Why we need to revive the reusable cup

Opting for reusable cups and drink bottles at home and overseas helps both people and the planet.

50,000 coffee cups are thrown out by Australians every thirty minutes. Almost three million every day. More than one billion every year. These staggering statistics are not only a shock to us, but a shock to the environment, too. Not too long ago, we were told disposable coffee cups were bad for the environment.  Then, during the pandemic, reusable coffee cups became a transmission risk.  What’s the truth of it, and should we bring them back? KeepCups may have become the cup the world forgot to keep, but switching back to these reusable coffee cups at home, on the daily commute or while travelling is a small action that powers big positive change.

Where did the reusable coffee cup go?

Australians were in love with the KeepCup in 2019. We cared for the environment and wanted to see it thrive. We believed that swapping out disposable cups for reusable alternatives was a stepping stone towards a cleaner future. That was, of course, until the pandemic struck in 2020.

“The COVID restrictions really broke the habit…” Jackie Middleton, owner of the Earl cafe chain, told The Age. At Earl Cafe in 2019, more than 13% of coffee orders were served in a reusable coffee cup. This number is significantly bigger than the 6% served in reusable cups this year. 

Unfortunately, the pandemic caused a cultural shift that replaced the focus on the collective good, to that of personal safety. The story was the same at many cafes and coffee shops around Australia, all of whom refused the use of reusable cups during the pandemic – whether clean or not – for fear of transmission due to sub-par hygiene. Although these trepidations were valid, the aftermath has done more harm than good to consumer sentiment. Although we’re past the days of fearing accidental transmission, the habits that companies like KeepCup had worked so hard to instil appear to have phased out.

Washing Reusable Cups
© Unsplash

How do reusable coffee cups help the environment?

Unlike the takeaway cups found at local cafes, reusable coffee cups are designed to last. While the marketing for paper coffee cups presents them as being recyclable and environmentally friendly, the lining is made of 5% polyethylene plastic which isn’t biodegradable. It’s a common misconception that disposable cups are completely recyclable, which has contributed to the rise in consumer comfort around disposable coffee cups: why worry about bringing a reusable cup to the cafe when throwing a disposable one into a recycling bin is helping the environment, anyway? However, this is not the case. 
Founder of Biopak, Richard Fine, told ABC that 90% of disposable cups ended up in Australia’s landfills, equating to around 60,000 kilograms of plastic waste per annum. Reusable cups also have a lower carbon footprint. According to The University of Melbourne, by using a KeepCup for a year, consumers reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 92% when compared to disposable cups.

While we may have drifted away from the trend of reusable cups, the benefits of them are undeniable – especially for those who are travelling. It’s time to dust off those abandoned cups languishing in the back of the kitchen cupboard and bring them into the light, their time in the sun isn’t over yet. 

Reusable Coffee Cup
© Unsplash

Benefits of using reusable cups when travelling

Perhaps the most suitable consumers for reusable coffee cups are those planning their next trip away. Travelling can involve a lot of early mornings and jet lag, resulting in an increased caffeine intake to fuel the onward march. Whether travelling domestically or embarking on a journey across the globe, packing a KeepCup next to the iPhone charger and neck pillow is a packing list essential.

Money Saver

In addition to reusable coffee cups being an environmentally friendly alternative, they’re also a great way to save some extra money. Many coffee shops and cafes, including chains such as Starbucks, offer customers discounts for bringing their cups from home. Every dollar counts, especially when travelling.

© KeepCup

Good on-the-go

Travelling to a new destination involves being on the go, exploring new places and cultures in the process. While grabbing a disposable coffee cup from the cafe seems like a good idea at the time, it’s less ideal when you have to carry it around once empty. Many cities around the world, such as Tokyo and London, have limited bins on the streets, and disposable coffee cups often drip or spill when stored in bags or backpacks. Products such as those from KeepCup, Frank Green, Luxey Cup and others boast silicone and metal exteriors that are completely waterproof with leak-proof lids, reducing the risk of spills and stains while minimising waste. 

Easy to pack

If you’re a heavy packer and worry a reusable cup may take up precious room in your suitcase, you’re in luck. Many reusable cups and bottles like Stojo and Rolla Bottle are completely collapsable, compacting down to take up as little space as possible.

Keeps contents hot

A large cup of coffee tends to cool quicker when carried around in winter conditions. By investing in a reusable cup with insulation, adventurers can enjoy a piping hot caffeine hit while protecting their hands from the heat within.

Our top picks

Helix thermal in S 227ml, $38, KeepCup. Black, pink and Dustry blue collapsible drink bottle, $35, RollaBottle.

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