500 billion cups of coffee

Do you also find it absurd that half the world's plastics are used only once before ending up in landfill? And can you believe that we throw away 500 billion coffee cups a year after just one use? That's a million a minute. An estimated 1 billion in Australia alone.

(Image: www.mbnep.org)

Coffee cups hare estimated to be the second- largest contributor to litter after plastic bottles.

We have indeed become a very wasteful species. Do we believe we are somehow living outside (or above) the natural ecological system, and the natural limits of this beautiful blue planet?

Ecological footprint studies show that we would need four Earth's if everyone on the planet lived like the average Australian (using as many resources and wasted as much). Four Earths? We only have one!

I know I am preaching to the converted here, but In just about every aspect of our lives we need to do things differently.

Because it's Plastic Free July, I thought I'd take a look at one of the big single use plastic wastes we create - the waste associated with the exponential growth of our collective caffeine habit. We call them paper cups but actually most are lined with plastic and cannot be recycled.

I do love coffee. I grew up in Melbourne with quaint cafes making magnificent coffee in colourful ceramic cups. I think I also came to love coffee because of the associations - meeting with friends, having great discussions; but also having personal free-thinking time - just me, a coffee, a blank-page notebook and artists pen. Mind-maps would start forming across the pages uncontrollably....I still find myself doing this. Even today, I had 15 minutes before having to pick up the kids, so I sat in a Maleny Cafe with my large cup of coffee, a big glass of water, and A3 drawing book and a pen. I mapped out a 3 day workshop program - magic!

Back in the 1980s, I hardly ever saw take-away coffee cups. Take-away cups were the stuff of fast food joints.  I remember seeing people walking around with take-away coffee cups in the United States during a visit around 2000 and thinking how good it was that still Australians mostly sat down to have their coffee... it wasn't for much longer though.

Let's abandon the throw-away culture and become part of the re-user revolution.

In this context, we can simply:

  1. start drinking coffee in ceramic cups again at the cafe - slow down and enjoy...
  2. bring your own re-usable cup for take-aways and office use
  3. if you do  happen to get a take-away, refuse a lid and chose a cafe that has compostable cups
  4. take a thermos from home
  5. drink water instead :-) .... in a reusable container of course!

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