Perth cafes are stepping up their war on waste by opting for coffee cups and other packaging that is recycled into compost rather than thrown into landfill.
Although biodegradable packaging has been available for several years, packaging supplier BioPak recently launched its own collection and compost service, working with composting partner Write Solutions.
BioPak chief executive Gary Smith said 60 Perth cafes had come on board since the service was launched in June, with 163 tonnes of local waste (including food scraps) being diverted from landfill and converted to rich compost.
The compostable packaging, carbon neutral in its manufacture, is made from plant-based raw materials which are biodegradable, rather than the more commonly used synthetic single-use packaging.
Paper cups, for example, are lined with plant starch, rather than non-recyclable plastic used in typical cups, of which about one billion end up in Australian landfill each year.
Cafes using the composting system have special bins for discarded packaging, including coffee cups and lids, and other forms of food waste and organic matter.
The bins are collected by Write Solutions, and converted to a rich compost, which is then sold as compost direct to consumers and small farms.
Ohana Acai cafe owner Royce Surman has served takeaway food and beverages in the biodegradable packaging since opening his Fremantle cafe three years ago, and welcomed moves for it to be officially converted to compost. “
We use special bins which are collected for compost,” he said. “There are clear instructions on the bins, but the odd bit of plastic or glass makes their way in there so we do give the contents a quick scan each evening,” he said. The former environmental engineer said even before the war on waste became mainstream, he wanted to ensure any environmental impact from his business would be minimised.
Although the biodegradable packaging is more expensive, Mr Surman said he realised about a year ago it had become a drawcard in itself, with 20-25 per cent of regular customers supporting the cafe primarily because of its environmentally friendly approach.
Mr Smith conceded a current limitation is that people buying takeaway food or beverages may not have access to a specific composting bin at the point when it is convenient to dispose of the cup or other packaging.
“We see this changing as more cafes come on board and the bins become more readily accessible and available at convenient places,” he said.
Written by Jenne Brammer
As seen in The West Australian on Friday, November 9, 2018