FREMANTLE is ideally placed to lead the way as WA gears up to kick its disposable coffee cup habit, says an entrepreneur with a plan that’s got local council backing.
Each year about 190 million coffee cups end up in landfill in WA, where they break down and release the potent greenhouse gas methane – and that’s if they’re not the polystyrene shockers that only split up into ever-smaller pieces of plastic.
While a handful of WA councils recycle disposable cups, it can be a tricky process because they contain a polymer coating which can stick to the cardboard and degrade the final product. Most don’t bother and it all goes to clog up landfill.
The McGowan government hopes to put a lid on the problem (pardon the pun) by banning single-use coffee cups when stage 2 of its Plan for Plastics kicks in next January.
Enter Karen Monaghan, whose start-up company Our Kinds has tapped into blockchain technology and psychology to come up with a new model that gets around the barriers that see most reusable cups left in the office kitchen.
Cafes that sign up to Our Kinds are given reusable cups which are offered to customers on the understanding they’ll give them a quick rinse and bring them back. While they line up for their next caffeine hit, the cup goes in for a proper wash.
“It’s that simple – no app, no fee, no fines, no tokens, no blockers,” Ms Monaghan said.
“Each cup has a QR code so we can measure how often the cups are used and share the difference we’re making as a movement.
“In our first trial at The Corner Store in Subiaco we saved over 10,000 cups, and lids, in just nine weeks.”
Ms Monaghan said while they do offer lids, and are working on more prototypes, they’ve discovered that people aren’t as fussed about them as expected. When offered a choice, many people go sans lid, and that’s the kind of psychological shift she and co-founder Hamish Cockburn were looking for.
The system has caught the eye of Fremantle and East Fremantle councils, Fremantle Ports and the Department of Communities, who are participating in a three-month trial with 12 local cafes.
East Fremantle council’s waste and sustainability officer Connor Warn said they’d already been working closely with Plastic Free July when they were approached by Ms Monaghan and Our Kinds artist and cafe liaison Ash Parnham.
Mr Warn said they’d sponsor the participating cafes for three months and monitor the change.
Max Baines has been running Cool Beans cafe on the East Fremantle foreshore four about four years, turning the little-used Norm Mckenzie Park into a buzzing hub with the lure of coffee.
“We go through a lot of cups; at the back end of the business there is a lot of waste,” Mr Baines said.
“It’s sad opening the bins and seeing the amount of waste.”
Cool Beans has taken a slightly different tack and will be using cups sourced from Good Sammys, with an Our Kinds sticker on the bottom so they can still be tracked.
Good Sammys chief of social enterprise Tom Tolchard said that helped them solve a problem as well.
“Karen reached out out of the blue looking for cups at scale and we have millions that are donated, and individual cups are probably our hardest to deal with because people usually want to buy them in sets,” he said.
The trial comes as Fremantle became Australia’s first council to formally declare July to be plastic free.
by STEVE GRANT