so, we switched to compostable disposables in the early stages of the lockdown. But I had a lightbulb moment when I watched the barista pour the shot in from a ‘dosing cup’ and topping it up with milk without touching the cup, I thought ‘why don’t we do this for everyone?’ – and we have,” Ruby lane Founder Phil Dawson says.

“In just three weeks, the response has been amazing. I think we’re filling even more reusable cups than before the COVID-19 crisis, probably because we’re getting new customers who might be turned away from their regular cafes with reusables.”

Another option for cafés to reduce disposable cup use is a cup-swap scheme, such as HuskeeCup​, where participating venues offer reusable cups to customers who return the cup on their next visit.

“There’s a wavering confidence in reusables right now, driven by an understandable sensitivity around hygiene and cross contamination,” Michael McFarlane, HuskeeSwap Operations Manager, says.

“Unlike an individually-owned reusable, HuskeeSwap customers receive a sanitised HuskeeCup every time they swap. That is, it’s pre-washed at a minimum temperature for a minimum duration. To limit person to person contact further you can designate a drop off area for customers and even add ‘HuskeeSwap’ as a modifier to your order ahead provider such as HeyYou.

“This makes using reusables safe, more convenient for coffee drinkers, more efficient for cafes whilst offering a scalable alternative to single use cups.”

Jo says little changes can make a huge impact in reducing waste and fears of COVID-19.

“If your café still isn’t comfortable to serve in a reusable cup, go without a lid on your disposable if you can. Even this small action taken by many can really add up and go a ways to reducing our single-use plastic use,” Jo says.

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