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Switching problematic ‘compostables’ for reusables

Students take action on single-use cups after discovering that the ‘eco’ cups used at their school are PLA lined.

After completing a beach survey as part of the Litter Intelligence Education Programme, year 3 and 4 students from Waiheke’s Te Huruhi School decided to reuse the disposable coffee cups that were prominent on their local beach. The cups were labelled ‘compostable’, so students decided to grow a ​​kākano (seed) in each cup before planting into the garden for Matariki. As tree planting is essential for the health of our freshwater environments, which eventually lead to the sea, it was a great connection for the students to make. 

However, further research and advice from WRT Compost Co and Waiheke Transfer Station revealed that because the cups were PLA-lined, they needed to be sent to a commercial-composting facility to break down.

The students saw this as an opportunity, not an obstacle, and learnt how to write persuasive letters: one to Gulf News to highlight the problem; one to the eco cup company, asking them to clarify their marketing to ensure people understand how to compost their product; and to Keep Cup asking for a discount — which Keep Cup provided!

Instead of waiting for the institutions around them, students took direct action: they now collect recycled jars fitted with a sleeve made from an odd sock to repurpose as coffee cups at the school coffee cart. Can you take action on your local plastic problem through letter-writing or by instituting new systems yourself?

Food containers
Prevention, Reduction, Product Design, Education
Switching problematic ‘compostables’ for reusables