Science and Engineering


19 February 2018

Australians sip their way through a staggering 1 billion disposable cups of coffee each year, including over half a million cups consumed by coffee-loving students and staff at QUT in Brisbane. But, despite good intentions, if you throw paper coffee cups into yellow-topped recycling bins you’re committing a recycling ‘FAIL’.

The cup recycling tube.
The recycling tube.

Paper cups aren’t recyclable through normal channels because they are lined with polyethylene (or a similar plastic-like coating) that makes it difficult for water to separate the cups’ paper fibres in a standard paper recycling facility.

From this week – to coincide with the start of semester – QUT coffee drinkers at Gardens Point campus can take part in a national recycling program.

The university has joined Australia’s first dedicated coffee cup recycling program, Simply Cups, which aims to collect 100 million coffee cups – enough to kick off a dedicated coffee cup recycling plant.

The university’s retailers sell around 586,100 cups of coffee (and other hot beverages) across QUT each year, with most of those cups ending up in landfill.

QUT’s Campus Services and Sustainability Manager, Naomie Hewitt, now hopes many will make it into Gardens Point's new coffee cup recycling tubes and bins and be passed on to Simply Cups.

“We want students and staff to ‘flip, tip and slip’,” she said.

“Flip the lid into the recycling bin, tip out any coffee left in the cup, and slip the empty cup into the collection tube – or toss it into the big coffee cup bin.”

Recyling points will include the tubes and extra coffee-cup shaped bins. They can be found at Z Block (Level 4 near Gerbino's Cafe), P Block (Level 3 near the QUT Bookshop Cafe), Artisans at D Block and Merlo at V Block.


“The collection tubes and bins accept all types of disposable coffee cups – it doesn’t matter what brand or size,” Ms Hewitt said.

“If the Gardens Point trial is successful we hope to introduce collection points at our Kelvin Grove campus within approximately six months.”

Simply Cups is run in Australia by Closed Loop Environment Solutions, which already has ANZ, Qantas and 7-Eleven on board as recycling location partners. 

Closed Loop is currently planning the construction of a dedicated cup recycling plant to separate paper and plastic materials to be used in the manufacturing of new products.

Media contacts:
- Mechelle McMahon, QUT media officer,
- Rose Trapnell, QUT media team leader, / 0407 585 901


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    Brisbane QLD
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    Brisbane QLD 4001