A New Life for Disposable Coffee Cups

  • 28 August 2020
  • Jacqui Allison

Our world is ever-changing, and an asphalt manufacturer and a green group in Australia are responding in an innovative way. 

Somewhere in western Sydney, a strip of asphalt stretches out in the hot afternoon sun. But this isn't any regular piece of asphalt; it's bound together using materials that have come from the paper, plastic, lids and liners of coffee cups that were once on their way to landfill. The gooey cellulose that holds a road's surface together is typically sourced from overseas. Bringing this home may help to reduce costs, along with the huge benefit of reducing waste. 

For months, loaded trucks have been driving back & forth over this strip of road, and so far, the surface has held up without cracking. It's also been through a machine test that flexes the product until it fails. It's done everything that it's meant to do, with John Kypreos, director of State Asphalt Services telling The Guardian "It's a better performance product than what we were producing before."

A strip of road incorporating coffee cups from the Simply Cups programme. Image sourced from The Guardian

It's top secret as to exactly how much of the asphalt was once part of a takeaway cup, but that's the "secret herbs and spices" of the project.

Creating net-positive waste is a simple idea - instead of burying waste in landfill, the raw materials are upcycled into new products. It's not only about keeping things out of landfill, but ensuring fewer new resources are consumed in the manufacturing of products to market. Less energy, less greenhouse gas emissions, less impact on our planet. This is also known as closing the loop, or creating a circular economy.

The big but: someone has to buy these recycled products. Without this, the loop hasn't successfully been closed. This is where the company, Closed Loop, have come in as a matchmaker of sorts - to pair up waste streams with companies that can do something about it. 

There isn't a set timeline (or at least, not a publicly available one) for the official launch of this fabulous new product, but here at The Coffee Company we are firm believers in recycling & reusing wherever possible, so we hope to see it pop up soon!

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