Cafes Are Banning Reusable Cups Because of COVID-19; Here’s How Responsible Cafes is Encouraging Reuse

Cafes Are Banning Reusable Cups Because of COVID-19; Here’s How Responsible Cafes is Encouraging Reuse

While many cafes across Australia have been holding off serving coffee in reusable cups for fear of spreading COVID-19, this precautionary measure was not broadly advised against or banned in most state or territory health departments – who confirm there’s no proven benefit for hospitality venues switching to disposables.

Responsible Cafes – a network of 5000 cafes across Australia striving to reduce waste and curb emissions – have responded to the call from waste-conscious cafes and customers across the country to help revive reusable cup use by creating the ‘contactless coffee’ method, which allows for zero contact of a barista with a customer’s reusable cup. The method is championed by author and activist Sarah Wilson, who is a passionate advocate for getting reusables back on the table as soon as possible.

Wilson says, “The collective ‘pause and reflect’ that isolation has imposed on us has seen many Australians gagging to get on with creating a better world on the other side. Simple consumer gestures, like reducing disposables, feels like a tangible, doable step.”

The abandonment of reusable cups due to COVID-19 virus concerns has stalled the growing movement away from disposables, triggered by ABC’s War on Waste, which has so far saved millions of cups from entering landfill.


Jo Horsley, General Manager of Responsible Cafes, says their initiative aims to show cafe staff and customers that with little effort, a contactless coffee is possible in just three steps:

  1. Sit reusable cup on porcelain saucer or napkin on a tray
  2. Make coffee in a porcelain ‘drink-in’ cup
  3. Transfer into the reusable cup without touching and hand back to customer via the plate

Horsley says, “As the Northern Territory prepares to be the first state to open hospitality venues, the rest of the country is looking to see how they lead the way in the practices they adopt to ensure patrons are safe.

“When it comes to advice on reusable cups, the Northern Territory government says there’s no evidence to suggest any benefit to single-use food and beverage containers, cutlery and crockery. The Ministry of Health in New Zealand have said the same.

Cafes across Australia are welcoming customers to bring their reusable cups back into play by using the ‘contactless coffee’ method, recognising the valuable contribution they make to reducing waste. In Australia, that’s to the tune of 2.7 million disposable cups per day.”

Related Post: 8 Chic Reusable Coffee Cups For The Stylish Environmentalist

She explains that depending on how a cafe is set up and the placement of their coffee machine, an alternative could simply be customers popping their reusable cup down on the counter and the barista pouring in the coffee shot from a drink-in cup and milk in after from the jug. As long as social distancing and proper hygiene is in practice, reusable cups can be a zero contact method of enjoying a coffee from your favourite cafe.

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Phil Dawson, Founder of Ruby Lane cafe said, “While it pained us to do so, we switched to compostable disposables in the early stages of the lockdown. But I had a lightbulb moment when I watched the barista pour the shot in from a ‘dosing cup’ and topping it up with milk without touching the cup, I thought ‘why don’t we do this for everyone?’ – and we have.

“In just three weeks the response has been amazing. I think we’re filling even more reusable cups than before the COVID-19 crisis, probably because we’re getting new customers who might be turned away from their regular cafes with reusables.”

Another option for cafes to reduce disposable cup use is a cup-swap scheme, such as HuskeeCup, where participating venues offer reusable cups to customers who return the cup on their next visit.

Related Post: Author Vanessa Pope on Helping Cafes and Coffee Lovers Transition to a Reusable and Plastic-Free Experience

Michael McFarlane, HuskeeSwap Operations Manager, said, “There’s a wavering confidence in reusables right now, driven by an understandable sensitivity around hygiene and cross contamination.

“Unlike an individually-owned reusable, HuskeeSwap customers receive a sanitised HuskeeCup every time they swap. That is, it’s pre-washed at a minimum temperature for a minimum duration. To limit person to person contact further you can designate a drop off area for customers and even add ‘HuskeeSwap’ as a modifier to your order ahead provider such as HeyYou.

This makes using reusables safe, more convenient for coffee drinkers, more efficient for cafes whilst offering a scalable alternative to single use cups.”

Horsley says, “If your cafe still isn’t comfortable to serve in a reusable cup, go without a lid on your disposable if you can. Even this small action taken by many can really add up and go a ways to reducing our single-use plastic use.”

This media release was submitted by The Bravery. All images supplied.

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