Keep cups are allowed in cafes again but not all consumers are back on board

Do you use reusable coffee cups?

As a daily coffee consumer it has come to my attention that using disposable coffee cups from cafes has become the norm again.

When COVID-19 restrictions was in full swing in WA, cafes were advised not to accept reusable coffee cups.

It was a small sacrifice to consumers but a step backwards on the environmental front.

However, since phase 4 restrictions have come into effect on June 27, the WA state government guidelines stated 'There is currently no evidence to suggest there is any benefit in switching to disposable single use food and beverage containers, cutlery and crockery'.

So have we switched back?

At the moment it is a mixed answer, The Mail called six different cafes which ranged in locations from Mandurah, Bunbury, Busselton and Augusta.

Each cafe said yes they were accepting reusable coffee cups again.

But the amount of customers that were bringing the reusable cups into their cafes was different.

Some said their regular customers started back with the reusable cups as soon as they could while the others said they hadn't seen many at all.

Precious Plastics Margaret River founder Narelle said the organisation has seen first hand how the impact of the COVID-19 restrictions on the generation of single-use plastic waste.

"The restrictions have caused a (re)introduction of single use plastic in many aspects of daily life," she said.

"There is no argument that, during restrictions, the need to look after the environment has been second in priority to the need to ensure the health and safety of our fellow Australians."

"We need both to teach people the right way again, as people easily will revert to what is easy but reluctantly to what is right, if it requires more effort."

The Shire of Augusta Margaret River said told the Mail that its messaging about of using reuseable cups did not change despite businesses stopping the use of them due to COVID restrictions.

Before COVID-19 restrictions were in place, the City of Bunbury created a Responsible Cafe program which aims to connect cafes to environmentally conscious consumers to help reduce the waste generated by disposable cups and lids going to landfill.

As part of being a member of the program, businesses receive help with establishment fees, offer tips on how to provide contactless coffee, provide customised posters and a certificate to display.

The city promoted this program on their social media outlets when phase 4 restrictions came into effect.

City of Busselton manager of environmental services Tanya Gillett said the city had not promoted the use of reusable coffee cups as a way to reduce landfill since the pandemic was declared.

"Nor do we have information on whether there remains any risk associated with their use," she said.

"We do however, respect people's individual choice at this time and trust that the rates of disposable coffee cup usage will decline as the threat of the Coronavirus continues to lessen."

There are other regulations for food and licensed businesses that people may have forgotton or don't know about.

These include:

  • Rinse hands under running water and dry hands with a clean towel, or fresh paper towel.
  • There should be a minimum distance of 1.5m between each table or different groups of patrons
  • Patrons are required to self-regulate their distancing at the table.
  • There is no requirement for businesses to determine which patrons are from the same household and regulate physical distancing at the table.
  • Businesses can consider limiting shared utensils and items to avoid the risk of contamination.
  • There is currently no need to wear gloves or masks, other than as part of the business' normal food safety practices
  • PPE may be worn, but can provide a false sense of security. To reduce the risk of transmission effectively, PPE must be used, worn and removed correctly.
  • There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted through food or prepared food products, there is a low likelihood of catching COVID-19 from food packaging that has been moved, travelled and exposed to different conditions and temperatures.

For more information about the current COVID-19 restrictions, visit wa.gov.au