Single-use takeaway cups 

Coffee cup

Storm in a coffee cup

Single-use takeaway cups and lids cannot be recycled at the University of Canterbury. This has changed because the end-point recycler in China will no longer accept them. This change applies to the whole of Christchurch.

The reason for this is because used takeaway cups contaminate the more valuable recyclable paper and cardboard with the remnant traces of leftover coffee, hot chocolate and tea. There are also problems with recycling the coating on the inside of the cups. Recycling from New Zealand is regularly audited and in some cases recycling with high levels of contamination are refused at the border and sent right back to New Zealand – at our cost. These shipments then have to be dumped in the landfill at yet another cost. Finally, the local plant in Canterbury is not able to identify and sort the plastic lids into the correct waste stream, given their small shape and size.
The barriers imposed by recycling processors combined with the lack of local technology to compost biodegradable cups has forced UC to change to disposing single-use takeaway cups. The first option for disposal is to send it to the Kate Valley landfill in North Canterbury, at a cost higher than that if the cups were put into the recycling.

If you need to dispose of a single-use takeaway cup and plastic lid, them in the landfill (red) bin, OR in the bins with blue hoods.

How to stop using single use takeaway cups

The optimal solution to this problem is to reduce the number of single-use takeaway cups being disposed of on campus altogether.

These cups were not used at all on campus for decades and coffee, tea, and hot chocolate drinkers coped perfectly well without them. Single-use takeaway cups aren’t essential to our way of life and the UC community can work together to do something about this. The biggest positive impact we can have on this problem is to stop using single-use takeaway cups altogether. Here are some tips on how to do that;
bring your own mug or cup to campus – just make sure it is the right size to fit under an espresso machine.
Buy a reusable takeaway cup. Ask at all of the cafes on campus if they sell these cups and if they discount the price of coffee served reusable cups.
Sit down with friends and enjoy a leisurely coffee served in a china cup.
If you are worried about coffee or hot chocolate dregs leaking out into your bag, rinse the cup in one of the local water fountains dotted around campus.

What about bio-ware or compostable takeway cups?

A logical solution to this problem is to insist that all single-use takeaway cups sold on campus are made out of compostable or biodegradable materials. The difficulty with this option is that local composting facilities cannot accept these cups because they have to be composted at a very high temperature. None of the regional composting facilities provide these essential conditions to rot the cups down.

What can I continue to recycle?

You can continue to recycle the following items:

  • Plastic cups
  • Plastic bottles
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Clean Aluminium and tin/steel cans
  • Clean, empty plastic supermarket bags (but no other plastic bags)
  • Milk bottles
  • Shrink wrap and bale wrap
  • Small amounts of other metal
  • No Food - put in the Organics/Green bins