Speeches

A Reusable Coffee Cup Zone Trial for Gungahlin

May 15, 2019

Check against delivery

 

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I am bringing this motion to the Assembly today because we need to do more to reduce plastic waste here in the ACT.

Disposable, single-use coffee cups have long been identified as a significant contributor to our vast levels of plastic waste, both here in Canberra and across Australia.

 

It is estimated that as many as one billion disposable coffee cups are sold and discarded every year in Australia. The vast majority of these cups end up either in landfill or in our oceans.

The harmful effects of our excessive plastic waste are well documented and well known.

In particular, I am sure Members have all seen the devastating images of sea life caught in plastic bags and other plastic waste, and of the massive amounts of plastic found inside deceased sea and bird life.

Yet, despite us knowing the harmful, and irreparable, effects of plastic waste, our plastic obsession continues.

It is true that Canberrans are the among the best recyclers in Australia. According to the 2018 National Waste Report, of the 1 million tonnes of plastic waste Canberrans produce each year, approximately 70 per cent is reused or recycled.

Here in the ACT, we are also able to recycle the paper component of disposable coffee cups. However, the plastic lining, the more harmful component of disposable cups, remains unrecyclable.

Whilst Canberra’s excellent recycling rate is commendable, if our goal is to minimise the harmful effects of waste on our environment, then it is far better to avoid single use items altogether.

 

The ACT has been at the forefront of plastic waste reduction in this country. The ACT’s plastic bag ban, introduced in 2011, has been incredibly successful in reducing our plastic waste.

According to the report handed down by the 2018 ‘Unfantastic Plastic’ review of the shopping bag ban, there has been, “a marked impact on the ACT’s consumption of single-use plastic bags” as a direct result of the ban’s implementation.

However, that same report noted that overall plastic consumption in the ACT continues to grow. Our total consumption of single-use plastics is returning to pre-ban levels.

Canberra’s ‘war on waste’ is far from over.

 

The Government’s recent released discussion paper, ‘Phasing out single-use plastics,’ and the accompanying proposal for a ban on single-use plastics is a promising step forward for our city.

But it’s important that we offer a tangible proposal for how to implement the policy ambitions.

 

Across the globe, the German city of Freiburg has pioneered one way to significantly reduce the use of single-use coffee cups.

For the cost of just 1 euro, customers can take their coffee away in a reusable Freiburg Cup. Customers can return their Freiburg Cup to participating businesses to get their 1 euro back.

The cups are then washed, disinfected, and reused. These cups can be reused up to 400 times, after which they are recycled.

This ingenious initiative has drastically reduced Freiburg’s coffee cup waste.

The Freiburg Cup has been a resounding success.

In fact, the scheme has been so effective in reducing waste, and so well received by the people of Freiburg, that the cities of Berlin and Munich have now both adopted similar schemes, implementing their own reusable coffee cup zones.    

But the people of Freiburg, Berlin, and Munich are not the only pioneers in reducing single use coffee cup use.

 

Here in Canberra, several environmentally conscious business owners and managers have now taken steps to reduce their business’ plastic waste.

Cafes such as Teddy Pickers in Campbell, and Little Oink in Cook, have already chosen to make the transition from plastic straws, utensils, and food containers to reusable, recyclable or biodegradable alternatives.

These businesses, as well as many others throughout Canberra, now give their customers the choice of taking their coffee away in a single use cup or in a reusable one.

Some cafes, such as Little Oink, have even gone a step further, offering their customers discounts for using reusable coffee cups.

Little Oink’s owner, Natalie Legg, has said that the community response to the change has been overwhelmingly positive, and that the extra cost has been well worth it.

These changes are extremely encouraging to see, and I strongly commend these businesses for their efforts.

 

In my electorate of Yerrabi, I am proud to say that there is one café whose efforts in reducing plastic waste truly stands out.

Back in 2017, Frankies at Forde made the decision to stop selling single use coffee cups altogether.

For almost two years now, Frankies has only sold their coffee in reusable cups, eliminating their use of disposable, single-use coffee cups.

Now, instead of handing over a disposable coffee cup when someone orders a coffee, the staff at Frankies ask them one simple question: “do you have time to drink that here?”.

Frankies’s owner, Mark, says most people, when they think about it, reply that they do.  The need for a disposable cup is gone.

For those that can’t take a seat to have their coffee, the staff then explain that Frankie’s does not have disposable coffee cups.

Rather, they have a ‘cup library’ from which you can grab a reusable cup. They just ask you to bring it back, so that they can wash and reuse it in the future. 

