Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Coffee without a footprint: Killarney’s ban of single-use cups hailed a success beyond all expectations

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Fifty businesses have embraced the initiative, with rubbish bags down by 30pc in some cases

It is hoped that the initiative will remove more than one million single-use cups from local waste-disposal systems

Nearly four months later, the move to become a disposal cup-free town has sparked a colourful revolution. The local community has embraced the initiative to exclusively use recyclable cups.

The Killarney Coffee Cup Project started off as an agreement between 25 coffee shops, cafes and hotels in the area. It was expected that this would contribute significantly to reducing 18.5 tonnes of rubbish from the local municipal waste network.

Since July 31, Killarney’s coffee shops and hotels have said goodbye to single-use, disposable coffee cups.

All participating coffee shops agreed to a collective deposit system by partnering with 2GoCup.

Now, when people want a takeaway coffee from a cafe or hotel, they will have to bring their own cup or pay a €2 deposit for a reusable cup. The €2 is reimbursed when the cup is returned to any coffee shop or local business signed up to the initiative.

Killian Treacy owns Luna Deli + Wine and is one of the key figures behind the transformation.

A clean-up of Killarney National Park in June yielded around 6,000 disposable cups. Stock image

Recalling the days before the initiative, Mr Treacy said: “Before it was put in place, you would always notice some evidence of a single-use cup, whether it’s the cup itself or just the lids. This has effectively been eradicated overnight.

“It has definitely surpassed our expectations. We went from 14 shops during our first meeting to 50 businesses, which includes coffee shops, restaurants and hotels. Having such an increased level of participants is great.

“Any time I talk to locals about it, they have nothing but positive things to say. They are so proud of where they are from. This initiative isn’t something to be ashamed of. I am so proud of it.

It has cut down litter and it’s fantastic to see that

“Not many people in the world can say they live on the doorstep of a 26,000-acre national park, so we thought it could be a really nice thing to do, to give back to the town that’s given us so much.”

Mr Treacy said that the 20c latte levy on disposable cups, introduced by the Government to curb daily dumping, played a crucial role in making recyclable cups in Killarney a reality.

Local councillor Martin Grady said more than 90pc of businesses are participating in the project and that the result of this is evident in public bins.

“This has been very positive,” he said. “It is working well – it has cut down litter and it’s fantastic to see that.

Alice Thompson, Brehon Hotel, Killarney and Alan Oliver, Lir Cafe, handing in their disposable coffee cups in Killarney town centre, Co Kerry. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan

“It’s a credit to the people of Killarney, our visitors and also businesses doing what they’ve done.”

Although the transition has reduced the town’s footprint, some people remain hesitant to jump on board.

Alan Oliver, owner of Lir Cafe, said. “We do lose a little bit of sales because people just don’t want to pay the €2 deposit. But we had to commit. It was worth doing.

“If we’re willing to knuckle down and everybody do it, the collective will win out.”

In June, shortly before the project started, Mr Oliver said a clean-up of Killarney National Park led to around 6,000 paper cups being picked up.

I believe it has a much bigger impact than not seeing single-use cups around us

“There’s been a massive difference in litter,” he said, “Even from our own business point of view, our rubbish bags are down about 30pc.

“We’re not sorry that we did this. This is a good initiative to get behind. It’s good for us. It’s good for our future, for our family, and for our children.”

Richard Ivan, owner of Curious Cat Cafe, said the positive impact of the project could “make people think of doing more” for their community.

“It’s a good starting point for people who wouldn’t be thinking of saving the planet,” Mr Ivan said.

“I’m going to push it as long as we can. I believe it has a much bigger impact than not seeing single-use cups around us.

“I hope this becomes an example for other towns around Ireland, and maybe Europe as a whole.”

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