Compostable Coffee Cups Cause Confusion as WA Moves to Plastic-Free

Ethan Robinson 28/02/2023 Waste Management
compostable coffee cups

Many retailers in Western Australia are replacing plastic-lined disposable coffee cups with compostable ones as the state moves closer to banning the former. However, consumers are now puzzled about how to dispose of these compostable cups, and environmentalists suggest consistent labelling could ease the confusion.

The Issue with Compostable Coffee Cups

Sixteen councils in Western Australia have implemented a three-bin system for collecting organic waste, including a food organic, garden organics (FOGO) bin, where food scraps and green waste are sent to an industrial composting facility.

Bree Jennings from Plastic Free WA warns against placing compostable coffee cups in the FOGO bin, as it is unclear which lining the cup has. The lining can be standard plastic or bioplastic, and as a result, she suggests disposing of all cups in the landfill bin.

1. Lack of Certifications and Standards

Toby Hutcheon from the Boomerang Alliance asserts that there are no rules and standards to tell consumers which packages are reusable, compostable, or recyclable. Although Australia has two certifications for compostable items, they are voluntary and not always reliable.

2. Compostable Items in Landfill

Elsa Dominish from the Institute of Sustainable Futures clarifies that disposing of compostable items in a landfill has no environmental benefit as the conditions are not suitable for biodegradation. Such items decompose slowly and release methane, which is a greenhouse gas and contributes to climate change.

3. Contamination Concerns

Ms Jennings warns against contaminating any bin, as it causes issues for facilities trying to sell FOGO compost. She suggests residents should check their local council guidelines for each bin’s accepted items.

Alternative Solutions

With over 181 million disposable coffee cups used in WA annually, Ms Jennings proposes avoiding compostable cups altogether. Instead, she recommends using reusable cups or dining in at cafes to prevent waste generation.

The Western Australia government is working with composters and local governments to identify how certain compostable materials, such as coffee cups. They can be recovered through FOGO collection systems. The government is also looking into the labelling issue to ensure consistency and eliminate confusion.

In summary, compostable coffee cups pose a challenge for Western Australia’s transition to a plastic-free environment. Without clear labelling and consistent standards, consumers are unsure of how to dispose of them correctly. Disposing of compostable cups in a landfill has no environmental benefit, and placing them in the wrong bin causes contamination. In the meantime, residents are advised to check their local council guidelines and avoid using compostable cups to reduce waste generation.

News Source: ABC NEWS

Posted By

  • Ethan Robinson

    Ethan is a content editor with a background in environmental journalism. He’s an enthusiastic home cook and collector of vintage records.

Spread the love