Push for disposable coffee cup-free zones

Want to save the environment without having to remember your KeepCup?

Canberra cafes could receive reusable coffee cups, as part of a trial proposed by Labor backbencher Suzanne Orr.

Mark Ramsay at Frankies at Forde, which is one of the first cafes in Canberra to put their hands up for a proposed reusable cup scheme. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Mark Ramsay at Frankies at Forde, which is one of the first cafes in Canberra to put their hands up for a proposed reusable cup scheme. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Ms Orr will move for a pilot reusable coffee cup zone to be created in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday.

The zone would involve cafes in Gungahlin, who would go disposable cup-free in exchange for a cache of reusable takeaway cups they could wash and recirculate to customers.

"We'd have a network of cups, so you'd no longer need to remember your KeepCup every time you want to get a takeaway coffee, there would be a reusable cup there waiting in the cafe for you," she said.

"That means we're cutting down on the environmental impact of disposable cups and we are also helping businesses to look after their stock flows because they're not always having to purchase new cups."

Ms Orr said the trial would be modelled on a similar zone in the German city of Freiburg, where the local council provided cafes with so-called Freiburg Cups.

Customers pay a 1 euro deposit in exchange for taking their coffee away in a reusable cup, and get their euro back once they return the cup to any participating cafe.

Ms Orr said her Labor colleagues were "open" to supporting the trial.

If successful, she hoped it could be rolled out across the city more broadly.

ACT Labor backbencher Suzanne Orr. Picture: Jamila Toderas

ACT Labor backbencher Suzanne Orr. Picture: Jamila Toderas

"I think Canberrans are very dedicated to our coffee but that does come at a high environmental cost given how many of the disposable cups do go to landfill," Ms Orr said.

"For the record we can recycle most of the components of disposable cups in Canberra but it's better to avoid that waste in the first place."

Frankies at Forde was one of the first cafes to express interest in the prospective trial. The cafe was the first in the ACT to go disposable cup-free in 2017. Before then, they used 45,000 disposable cups per year.

Owner Mark Ramsay said a reusable cup zone would help more businesses and customers take the plunge.

"We see [reusable coffee cups] as a good gateway drug to get people thinking about their other disposable single-use habits," Mr Ramsay said.

Mr Ramsay said while removing the option of disposable cups would "ruffle some feathers", in his experience people adjusted quickly.

"We're really mindful about making it a soft fall. We stock and can offer KeepCups if someone doesn't have a reusable cup; they can buy it from us at cost and we'll throw in a free coffee because they're doing the right thing," Mr Ramsay said.

"Lots of people who get takeaway coffee in our area aren't really going too far so we're happy to lend people mugs, which gives people a few options, but our first question back to someone [when they order a coffee is] 'do you have time to have it here?'. And overwhelmingly most people can spare a few minutes."

But what happens if people choose instead to keep the reusable cups instead of returning them?

"Freiburg ... actually did a study into what they called leakage - excuse the pun - [and] their leakage has actually been from tourists who pocket the cups as a souvenir," Ms Orr said.

"[While] there is a percentage of leakage, it's not as high as one might expect; it's actually quite manageable, so it's hopefully something that can be replicated here."