When Roslyn Mitchell opened her cafe in Lake Albert ten months ago, she wanted to find a way to serve take-away coffee without adding to the estimated one billion single-use cups that end up in landfill each year.
So, she invested in biodegrable cups and offered discounts to customers with reusable cups. She says she is encouraged to see so many other cafes in Wagga coming on board with the same strategy.
“Australia has a big culture of coffee drinking, and it’s really growing here in Wagga,” she said.
“[Reusable coffee cups are] a bit like the plastic bags situation, which has been a big, long fight so far.
“As more and more [cafes] move away from disposable coffee cups, and give incentives for more environmental options, we might just be rid of [non-biodegradable] cups altogether one day.”
The environmentally-friendly coffee movement has gained so much notoriety of late that it has even spawned an online petition hoping to see coffee cups labelled with warnings similar to those on cigarette packages.
The campaign was started by environmental activist Anna Warren only a month ago, and has already generated the targeted 25,000 signatures. She says she has been surprised to see so much support so quickly.
“I think people are becoming more aware of our rubbish problem,” Ms Warren said.
“I think the reason it’s resonated with people is because it’s very relatable. A lot of people drink coffee, and a lot of the time it’s on-the-go.
“We don’t have control over what happens to that coffee cup once we throw it out, and I think that’s what this is all about, giving people control over what happens to their rubbish.”
Ms Warren’s campaign, if successful, will see single-use nonbiodegrable coffee cups printed with a picture of a bulldozer beside mountains of landfill.
But cafe owners like Ms Mitchell are worried incorporating the same ugly imagery as cigarette packaging might have a dramatically different outcome.
“I don’t think I would be a fan of seeing horrendous packaging on coffee cups, that would probably turn people off coffee entirely,” she said.
Ms Warren says the imagery is intended to spark the same social change that has seen cigarettes fall out of vogue.
“People don’t think about cigarettes the way they used to, since those health warnings were printed on the packages society has changed and they’ve become less popular.
“We need a similar shift in the way we see coffee cups,” Ms Warren said.
Both Ms Warren and Ms Mitchell are agreed, they would like to see a future where plastic disposable cups no longer exist.
“It’s much better to encourage people to bring their reusable cups and reward them when they do,” Ms Mitchell said.
“It’s not something one cafe can change on their own, and I think it’s a brave cafe that bans [single-use plastic] cups altogether.
“If we’re all giving incentives for reusable cups, this might be the start of another great environmental movement.”