By Lara Pearce
Updated Nov 5, 2017
Australians have an insatiable caffeine habit, but with more than one billion takeaway cups ending up in landfill every year it's a love affair that's taking a heavy toll on our planet.
That's why convenience store chain 7-Eleven is rolling out an Australia-first recycling strategy it hopes will keep 70 million takeaway cups out of landfill every year.
"I think most people don't appreciate that these cups are not recyclable," 7-Eleven CEO Angus McKay told HuffPost Australia.
Image: 7-Eleven Australia's CEO Angus McKay and Simply Cups founder Rob Pascoe with one of the special recycling bins which will be placed in 7-Eleven stores from March next year.
Coffee cups have a plastic inner lining to prevent the hot liquid seeping out of the cup, which can't be separated from the cup at a standard recycling plant.
"People try to do the right thing and put them into the recycling slots in litter bins but unfortunately that just means they go off to general landfill," McKay explained.
"Whilst the paper ultimately will break down, the plastic takes years and years and years to break down and that's the environmental impact we're trying to solve."
From March 2018, there will be dedicated recycling bins for takeaway coffee and Slurpee cups in 200 7-Eleven stores, as well as 50 other large-scale locations such as universities, construction sites and schools Australia-wide.
The cups will then be collected and processed by Melbourne-based recycling company Simply Cups and taken to a processing plant in Ballarat, Victoria, where the inner plastic lining of the cups will be removed and recycled into plastic outdoor furniture, safety equipment and food trays and the like using new, locally-developed technology.
Coffee cups are one of the largest contributors to litter waste in Australia, outstripped only by plastic bottles.
As the nation's second-largest takeaway coffee supplier, 7-Eleven coffee and Slurpee sales account for seven percent of all takeaway cups used each year.
One billion coffee cups end up in landfill every year in Australia.
And it's not just coffee and Slurpee cups purchased at 7-Eleven eligible for recycling -- any takeaway cup will be accepted.
"This is not about 7-Eleven; this is about actually starting a different recycling process in this country," McKay said.
But both Simply Cups And 7-Eleven hope that the venture will expand and catch on with other retailers.
"Seventy million is a lot, but it's really only a drop in the ocean in terms of what we go through in this country every year so we'd be keen to get others on board," Simply Cups founder Rob Pascoe told HuffPost Australia.
"I want to get much more than seven percent of the one billion (cups) -- I want to get more like 50 percent."