As businesses and consumers become more and more aware of the issues surrounding single-use coffee cups, some coffee shops are trying to do their bit to remove plastic from the problem, by paying an uplift to provide compostable alternatives to their customers. On the face of it this seems like a great solution, but sadly compostable products are not the silver bullet they may seem on first look.
For a compostable cup to actually be composted, it must be collected separately and sent to industrial composting facilities to be processed. You can't just pop it in your garden compost bin and use it feed you veg patch next season - the cup will still be very much in tact, as industrial composting conditions are needed to break the material down. Sadly, the on street “binfrastructure” is not in place in the UK for this to happen when people are drinking on-the-go. Most compostable cups end up in landfill, incineration or are incorrectly placed in cardboard or plastic recycling. The latter causes an even bigger issue as they can contaminate the whole recycling load, meaning it all has to be sent to landfill or incineration. Certainly not the result that conscious consumers and coffee shop owners had intended.
Photo of on-street recycling and food waste bins in Jakarta by Hamza Javaid on Unsplash
Hopefully as time goes on, the waste management infrastructure will change, to make single use compostable products a really effective environmentally consicious alternative to standard single use cups (and trays and plates and bowls etc etc etc). Where there is a real need for disposable items like these, it makes perfect sense if the containers can be composted in along with any waste food content. Vegware
, a market leader in this field, are taking matters into their own hands and are working hard to help create this infrastructure through their Close the Loop scheme
, really showing their commitment to a truly circular economy.