Three reasons to celebrate saying goodbye to disposable cups on campus

Three reasons to celebrate saying goodbye to disposable cups on campus

The cafés at Te Herenga Waka campuses have ditched disposable coffee cups. Hannah Blumhardt, from Takeaway Throwaways, explains to myView why this is such an important initiative.

If you’re partial to a hot beverage to perk you up for a study session, then it’s worth knowing that the University is trialing something different this year….check this out for the essentials:

Takeaway Throwaways have been advertising the scheme since the start of 2022, with this video proving a hit on social media.

No disposable cups on campus means that if you want to order a takeaway, you now need to do one of the following things:

  • Bring your own cup
  • Make time to stay and use a ‘have here’ cup
  • Borrow and return an Auraki Returnable Cup.

Here are three reasons this University-wide sustainability initiative is worth supporting.

Reason one: Ditching disposables is a proactive response to waste and climate crises.

Our university has committed to net-zero carbon by 2030. Ditching disposable cups is one way to walk the talk.

New Zealand is one of the world’s most wasteful countries per person. Plastic pollution is affecting our environment and health. And,  Parliament has declared a climate emergency. We’re in a mess!

Each year New Zealanders use 295 million disposable cups. Across the Pipitea and Kelburn campuses, staff and students go through thousands each week. This waste is entirely avoidable.

Producing disposable cups takes resources—crude oil, trees, and energy (fossil fuels)— as well as transport around the world and into New Zealand. This embodied energy is then wasted after just one use, as each disposable cup thrown away goes to landfill or ends up in the environment as litter.

Disposable coffee cups aren’t recyclable because they’re made of paper and plastic stuck together. The lids are made from plastic types that we don’t recycle in Wellington. The coffee residue also makes most cups too dirty to recycle.

Some coffee cups are compostable, but only at commercial composts. Wellington’s commercial compost doesn’t accept compostable coffee cups because the compostable plastic (PLA) is hard to break down, and creates poor quality, lower-value compost.

Reason two: The University’s approach to phasing out disposable cups aims to look after people and planet.

The environmental justice movement has raised awareness of the importance of leaving no one behind in the transition to a more sustainable future. The ‘No Disposable Cups on Campus’ initiative was designed with this in mind.

The Auraki Returnable Cup system lends cups out for free rather than a deposit. Staff and students are trusted to return the cups to one of the drop-off points around campus. A trust-based system means that those who can’t afford their own reusable cup or a deposit can still access a free alternative.

First-year students in university halls all receive a free reusable cup in their goodie bags.

All the campus cafes have been gifted two lightweight reusable cups with lids that ‘have here’ customers who require these for accessibility reasons can request when ordering to ‘have here’, no questions asked. After use, the customer leaves these for the café to sterilise and keep, just like in-house ceramic cups.

Author Hannah Blumhardt from Takeaway Throwaways and the no disposables logo you’ll see around campus.

Reason three: This initiative is a collaborative effort

Building a sustainable future means new systems and ways of doing things. Systemic change requires collaboration, where different parts of society and businesses work together for the greater good. The ‘No Disposable Cups on Campus’ initiative is a perfect example of this!

The campus cafés have agreed to stop giving out disposables together. This avoids the problem of one café phasing out disposables and then losing customers to other campus cafes still using disposables. By moving together, the cafés are also taking a collective stand that there is a better way than throwaway.

Noticed how the Auraki cups are all different shapes and sizes? That’s because they’ve been donated by Trash Palace – the reuse shop at Spicer Landfill in Porirua. Thanks guys!

So, there you have it—three great reasons to raise a reusable cup and say ‘Cheers!’ to the University’s move to ditch disposables on campus.

Hannah Blumhardt is Senior Associate at Te Herenga Waka’s Institute of Governance and Policy Studies, and Policy Spokesperson for Takeaway Throwaways.

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