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Coffee Cup Waste Statistics Australia (2024)

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by All Gone Admin

Every year, Australians throw away approximately 1.84 billion single-use coffee cups—most of which fill up landfills and oceans. By coffee cups, that includes their plastic lids, polluting waterways and oceans at a rate estimated to triple by 2040

With those figures and forecasts in mind, the government, local businesses, and consumers are shifting away from single-use plastics and adopting reusable containers, along with other initiatives.

We brought together the latest coffee cup waste statistics to help businesses make actionable decisions and make a difference by doing their part and implementing proper waste removal initiatives.

How Your Morning Coffee Habit Impacts the Environment

The latest Australian Plastics Flows & Fates Study reported that the average Australian produces 62.2 waste coffee cups annually. That’s equivalent to 22,660 million tonnes of coffee cups by weight and 1.6 billion pieces of coffee cups discarded every year!

Moreover, hot and cold cups (including their lids) are the second most consumed type of waste material, just behind expanded polystyrene (EPS) food trays and void fillers.

It’s safe to say that takeaway coffee cups that get used for a few minutes go a long way into our landfills and waterways. Because they are lined with very thin plastic, they are not biodegradable and are not readily recyclable.

Furthermore, an environmental initiative, Clean Up, reported that over 10% of rubbish that they pick up over successive clean-up activities is plastic-lined coffee cups.

The fact that they aren’t recyclable increases their threat to the environment.

Why Coffee Cups are a Recycling Nightmare

Coffee cups may look like paper on the outside. But as we’ve repeated over and over in this article, they contain plastics that do not decompose and may become harmful to the environment. 

Biodegradable cup manufacturer Biopak estimated that roughly 90% of all disposable beverage cups end up in landfills.

Moreover, plastics that find their way into oceans are the biggest problem for global pollution. These plastics are non-biodegradable and break down into microplastics, which get eaten by marine creatures, which we eventually consume as food.

Throwing away coffee cups in recycling bins won’t do any good either. Since they cannot be efficiently processed in paper recycling mills, they could contaminate bins with high-value plastic or paper.

That means the whole lot has to go into landfills.

What the Youth Has to Say About Coffee Cup Waste

When it comes to the Millennials' voice about adopting sustainable coffee cup options, research by Vorwerk & Nilsson suggested that entertainment-education platforms effectively motivate the youth to make the shift.

War on Waste, a popular environmental documentary aired in 2017, was pivotal in educating the youth about adopting and maintaining BYO reusable cups.

Before the documentary aired, the study reported that 46% of Millennials thought that disposable coffee cups could be recycled. But after the documentary aired, the survey results dropped to 34%, educating its viewers about the reality of recycling coffee cups.

Furthermore, BYO reusable coffee cups saw a 400% increase in sales within one week after the series aired, strongly indicating a rapid shift in lifestyle as more Millennials and younger consumers understand the potential harm of disposable coffee cups.

The long-term study strongly indicated the influence of entertainment-education platforms and how they can leverage media and social media to spearhead sustainable changes in consumption and lifestyle.

Waste Prevention Initiatives: Coffee Cups Curbed from Landfills

Reporting waste prevention statistics is still in its infancy in the country. However, several government-funded initiatives are committed to preventing coffee cups from ending up in landfills.

Dedicated recycling programs also joined the action and have been recycling coffee and hot beverage cups for over a decade.

Simply Cups, a waste recycling initiative by Closed Loop, accepts coffee cups, hot beverage cups, takeaway soft drink cups, and any type of paper-based cups for recycling. As of January 5, 2024, the initiative has over 1,500 collection points and collected over 41,664,510 cups.

You can check for nearby coffee cup collection points and actively participate in the initiative.

Waste cups collected from the initiative are transformed into useful materials, such as asphalt, concrete utility slabs, garden beds, and concrete mounting blocks.

Additionally, the latest National Waste Report (2022) reported that environmental initiatives as a whole have prevented 22.8 kilotonnes of coffee cups by promoting reusable and refillable cups along with sustainable packaging (Responsible Cafes 2022, Dirt Company 2022, Green Cafeen 2022).


Eliminating coffee cups from landfills is still a fever dream at this point. Despite that, Australia is making a massive difference in its waste situation by promoting and incentivising initiatives, empowering businesses to switch to reusable and sustainable packaging, and educating people and consumers about the reality of coffee cup recycling.

You can also make a difference at home by making sure your household waste is recycled as much as possible. Start by calling a rubbish removal provider in Sydney, Central Coast or Newcastle who is actively involved in responsible waste disposal and recycling.
Talk to us at 0480 047 806 to learn more.

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