Coffee seems to be attracting a good deal of interest so far as plastic waste is concerned. Focus has been on big chains such as Costa and Starbucks, and perhaps with good reason. The Environmental Audit Committee last year stated that the UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year, and less than one per cent of those are recycled.
Lots of businesses seem to be powered by coffee – not only from the big chains but the daily caffeine fix that many people depend upon, prepared in the workplace. This is where we can make choices between good coffee (low plastic waste) and bad coffee (making waste with coffee).
Carry a reusable coffee cup or flask. Whether you make your drink at home or buy it on the way in – many outlets offer discounts if you bring your own cup. Fresh coffee or instant – makes little difference – it’s the container that counts.
Whether you have a coffee machine or just a kettle – again the devil is in the cup. Plastic cups are obviously bad news, but even paper-based cups are usually lined with a membrane of polyethylene (plastic) to make them waterproof, meaning they are not recyclable alongside paper or cardboard, or biodegradable. The best answer by far are good, old-fashioned pottery mugs. Nothing wrong with plastic and metal stay warm mugs. Just wash them and reuse.
Percolators, cafetieres and filters are great. Coffee machines are generally good too… if they use real coffee! Single-serving coffee pods make waste with every cup. In 2016, the German city of Hamburg banned coffee pods from state-run buildings as part of a drive to reduce waste.
The same goes for single-serving milk pots – stick to a full size bottle – glass if you can. Milkmen are coming back!
Another stirring tale. Plastic spoons and cutlery – instant waste. Reusable traditional spoons make more sense all around.
Anyone fancy a cuppa?
You’d think tea was not a problem? Sadly that’s not the case, if you use tea bags. Several tea bag brands use polypropylene, a sealing plastic, to keep their tea bags from falling apart. This plastic is not recyclable or biodegradable. Surprisingly, most tea bags contain up to 25% plastic.
Fortunately some brands are removing plastic from their tea bags, but you need to check which manufacturers have already done it. Remember, there is always the alternative of loose tea and a strainer?
So if you’re looking for ways to cut plastic waste in your company you could make a start by looking at the coffee break.