Mark says that almost everyone is happy with the proposition and only very, very rarely will someone raise an objection.

How has making this change impacted Frankies business?

Well, Mark has said that going plastic and single-use free has only improved his business.

In fact, he has said that “we’ve had a lot of new customers source us out because we are doing the right thing by the environment.”

 

The experience of Frankies, as well as other Canberra cafes moving away from single-use plastics, clearly demonstrates a willingness by both Canberra businesses and consumers to make the transition to environmentally friendly practises.

Frankies is a brilliant example of how well going single-use free can work.

I cannot commend them enough for their work.

However, while one café is good, many would be even better.

 

That is why I am calling on the ACT Government to work with local businesses and organisations over the next six months to develop an Implementation Strategy for a Reusable Coffee Cup Zone trial in Gungahlin.

I am calling for a consultative strategy because I believe that participating businesses should be given a say in how the scheme is developed and adjusted to best suit the needs of Canberra.

This is essential for the long-term success of the scheme.

Developing the scheme in consultation with participating businesses will help ensure that the resulting scheme and implementation strategy is tailored to meet the needs of the Canberra community and our local businesses.

It will ensure that the trial is both effective in reducing waste, and supportive of our small, local businesses.

Once the strategy is finalised by the end of this year, my motion calls for the trial to commence in the first half of next year.

Establishing a reusable coffee cup zone will simultaneously achieve significant, meaningful change and support our local businesses.

It will be up to businesses to opt-in to the trial and based on the response I have already received from businesses right across Gungahlin, I am confident it will be a success.

Yes, making the transition away from disposable, single-use plastics to reusable, environmentally friendly alternatives can be costly, both for businesses and consumers.

That is why I am proposing a model like the Freiburg Cup scheme.

Under this model, the ACT Government would purchase a supply of reusable cups to be distributed to businesses within the reusable coffee cup zone.

Instead of using disposable cups, or requiring customers to purchase their own reusable cups, businesses will then loan these cups to their customers.

Just like with the Freiburg Cups, these cups can then be returned to participating businesses to then be washed, disinfected, and reused again and again.

I note that the Freiburg scheme encourages customers to return Freiburg Cups to businesses by charging a small, 1 euro, deposit, which customers are then refunded upon returning their cup.

This is something that can be considered during the development of the implementation strategy.

By implementing this model, we can eliminate waste from disposable, single-use coffee cups in the Gungahlin region.

What’s more, we can do so without imposing costs on local businesses.

By providing businesses with reusable cups to loan to their customers we will take the burden off of local small businesses, and take the onus off of customers to purchase their own reusable cups – and to remember to bring them.   

 

I believe that the Gungahlin region is an ideal location for the trial of a reusable cup zone. The success of Frankies at Forde clearly shows that consumers in the Gungahlin region are interested in more environmentally friendly practises and are keen to do what they can to reduce their overall waste output.

My discussions with constituents and local businesses in Gungahlin have further proven this.

Aside from Frankies, two other local cafes in the Gungahlin Town Centre have shown a strong interest in, and enthusiasm for, establishing a reusable coffee cup zone in the Gungahlin region.

Atlas and Sunday in Canberra have already taken steps to reduce their waste, and to transition to more environmentally friendly practices, with great success.

They are now eager to make their businesses even more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

All three of these cafes – Frankies at Forde, Atlas, and Sunday in Canberra – have made clear to me their great excitement at the prospect of a reusable cup zone in Gungahlin.

The people of Gungahlin want to see more environmentally friendly practises in their region, and many of Gungahlin’s local businesses are interested and willing to make the change.

They just need the support and certainty that a reusable coffee cup zone will provide, both to businesses and consumers.

 

Here in the ACT, we are fortunate enough to live surrounded by our beautiful natural environment and wildlife.

Our massive and excessive levels of waste, particularly plastic waste, is incredibly harmful to that environment. The evidence on this clear and irrefutable.

It’s important that we recognise that where there is plastic and wastage, there is a change to be made; and it means taking meaningful, tangible action to make those changes.

The ACT must continue to lead the way in sustainability, and plastic and waste reduction.

It is time for us to address, and meaningfully tackle, the waste produced by disposable, single-use coffee cups.

This motion, with the support of the Government, will be another vital step forward for ACT Labor in honouring, and increasing our commitment to environmental sustainability.

 

I encourage all Members to join me in taking this important step, and in continuing to identify other meaningful ways to reduce plastic use and waste in the ACT.

I commend the motion to the Assembly.