Category Updates

Coffee Nation

We all know that Ireland has experienced a coffee boom over the last decade.  Historically, a nation of tea drinkers, our shift in hot beverage choices has led to over 30 variations of coffee being served in some coffee shops.  It isn’t that long ago that poor quality filtered coffee was the only post-dinner offering in most restaurants and every house in the country was happy to drink instant from a jar.  But thanks to both multinational coffee chains and individually owned artisan coffee boutiques opening across the country, our palettes have become more refined and the average consumer will not accept anything but the best.

The last 12 months has seen huge changes within the coffee industry and, in particular, the takeaway kind.  With the Coffee Shop and Café sector worth €424m at the end of 2017 and an estimated 200 million single-use cups being thrown away each year, it was time for a change!  The topic of a levy or all-out ban on single use plastics started on the back of the popular BBC programme, Blue Planet 2, aired in December 2017 with Sir David Attenborough highlighting the impact of human activity on marine life.  Since then, consumers and retailers alike are conscious of the environment and the effect single use disposable packaging has on it.

Whilst compostable (Polylactic Acid) PLA single use cups, plates and containers made from sugar cane and compostable cutlery have been around for years, customers and consumers were slow to change due to the increased cost of these products.  On average a compostable version of a product will cost 25% more than the traditional non-compostable version.

That said, the last 12 months has seen a seen a huge shift with outlets being asked for eco-friendly packaging along with certain events and festivals banning the use of non-certified compostable packaging being served.   Such is the demand for eco-friendly disposables, that certain products such as compostable paper straws could not be sourced last summer as manufacturers struggled to keep up with demand.  Innovation in disposable packaging has been most accelerated in the last year. Takeaway boxes, salad and soup containers, deli packaging and juice cups are just some of the newer products now available in 100% compostable materials. And this is just the start, as we feel that most disposable packaging will eventually have a compostable variant available in the near future.

More recently, the Irish Government has made a statement that they are no longer purchasing single use plastic cups, cutlery and straws.  They are looking to lead the way in limiting the use of single use plastics, therefore, the purchase of such plastics will be banned for all Government agencies and schools from March 31st 2019.

However, there is still a long way to go with regard to disposing of compostable products.  At this point in time, there are no on-street facilities to dispose of compostable cups or other such items, so these end up in general waste.  Until such time when a Government investment in public street bins for compostable items is in place, one would have to ask themselves, is the effort to switch to compostable nothing more than an extra cost to customers and consumers?

The majority of waste management companies offer Commercial Composting facilities for products placed in the food waste bin (generally a brown bin) at home or in businesses.  While this sounds like we are on the right track to becoming a greener country, a recent statement from Pauline McDonagh of the Southern Region Waste Management office in Limerick, said that “About 100% of all coffee cups which arrive in recycling facilities get pulled from the sorting trays over concerns that they are not recyclable”.   Understandably, the people sorting the waste don’t have the time to stop and check every cup and its recycling capability.  Therefore, it would appear, that until every disposable cup is 100% compostable or there are dedicated bins widely available to dispose of them, then the chance of them being recycled is slim.

Catering Disposables supply an extensive range of disposable cups and accessories including a 100% compostable range.  We are also specialists in branding and design collaboration.  So, if you are looking for unique packaging that will stand out from the crowd, contact us today to speak with one of our design experts.  Tel: +353 1 257 5250 / Email: info@cateringdisposables.ie.

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