Us Australians love our coffee. We're famous for our cafe culture the world over, and boy do we take it seriously. We have leading industry bodies, like the Australian Specialty Coffee Association, and Melbourne is set to be the host of the 2020 World Barista Championships. Speaking of the Victorian capital, not many people realise that McCafé (yes, the cafe franchise belonging to American fast food giant McDonald's) was conceptualised and launched in Melbourne.
But what impact does our coffee drinking have on the environment? In 2016, it was estimated that Australians used 1 billion disposable coffee cups each year. These take away cups end up in landfill and, although most disposable cups look like they're made of paper, it's the plastic lining coating the cups that's causing problems for the eco-system. Paper and cardboard degrade and eventually disappear, but plastic is an unwanted guest - sticking around long after it has served its primary purpose. To combat this waste, people are turning to the reusable coffee cup for salvation. But when did these travel coffee mugs become so popular? And who is responsible for the best reusable coffee cup in Australia?
When did reusable cups get so popular?
With the rise of coffee culture in Australia came the rise of disposable coffee cups, and the popularity of inexpensive home espresso machines that run on K Cup pods. One of the first ever reusable coffee cup brands (and the world's first barista standard reusable cup) was Keep Cup, designed right here in Australia. The brand name has actually become synonymous with reusable coffee cups whether they are Keep Cup made or not, such is the success of the company. Jamie and Abigail Foster started their cafe business in Melbourne in the late 1990s, and soon it was only too apparent that they were unable to recycle conventional take away coffee cups. The conventional cups were lined with polyethylene and were destined for landfill. So in 2007, Jamie and Abigail began producing their first Keep Cups, and the brand is now used in more than 65 countries today.
Why do people use reusable coffee cups?
It is so easy to end up feeling overwhelmed and utterly depressed about the state of the planet. The damage that humanity has done to the environment is phenomenal, and those who end up paying the immediate price are indigenous communities (who are often forced to leave their homes due to deforestation and mining) and animals. With Facebook and Instagram showing us floating 'trash islands', and the news running stories about the extinction of species, we end up feeling so useless. What can one person do to help the environment, when their actions alone are like one drop in an ocean?
Cue a reusable mug or cup. Even though there is only so much one person can do alone, for a frequent coffee drinker, a reusable cup or travel mug can mean less waste on a personal level. It may not seem like much, but if everyone in the world changed their mindset and moved away from single-use items and plastic packaging - how much would our planet stand to benefit!
Will Australia ever banned disposable cups?
It may seem like a drastic move, but perhaps the take-away coffee cup ban is closer than we think. Australia is already trying to phase out single-use plastic bags, with our two biggest supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths axing the bags mid way through 2018. Why shouldn't disposable cups be next? South Australia is the leading state in litter (they've had a plastic bag ban and bottle return scheme in place since 1977) and now the state government is currently considering banning single-use plastic products. The ACT government is currently considering doing the same, so it isn't inconceivable that non-recyclable coffee cups could be banned in the near future.
The benefits of using a reusable coffee cup
There are many advantages that come with using a reusable coffee cup, and most of them make a positive impact on the environment
You won't be throwing a hybrid plastic/paper cup in the bin every time you have a coffee
Most reusable cups come with a tight fitting lid that keeps your beverage securely inside, whereas anyone who has ever tried to remove the flimsy lid of a take-away cup knows that you always risk burning yourself.
Some cafes charge you a little less if you bring your own reusable cup.
It's fun to express your style with an accessory, and the wide variety of reusable cup designs means you can do just that with your morning coffee.
Reusable coffee cups come in all kinds of forms - glass, ceramic, stainless steel, cork, you name it and there is probably a coffee cup made from it right now! Check out our list of some of the best reusable coffee cups available for purchase in Australia.
The Best Reusable Coffee Cups Available in Australia
1. Keep Cup
Overview: Keep Cup, the original reusable coffee cup brand!
Materials Used: Tempered glass and sustainably sourced cork
Why We Love Them: We especially love Keep Cup because you shop for replacement parts. Buying an entirely brand new Keep Cup would outweigh the purpose of having one in the first place, so Keep Cup allow you to order replacement bands, plugs or lids.
Price: A small cup costs $30, a medium $32 and a large $34
2. Frank Green
Overview: Frank Green produce stylish and functional reusable coffee and tea cups. The outer layer acts like a thermos, keeping your beverage hot and your hands cool.
Materials Used: Recyclable materials which are BPA free and non-toxic
Why We Love Them: Frank Green is responsible for the multi-award winning SmartCup - a cup that allows you to pay for your coffee! If your local café has CafePay, you can tap your lid on the card reader and go. Now that's the future.
Price: From $32.95
3. Upper Cup
Overview: Uppercup are an Australian made company who make both reusable coffee cups and water bottles.
Materials Used: Highest quality, BPA Free Eastman Tritan copolyester (so your cup won't retain smell and is will be safe for the dishwasher)
Why We Love Them: Uppercup cups come with an insulated wall, so your beverage stays at your desired temperature. Uppercup also design, operate and manufacture in Australia all within a 25 km radius. They employ families and directly support and employ women who come from a refugee background.
Price: A small cup is $22.50, a medium cup is $25 and a large cup is $27.50
4. Pottery For The Planet
Overview: Pottery for the Planet make stunning handmade, limited edition reusable coffee cups.
Materials Used: Vitrified ceramic, with a 100% silicone lid.
Why We Love Them: The reusable cups that Pottery for the Planet produce are incredibly beautiful - each is slightly unique in each's own way.
Price: From $25.00
5. Cupy Cup
Overview: Cupy is responsible for producing Australia's first barista standard collapsible coffee cup!
Materials Used: Cupy cups are BPA free and come with a silicon lid
Why We Love Them: Cupy cups are perfect for people who are always on the go! Just collapse one and chuck it in your gymbag, handbag, luggage or rucksack.
Price: From $22.95
6. Ecoffee Cup
Overview: Ecoffee is a UK based brand, but they gladly ship their wares to Australia and New Zealand.
Materials Used: Bamboo fibre
Why We Love Them: A reusable coffee cup made from bamboo fibre? Thats what's on offer at Ecoffee. Bamboo fibre is the fastest growing, most sustainable crop available, and its naturally sterile so you won't get that nasty after taste. They are dishwasher safe, BPA and phthalate free and there are more vibrant patterns than you can shake a stick at.
Price: From $17.95