(almost) zero waste tea and coffee

Filed in Blog by on September 7, 2011 8 Comments
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Pesky disposable coffee cups

Pesky disposable coffee cups

How are you getting on during zero waste week?

As you might remember, Mr Green and I had a practise run last week as we were away from zero waste towers for a few days enjoying some Devon sea air.

It’s a challenge recycling on the go isn’t it? What with the disposable culture we live in, even getting a cup of coffee and a snack can be a landfill worry.

First there’s the individual plastic milk cartons, then the plastic stirrers (because stainless steel teaspoons are so last year I guess). Not to mention individually-wrapped plastic satchets of sauce to go with your meal…

While we were in Waitrose I spotted the take out coffee dispenser next to the door and I have to say I was pretty impressed. Ok, so you’ve got the pesky number 6 (polystyrene) lids for the cups and although the cups looked like cardboard they must have been waxed so I’m not sure if they were compostable.

However, everything else was pretty much zero landfill. The stirrers were wooden! The sugar was in paper sachets and the milk was in a large stainless steel jug! Even the teabags were just loose in a container for you to help yourself and the napkins seemed to be unbleached.

So overall this is a huge step in the right direction.

Have you visited any eating establishments worthy of a zero waste thumbs up on your travels?


Thumbs up to Waitrose, doing their bit for zero waste

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (8)

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  1. Happy to say that for one of my last events, (The GREEN SPACE community garden launch event) we purchased wooden cutlery, paper plates and cups made from plant cellulose plastic, which are supposedly biodegradeable (though ive heard alot of bio-d plastic just break down into little slivers and not much more!, perhaps you can shed some light on this!) Tea and coffe came from the kitchens normal facilities (paper bag sugar and tea bags in boxes, not indicudual sachets) and all the food was donated from local people (not all zero waste but I took all the re-useables off to the scrap-store!
    Also, Salisbury Art Center Cafe again use recycled paper napkins, wooden spoons etc and lots of lovely locval produce too!
    I think there is a huge increase in businesses trying to reduce their waste, If not for environmental but financial reasons, Though I wont complain about their reasoning, because whatever the motivation is, they’re making a good start!

  2. Juhli says:

    The best I have seen is also a coffee place near where I live in Atlanta. The same set up that you described plus a recycling bin for the appropriate trash items if you finish before you leave.

  3. since we do not go out dine or vacation, i decided to extend my zero waste efforts to those who do–i have been composing short messages for convenience stores (gas station/food/restaurant on the go) which flank the US highways.
    results may be minimal, but i do believe in the one at a time cause and effect…if one person responds to my “letter to the manager” then it has not been in vain.
    to the regional stores, i have asked for recycled paper napkins, as well as TP..and wooden stirrers. i also plan to contact the local high-school greens to encourage publicity for the stores which come forth.

  4. LJayne says:

    Our local sainsburys has given it’s coffee shop franchise to a starbucks. Not somewhere I would normally frequent as I only drink tea, not coffee and I think other places make it better! But it is a similar situation – wooden stirrers, paper sugar sachets and milk in one of those jugs.

    I’m working on the cafe at the music centre where my kids do music on a Saturday too. We have milk in a jug, real spoons (in a frequently changed cup of water to keep them clean) and will make people their drink in their own mug if they request it. We also provide our bacon sandwiches and hot dogs in napkins straight from the grill to the customer, so not even a waxed plate in sight 🙂

  5. Joddle says:

    Hey Mrs G – was the Waitrose dispenser in one of their supermarkets (sounds like a stupid question to ask) because the photo looks more like an office.

    I’m surprised they put the jug of milk out for you to help yourselves – thought they would be scared of contamination, health and safety and all that. I can’t imagine any other supermarkets letting you help yourself.

    The best thing about this coffee station is you are able to choose not to use the plastic lid

  6. Mrs Green says:

    @Michelle Morgan @ Eco-Centricity: Hi Michelle, yes I’ve heard bad things about ‘biodegradable’ plastics and personally steer clear of them due to the ‘tiny slivers’ issue. It sounds like there are some very positive changes going on near you – thanks for sharing 🙂

    @Juhli: Love the addition of the recycling bin – that’s excellent

    @nadine sellers: absolutely agree that if your letters reach one person then great change has been made. Thanks for being conscientious Nadine…

    @LJayne: love all those changes you are bringing into being at the music centre cafe Lesley.

    @Joddle: Right by the front door, Joddle – ready for customers next to the sandwiches. I was very surprised to see the jug too!

  7. Veronica says:

    And a note about wooden spoons and stirrers: If you have a wood burning stove at home you might like to take your used items back and use them as kindling! Also good for this are lolly sticks and ice cream spoons. I am not averse to bin diving so I have been known to grab other people’s discarded stirrers. I bung them in my cycle pannier, but you could also go about armed with little folded up plastic bags for just such a foraging occasion!

  8. Mrs Green says:

    @Veronica: Hi Veronica, thanks for your comment and for sharing a great tip. As wood stove users we can relate!

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