Choose to Reuse, once more with feeling!

23 Sep 2022

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In response to concerns about the volume of plastic waste, pre-covid times saw reusable straws and coffee cups sold in almost every shop and café around the county. Local groups and campaigners worked towards eliminating single-use plastics. The change was building momentum and was driven by citizens! But then came Covid….

Covid stymied many things and a simple coffee with friends became an infrequent luxury. Cafes and converted horse-box coffee trucks, for the most part, refused reusable coffee cups. Once seen as an eco-accessory, reusable containers were (inaccurately) considered unwelcome hazards and single use cups were de rigueur.  Well, now it’s time to reclaim our power as consumers and as citizens- and to re-embrace reuse.

As disposable cups are made largely from paper many people believe they can be recycled, but unfortunately this is not the case. These cups are lined with plastic polyethylene which is fused to the paper making the cups waterproof but also difficult to recycle. And anyway, they are contaminated by the drinks they contain and cannot be added to the bin of clean and dry recyclables.

In Ireland, we love our carry-around beverages and we dispose of up to six single use coffee cups every second.  This results in a lot of non-recycable waste – in the form of single use cups alone. Right now the only way to combat this waste is to reduce our dependency on these single use coffee cups through switching to a reusable option for our daily (or twice daily!) cuppa! So ask for a ceramic cup when sitting in your favourite cafe or bring along your reuseable cup for your take away. Once the reusable cup has been used more than 15 times, it is more sustainable than a disposable cup. So just 15 coffees and you’re a climate hero!

As consumers all we can do is encourage restaurants and to accept reusables. In order to have the confidence to do this they are going to need to see directly from us, their customers, that we are willing to spend money and happy to be served our meals and drinks in reusables.

Customers and restaurants alike should encourage and support efforts to make the move back to reuse. Beyond cups, we have some very simple things that you can do to help support and encourage prevention and reuse.

  • Heading back to your workplace, use public transport or start up a carpool with people from your workplace. For those living in urban areas we have had major changes to cycling infrastructure, making it safer and easier to get around on a bike.
  • If you use public transport for work one simple way to reduce paper waste is to get an annual ticket which you tap on and off with, this can also help you save some money, check out www.taxsaver.ie for more info.
  • On that morning commute and for that afternoon kick be sure to carry your reusable coffee cup, many cafes are accepting your reusables and many will still reward you for bringing it.
  • Tired of carrying loyalty cards around, forgetting them…..now, like most things, there’s an app for that, check out www.squidloyalty.ie
  • We all know there are benefits from staying hydrated and you can simply do this and have zero impact on the environment, carrying a water bottle when out and about or at your desk. A lot of businesses will happily refill your bottle for free and there are lots of public drinking fountains popping up.
  • We’ve all been preparing food at home, learning new recipes, some successful, some not so, but we’ve tried and that’s the main thing. Why change that, bring your lunch to work in a lunch box. This also helps to avoid lots of single use items such as sachets of salt, pepper etc along with napkins and single use cutlery. It can be a healthier option as you know exactly what’s in there plus more time to enjoy your break.
  • One thing that working from home as taught is that we don’t need to print as much as we may have done previously, try to keep this up when back in the office.
  • Recycling, for those items that we can’t prevent, be sure to use the bins correctly and if your place  of work doesn’t have a three bin system, find out why and try to implement this.