Coffee Takeaway Cups: Are They Compostable? An 2021 Update for Australia

Coffee-Takeaway-Cups

2.7 million Australians love their daily takeaway morning coffee. If you are one of them and, like me, are wondering if these takeaway coffee cup are compostable, bare with me and let’s find out in the article below!

Meaning of compostable

Compostable means that a product is capable to break down and return to nature without any toxic effects on the environment (eg. food scraps in your compost).

Some products said “compostable” are only compostable in an industrial facility. See valid certifications for Australia below. Some other product said “compostable”, can break down in your garden, as well as in an industrial facility: they are called “home compostable”. You can read more about these two different types of compostable in this article.

Classic paper coffee cup ❌

Paper cups rarely mention a disposal option. They are tricky! These cups are in fact made of paper, which can make you think they are compostable. Unfortunately, what you can’t see straightaway is that they have an inside plastic liner, which is not compostable. Paper Coffee Takeaway Cups can take up to 100 years to fully decompose, leaving behind microplastics that can enter our soil and our ocean. How bad is that!

landfill-coffee-cup

Coffee Takeaway Cups that mention “I’m compostable”

Checklist and what to do:

  1. look for the compostable certification. This will tell you if you can place the cup in your green bin (if your council accepts compostable food packaging) or in your backyard compost.
  2. Ask your cafe! They should be able to direct you to the right disposal option.
  3. Check if the cup brand’s website. This information should be clearly detailed as they are mandatory for any supplier, manufacturer, and distributor.

labellling cup

Valid certifications for Australia

Home compostable certification
Products can be dispose in your compost bin or backyard garden and they will decompose in under 4 months.
home compostable logo100ok compost logo100

Commercially compostable certification
Products need to be sent to a commercially composting facility. Do you have a green bin collection that accept compostable packaging in your council?

seedling compostable logo100commercially compostable logo100

Check on your coffee cup or other packaging for these labels. If it only says “compostable”, this product has to go to a commercial composting facility to be able to fully break down and become compost.

This is why at Compostable Alternatives we choose to work only with certified home compostable products.

Almost there…but what about the coffee lid?!

Same advice applies. 
However have you ever seen a “compostable” coffee cup with a plastic lid (symbol PS6)?

We do every single day … how confusing! Who is separating their lid from their cup after finishing their coffee? Some people do but the vast majority will just through them away in the same bin. This has to stop!

Finally

Coffee Takeaway Cups are one the most used disposable items: 1 billion per year.
Most coffee cups on the market include an inner plastic liner that cannot be composted.
A lot of cafes are already on top of the problem and shifted to commercially compostable coffee cups! 

But for a fully closed loop they need to:

  • check with their local council if compostable packaging are accepted in the green waste stream
  • have access to a green bin so their commercially compostable cups can be sent to an industrial composting centre.

Careful! If commercially compostable cups end up in landfills, they won’t decompose as they need special treatment. Do you know if you have a commercially composting facility in your area?

✅ Last hope

Certified “Home compostable” coffee cup.

New Zealand switched to these products, as they are easy to dispose, and decompose without special treatment under 4 months. They only need oxygen and micro organisms to break down and become compost, so can easily be placed in a home compost or backyard garden!

Sounds like the best option on the market and it’s not more expensive!

Learn more about “compostable packaging in Australia

Marion Vigot
About the author:

Marion is a French entrepreneur, profoundly interested in the composting industry. Her words are her own thoughts and come from her research and learning. Although she quotes and sources the information she shares, Marion is not a scientist or a researcher and her opinions should not be understood as a scientific truth.

Through her findings and experience in the industry, she is attempting to support hospitality businesses and producers in their search of alternative choices to single-use and other types of plastic packaging. You should always do your own research to best inform yourself.

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landfill-coffee-cup

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