How to cut waste without cutting the coffee

By Ashmeeta Subra 19 March 2024

Like many industries, Australia’s coffee industry has its fair share of environmental issues, not least concerning the waste generated from coffee consumption. Fortunately, there are simple yet effective ways to reduce the environmental impact of our coffee habits.

With every small step counting towards a positive impact on the planet, here are small adjustments to minimise waste in your daily coffee routine.    

1. Opt for reusable cups 

Let’s start with the easiest change you can make, bringing a reusable cup with you on your café visits instead of relying on disposable takeaway cups. Past studies have shown that Australians use 1.8 billion single-use, hot beverage cups every year, impacting negatively on our waste management systems and the environment.    To avoid adding to this issue, remember to keep a reusable one in your bag, office or car so they are easy to grab and go during coffee runs. Some cafés offer a bring-your-own discount (sometimes up to 50 cents), helping you save up some money while enjoying your daily fix. Visit the following link to find a responsible café near you.   

2. Sit in 

Don’t have a reusable cup with you? Consider sitting inside a café and enjoying your coffee from a beautiful ceramic mug instead. In our opinion, coffee tastes best this way anyway! If you find yourself with a disposable cup in your hand, you can still recycle them in specialised recycling locations near you. Just be sure not to put them in standard public or household recycling bins that are incapable of separating the plastic lining found in single-use cups, leading to contamination of recycling streams.   

3. Support cafés dedicated to reducing waste 

Some cafés also participate in cup recycling programs or reusable cup swaps like HuskeeSwap, contributing to the circular economy. To find out which cafés near you are participating, visit this map. If your local cafés are not already involved, you could start by providing feedback and speaking to them about sustainable practices they could adopt.    

4. Use sustainable alternatives at home 

If you enjoy making coffee at home, ditch traditional store-bought paper filters that contribute to daily waste and switch to reusable filters made from stainless steel or cloth. It’s also a great idea to invest in a reusable coffee maker or a coffee press that allows you to use ground coffee without needing individually packaged coffee options. If you own a capsule-based coffee machine, get your capsules from brands that have a recycling program that turn used capsules into new products. As plastic and aluminium capsules can’t be put in regular kerbside recycling bins, check out where to recycle aluminium coffee capsules via Recycling Near You.   

5. Reuse coffee grounds 

There are many ways you could reuse coffee grounds instead of discarding them and adding to daily waste. Try creating a DIY coffee scrub that provides several skin benefits using this quick recipe. Or, if you have plant babies or a garden, consider reusing cooled coffee grounds as fertilisers or simply add them to your pile of home compost. For more ways to reuse your coffee grounds, check out this article.  

Ashmeeta Subra
With background in international relations and marketing communications, Ashmeeta is excited to use her skills to encourage positive environmental actions through Planet Ark. She believes that by taking small actions, we can help make a big difference and be good stewards of our planet. Outside of work, she loves spending time in nature and enjoying downtime at the beach.