4 September 2017

First inner-city cafe to ban disposable coffee cups works on system of trust

| Glynis Quinlan
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Canberra Food Co-op has banned disposable coffee cups. Customers can use return mugs or keep cups like these instead. Photo supplied by the Food Co-op.

An Acton cafe is conducting its own war on waste by completely banning disposable take-away coffee cups – using a system of trust.

The Canberra Food Co-operative in Kingsley Street, Acton, believes it is the first inner city Canberra cafe to introduce the ban which appears to be gaining rapid acceptance with customers.

They follow the lead set by their suburban counterparts, Frankies at Forde, who have banned take-away coffee cups since July 1 this year.

However, while Frankies focuses its initiative on selling ‘keep cups’ which customers then reuse, the Food Co-op has added to this the option of using free ‘return mugs’.

“We offer cups that people can borrow and take-away and bring back. If they think that they can’t bring it back then we also have jars,” said Food Co-op manager, Amelia Filmer-Sankey.

“It’s mostly our return mugs that are the winners.”

One of the Food Co-op’s return mugs (photo supplied).

Ms Filmer-Sankey said the cafe probably loses about one mug every three days but most people bring them back.

“We do lose mugs but we figure that we’d prefer to put mugs out into the world that people reuse than to be throwing more and more paper and plastic into the waste,” she said.

“Working in the cafe you just see how many disposable cups are used – especially people getting take-away coffee and then sitting down in the cafe to drink it. It’s heart-breaking.”

Ms Filmer-Sankey said they first trialled providing alternatives to disposable coffee cups around two months ago.

The Food Co-op encouraged customers to use ‘keep cups’ which they sell in the store and gave customers a 20 cent incentive for using them, while providing a disincentive of charging customers an extra 30 cents for using disposable cups.

The trial proved effective and the cooperative decided to introduce ‘return mugs’ and roll out a full ban on disposable cups.

A black return mug (front) and two ‘keep cups’ available from the Food Co-op (photo supplied).

“We’re a co-operative and we’ve been motivated for a long time around environmental awareness as to how we source our food,” Ms Filmer-Sankey said.

She said that the cooperative became increasingly aware of the need to do something about the “fast take-away situation” that had become part of the coffee culture.

“We are motivated about how we can provide food and drink sustainably.”

Ms Filmer-Sankey said that most of the ANU students who use the cafe tend to sit down in the cafe and so the ban on disposable cups hasn’t really impacted them.

“It’s actually the people in the office blocks who it works with as they have a bit of a routine – they are in the same place every day,” she said.

“That’s the group of people who get the take-away cups to begin with and now have responded to our take-away mugs.”

Ms Filmer-Sankey said that most customers are willing to use the ‘return mugs’ or to take up one of the other options – such as buying a ‘keep cup’ or using one of the free jars which come with lids. However, she said they probably lose about one customer a week over the ban.

“Most people, when you explain it to them, at first are a bit apprehensive but they get used to it and then like it,” she said.

What do you think of the idea of using a ‘return mug’? Is a ban on disposable take-away coffee cups a good idea? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Good on them for doing this. Where I used to work several of us would take our own cups along instead of using disposable cups. Most of us washed them up at work which was easy to do. But if the system operated like the old returnable milk bottle system; ie leave a cup to be washed and take the coffee in a clean cup, it would save those too lazy/thoughtless to wash their cups needing to bother. There were a few like that where I worked. Although they returned to the canteen with their own cup, they were too lazy to wash it.

octagonalman8:56 pm 05 Sep 17

Are returned loan mugs washed again by the co-op? Otherwise, in the case that it’s up to the borrower to wash, is there a basin for customers wanting to borrow a mug to wash it before their beverage is produced?

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