We can start each and every day by making a simple decision that, in time, will drastically improve the health of the environment. All we have to do is forego the single-use takeaway cup in favor of a reusable one.
Such a Waste
Twenty-six million tonnes of plastic end up as waste in Europe every year. Staggering, right?
Even worse, according to Eurostat’s latest figures, Ireland generates more of that plastic waste than any other European country.
How did we let this happen?
In Ireland, we produce 61 kg of plastic waste per person each year. This includes 2 million disposable coffee cups we send to landfill sites each day.
Most single-use coffee cups aren’t recyclable because they’re coated with non-recyclable polyethylene, a plastic that makes the cups waterproof, and topped with a polystyrene lid (also non-recyclable).
The Plastic Problem
As plastic decomposes — and this takes hundreds of years — it releases toxins into the natural environment and it transforms into microplastics. These microplastics make their way into the bodies of birds, fish — even ourselves. Recently, plastics were detected in Irish drinking water.
As a small island nation we’re deeply connected to the ocean. So it’s with a sense of urgency for change (and positivity that we can make that change!) that I list the effects of our plastic addiction on the world’s oceans and beaches:
- Plastics account for 85 percent of worldwide beach litter.
- Somewhere between five and 13 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans every year.
- If we don’t change our wasteful ways, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans (according to the European Commission first vice president).
I know we can stop this from happening.
A Step in the Right Direction
In Organico Cafe, we’re happy to provide you with compostable takeaway cups lined with a plant-based material and lids made of vegetable starch. When you’ve finished your drink simply discard the cup in a compost bin. Same goes for the compostable 'plastic' bags we provide for our oat bread and for the fresh produce in the shop (we also have reusable organic cloth produce bags).
We view our compostable cups as a step in the right direction, but not a solution. They’re a great alternative to their plastic-lined counterparts, but there’s still a big energy spend involved in their manufacturing and transportation.
And that’s why we dream of the day when everyone in Ireland carries a reusable coffee cup.
The Not-So-Plastic Future
Thankfully, in Ireland, we’ve started to wake up to our unnecessary, excessive use of plastic and take action:
- In the last few months, Cork City Council set a positive example when it banned single-use coffee and tea cups within its office walls.
- There’s also talk of a “latte levy” — the drink equivalent of the plastic bag tax. If imposed, this tax would add 10-15c to the price of a hot drink in a takeaway cup and, experts believe, result in 68,000 fewer disposable cups in landfills each day.
- The most drastic sign of the times is that the EU will issue a ban of single-use plastics by 2030. The goal is for all plastic material to be recyclable or reusable.
2030? Why wait? Let’s do this now.
The Reusable Cup We Love
At Organico, we’re big fans of the company KeepCup. Both because they make stylish, reusable cups for hot drinks, and because they’re a business run by two siblings, like us.
Abigail and Jamie Forsyth were running a cafe in Melbourne when the idea for KeepCups was born. They were unhappy with the waste generated by their cafe, but couldn’t find a reusable cup option that satisfied their customers and their baristas. So they designed their own:
- The glass bodies are made of durable, recycled soda lime glass.
- The cork band is made in Portugal out of leftover material from wine cork manufacturing.
- They’re available in a range of sizes to suit specialty coffee drinks.
And they’re making an impact:
- KeepCups are now sold in 65 countries.
- Since the company began in 2009, they’ve eliminated billions of single-use coffee cups from landfills.
- At 15 uses a KeepCup breaks-even with the energy required to manufacture one disposable paper cup.
Now, we’re fully aware that a KeepCup (or whatever your reusable cup of choice) is only beneficial when we actually leave the house with it in tow. For this we offer a few tips:
- Set a location-triggered notification on your phone to remind you to pack your KeepCup when you’re leaving your home or getting into your car.
- After cleaning your KeepCup, store it somewhere convenient: within view near your front door or in a bag you’re likely to take with you.
- ‘Keys and KeepCup.’ Train your memory to attach the two words so you never leave home without your keys and KeepCup.
Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up about forgetting it from time to time. It’s our long-term habits and initiatives that make the difference.
Change Starts Today
It thrills us at Organico when you arrive at the cafe with a reusable cup. You get a small discount on takeaway drinks every time you do!
We love working with you toward a day when we’ll see a drastic reduction of plastic pollution in the environment. And that’s thanks to the changes, small but impactful, that we make today.
Next week: we have a mighty fine suggestion for what to fill your reusable cup with, as ethical as it is delicious.