A major service station chain is in hot water with environmental groups after banning reusable coffee cups from its stores.
Petrol giant On The Run is instead telling staff to sell hot drinks in single-use disposable cups, citing food safety concerns and possible cross-contamination.
The company has more than 100 stores across South Australia.
“Using ‘keep cups’ or other food containers brought to the site is a food safety risk,” On The Run reportedly told staff.
“We cannot control contaminants such as bacteria, mould, viruses or foreign objects which may be present.”
The move has been described as “ridiculous” by one environmental advocate. It comes at a time when many coffee shops are offerings discounts and other incentives for customers to bring their own reusable cups.
Jon Dee, founder of the DoSomething Foundation, told the Adelaide Advertiser that there are no health regulations anywhere in Australia that are stopping people using reusable cups.
“Banning reusable cups is a ridiculous move by OTR,” he said. “It goes against what all the other major coffee shop chains and service stations are doing throughout Australia and around the world.
“Thousands of other coffee businesses have no issue with reusable cups. This is not the South Australian way. SA has always led the way on the environment … This move is going in totally the wrong direction.”
Mr Dee has even called on the state government to stop the ban.
SA Health has confirmed it has no policy or regulation that impacts reusable cups.
A spokesperson for On The Run said the decision has been made in the interest of customers’ health and wellbeing, particularly those who are vulnerable to food contamination.
“OTR is subject to stringent food safety laws which also contain health and hygiene obligations for food handlers with the aim to lower the incidence of foodborne illness,” the company said.
Are reusable coffee cups a health risk? Petrol giant On the Run believes they are and has banned them from its 100+ stores https://t.co/okYNGcODp8
— Simon Wilkinson (@Simon_food) June 4, 2018
The real cost of coffee
In a 2016 report by the ABC, Australians were reportedly throwing away an estimated one billion disposable coffee cups every year, equating to over 60,000kg of plastic waste.
With many coffee cups made for one-time uses, disposable plastic cups can last up to 50 years in landfill, according to sustainable cup manufacturer KeepCup, adding extra pressure to Australia’s waste management services.
With many cafés offering incentives and freebies to entice customers to go green, consumers will ultimately have the final say in the coffee cup debate.