Filip Stempien - The Sydney Morning Herald Last Updated November 23, 2016
It would take 213,900 years for the paper coffee cups used by staff at one city law firm in one month to decompose in landfill.
Think about how long it would take the 3.2 billions cups thrown away annually by Australians to break down.
Marco Tschannen – like many Sydneysiders – enjoys a coffee from his local cafe in the morning. The facilities client services manager at law firm Herbert Smith Freehills contributes 20 of those cups a month.
But his employer, along with the City of Sydney, is trialling a dedicated paper coffee cup recycling system that they hope could lower the impact of so many Australian workers' morning ritual.
Marco Tschannen grabs a coffee near work on Wednesday (Jessica Hromas)
"Everyone in the office thought it was a fantastic idea and we were a bit surprised that it wasn't already done yet," said Mr Tschannen.
The trial run by Closed Loop Environmental Solutions, a waste management company, and City of Sydney Council, placed bins dedicated for takeaway coffee cups in one office building in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.
Over the four-week trial at the Sydney law firm, 4278 coffee cups were placed in the dedicated bins by employees.
Each paper coffee cup has a liquid-proof liner made from plastic and cannot be recycled with other cardboard products – which would normally see them dumped in landfill.
Lord mayor Clover Moore said the trial highlighted the urgent need to reduce the impact of coffee cups on landfill. "These takeaway coffee cups are presenting us with a major environmental dilemma," said Cr Moore. "We don't have a dedicated recycling facility in Australia that can deal with the coffee cup structure." Cr Moore said Sydney has a world renowned cafe culture and hopes to see the scheme extended across the city. "The trial of 780 workers from Herbert Smith Freehills resulted in 1.4 coffee cups being recycled per worker each week. If this was replicated at offices across the City of Sydney area, we could divert more than 25 million coffee cups from landfill every year." Following a similar program in the UK, Closed Loop Environmental Solutions recycled more than 7 million cups.
"The UK [program] collects used coffee cups and takes them to a dedicated facility where they are shredded and made into polymer, a durable plastic which can be used for carry trays, placemats, coasters, outdoor furniture or even used in shop fit-outs," said the managing director of Closed Loop, Robert Pascoe. Dave West, the National Policy Director of the environmentalist group; Boomerang Alliance, said he would like to the see the dedicated take-away bin scheme expanded to include public bins where the public can dispose their cups. "In a city the scale of Sydney addressing coffee cup disposal is a good idea, however if they are not extending that service to the public, where there are millions of cups disposed, then there are bigger fish to fry."
Original article here.