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Coffee Cup Waste Statistics in Australia

Australia loves coffee, so it’s no wonder Aussies start their mornings with a cup of freshly brewed coffee and hit their local favourite on their way to work. Yet there is a tragedy of the commons on coffee cups that many don’t realise:

Paper cups are slowly piling up in landfills and polluting the environment.

Research suggests that while paper cups are marketed as recyclable and environmentally friendly, their lining is made of 5% polyethylene plastic. The non-biodegradable lining keeps the cup from turning soggy and helps retain heat in your beverage.

However, most recycling facilities cannot filter out the plastic lining. That means most paper cups still end up in Australian landfills, not to mention coffee grounds or coffee pods that end up in landfill. 

Read on to learn about the real impact of coffee cup waste and how using recyclable cups can curb Australia’s rising coffee cup waste statistics.

Coffee Cup Waste: In Numbers

The only problem with disposable cups is that they are designed to last only for a single use. A lot of energy and resources go into making them, but we only use a paper cup for several minutes before discarding them.

Coffee cups remain Australia’s second-largest waste product after plastic bottles. Statistics show that Australians throw out 50,000 cups every 30 minutes, accounting to 2.7 million disposable cups daily and 1.2 billion coffee cups thrown out yearly.

Coffee Cup in Landfills

As discussed, many recycling plants cannot filter out the 5% Polyethylene lining that retains heat and cup structure. Thus, 90% of discarded coffee cups with up to 60,000 kg of plastics per annum end up in Australia’s landfills.

WWF estimates that in 2022, Aussies will generate roughly 22,500 tonnes of coffee cup waste annually. With every cup weighing around 12 grams, that’s equivalent to approximately 3,500 cups per minute or 1.84 billion paper cups per year.

Moreover, disposable coffee cups are usually made with plastic-lined virgin paper. If you consider the plastic lid, coffee cups contribute 2000 more tonnes of plastic into landfills.

Even paper cups marketed as recycled only account for 10% recycled paper and 90% virgin paper. Not only does this make coffee cups harmful when littered, it also makes production resource-intensive.

Impacts of Reducing Coffee Cups

The same WWF study indicated that reducing Australia’s coffee cup consumption by less than 30% will have the following impact to its environment and economy:

  • Up to AU$104 million in savings to local businesses (by encouraging customers to use recyclable cups);
  • About 11,250 tonnes of paper tree timber for virgin paper materials;
  • 1,650 tonnes of plastic for lining and coffee cup lids;
  • Significant CO2 emission savings by reducing production and transportation of disposable cups.

Are Coffee Cups Recyclable?

Paper mills can easily remove most pollutants during the repulping cycle and clean out residues in recycling. However, the fine screen in coarse pulping clogs if plastic cup liners break down into relatively large flakes.

Instead of regularly unclogging plastic liners from pulping screens, it’s more practical to dispose of plastic-lined paper cups in landfills. The same holds true for compostable cups containing very thin plastic lining. The polyethylene layer can break down into microplastics and pollute the soil and seawater when composted or drained into the ocean.

By far, the WWF recommends reducing over recycling of disposable cups. Promoting reusable cups can increase re-use rates by up to 250% without affecting beverage sales.

The same WWF research suggested that the best way to promote reusing is by giving discounts to customers using reusables and charging extra for disposable cups. This approach can increase re-use rates to 42% without harming your profits!

However, transitioning towards reusing is a slow yet progressive movement. Your immediate actions include partnering with a proactive rubbish removal company that commits to curbing as much trash from landfills as possible.


The tragedy of the commons is evident in Australia’s coffee cup waste problem. Every day, landfills fill up with more paper cups, and plastic-lined disposables are breaking down in oceans, polluting them with harmful microplastics.

As the statistics rise yearly, the urgency for an effective solution against coffee cup waste also becomes imminent.

Keeping waste issues in Australia manageable is one of our responsibilities at Paul’s Rubbish Removal. Let us safely and efficiently eliminate paper cup waste as you transition toward reusable coffee cups.

For more information about coffee cups and waste collection services, call us at 0407 125 125 or email us at info@paulsrubbish.com.au.

Sarah Ann

Sarah Ann

Sarah Ann is a Digital Content Writer for Paul's Rubbish Removal. Sarah is a huge advocate for recycling, environmental sustainability, health and well-being and has a genuine love for all sea animals. Keep up with Sarah by following Paul's Rubbish Removal blog!

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