Recently my sister sent me a gorgeous wee care parcel, packed full of beautiful things, yummy food, treats, and a glass Keep Cup reusable coffee cup. I remember looking at it at the time and thinking, that’ll be handy for uni!
And since then, I’ve used it so much, its quite possibly been the most useful gift I have ever received (apart from the gift of life, that’s been quite handy thus far). I try not to spend too much money on coffee at Uni (unfortunately that’s far too easy to do) so it’s handy if I make a hot drink in the morning and take it with me. However when I do buy a coffee, it’s so great to have. Not only do I get a discount on my coffee, but I save using a disposable coffee cup too.
Every day on campus, all the rubbish bins are almost flowing with disposable coffee cups, it’s honestly ridiculous. In between every lecture break people go and get their coffee fix, but is a moment’s convenience really worth years in the landfill?
To be fair, there are a loads of bins which facilitate different sorts of recycling on campus BUT that doesn’t even matter, because even the cups put in the recycling bins get taken to the landfill.
This is because even though coffee cups are made out of paper, they are lined with polyethylene plastic or PE. The PE has to be floated away from the paper in order for the cups to be able to be recycled. The technology required to recycle these cups is too complex for most New Zealand recycling centres, so they all end up getting thrown away anyway, no matter which bin you put them in. Coffee cup lids can be recycled, however even then they have to be sent offshore, so in many cases they also end up in the landfill. So even though the cups say that they’re compostable and biodegradable, this is only done where the facilities are available, and in New Zealand this isn’t the case.
What scares me is that my uni is only one place, one small localised spot where lots of consumption occurs. What about Dunedin city as a whole, or the whole of New Zealand, and then globally? Billions of disposable cups (and not to mention other disposable items such as plastic cutlery etc) are being used everywhere all the time, and then being chucked away. The concept of convenience has created and promoted this massive throw-away culture with single-use items, when what we really need is a culture emphasising reuse and sustainability.
One thing that I think is really cool though is that the cafe at the Otago Polytech doesn’t serve any of its coffee in disposable cups, you either have to bring your own or use their ceramic ones. And already they’ve noticed a huge reduction in waste around their campus. Surely more places can get on board and have similar initiatives?
And surely more people can invest in reusable coffee cups instead of throw-away ones. Sure, a lot more energy goes into making a glass coffee cup, and you can’t be bothered washing it and all that. But it’s about the end result of the product once it has reached the end of its consumer use. LDPEs stay in the environment without any use for decades, whereas glass bottles and cups have a large recycling rate, as they are put back into the glass production process or crushed for construction.
By recycling glass in order to make new glass, it saves 40% of energy compared to the whole manufacturing process of raw materials, as the glass waste melts at lower temperatures.
Crushed glass is being used in the place of imported aggregate and soil, and in New Zealand in particular, DB Export makes ‘beer bottle sand’ in an attempt to save New Zealand beaches being dredged for sand. They finely crush the beer bottles to make the sand that can then be used for things such as pipe bedding and sustainable concrete mix.
The future for recycled glass is even more promising, as it can play an even bigger part in the construction industry such as in bricks, in insulation, in making roads, and for making translucent glass sheets.
So if you’re a coffee drinker, why not grab a reusable one and take it with you to work, uni or wherever you go? Or if you know someone that’s partial to daily takeaway coffees, why not give the gift of sustainability and give them a glass coffee cup? Or glass drink bottles?
Make your daily habits sustainable ones, and the next present you buy for someone, try to buy them something sustainable and useful, and spread the love ❤
you can grab keepcups around the place or head to their website – https://nz.keepcup.com/?country=New%20Zealand
you can grab some groovy glass drink bottles here – https://www.letliv.co.nz/collections/lotus-lifestyle