War on Waste ‘not 100 per cent accurate’

Paper cup manufacturers are fighting back against a program aired Tuesday on ABC that claimed 100 per cent of coffee cups are ending up in landfill, and that the only alternative is reusable cups.

War on Waste, an ABC series hosted by The Chaser’s Craig Reucassel, that aired this past Wednesday 31 May, saw Craig fill a tram full of take-away coffee cups, and announce that of the 1 billion coffee cups used in Australia every year, every one of them ends up in landfill.

Biopak Founder and Director Richard Fine told BeanScene he was interviewed by Craig, and informed him that several councils were recycling paper cups. He provided the list to BeanScene, which shows dozens of councils that confirm they did recycle paper coffee cup.

“The facts presented in the War on Waste Episode last night were unfortunately not 100 per cent accurate as paper cups including BioCups are accepted in the paper recycling stream in many councils,” he said.

BeanScene Magazine has spoken with a publicist from the ABC to confirm why this information wasn’t included in the program. The publicist sent its enquiry through to production company Keo Films who hasn’t yet responded to our enquiry.

The real challenge with recycling paper cups, Richard told BeanScene, is not that paper cups can’t be recycled, but more that several leading recycling companies are simply refusing to do it. Richard nevertheless welcomed the media attention to put pressure on recycling companies to make the effort to recycle paper cups.

“The bioplastic lining on BioCup actually dissolves during the repulping process and is easier to recycle compared to PE-coated cups,” he said.

The O’Kelly Group also provides 100 per cent compostable cups, and will need to work with recyclers and councils to ensure the cups are recycled.

According to Biopak, paper coffee cups account for only 0.5 per cent of the 3.2 million tons of paper consumed in Australia every year. Currently Australians send around 1.7 million tons of recyclable paper to landfill, this includes 12,000 tons of coffee cups.

“Compare Australia’s current 45 per cent paper recycling rate to some countries achieving a 75 per cent rate and it’s clear to see we have a problem that is bigger than coffee cups,” Mr Fine said.

Back in May, Trish Hyde, Australian Packaging Covenant Chief Executive Officer laid out some of the challenges of recycling coffee cups.

“The community is currently receiving many mixed messages about whether their coffee cup can be recycled or not,” Ms Hyde said.

“Because the actual cup is made from paperboard with a plastic lining, typically polyethylene, there was concern that this mixed material presents issues for recycling facilities.

“Our members include material recovery and recycling facilities. Through the working group, we resolved that coffee cups can be recycled. However, we also know that there is more work to do to ensure that recyclers receive fair value in recycling this material,” Ms Hyde said.

The list of councils accepting paper cups was recently verified by Planet Ark and The Australian Packaging Covenant.

This article originally appeared on BeanScene Magazine.