Why do cafes give disposable coffee cups to customers who dine in?

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I enjoyed a nice cappuccino this morning at a nearby cafe. I’d run out of milk and used this excuse to justify a cappuccino and a snack for breakfast, instead of a boring bowl of cereal and a cup of instant coffee.

When I ordered the coffee, I was given the option of three sizes, and the options of two containers; a mug or a disposable cup. I’d already told the waitress that I would be dining in, and I’d been handed my table number, but she still offered me a disposable cup.

I didn’t think much of it and took my seat. As I was flicking through a magazine, I saw other customers receive their coffees in disposable cups despite the fact that they were dining in, and I recalled other occasions when disposable cups had been offered or given to customers dining in.

Why?

I thought disposable cups were designed only for take away purposes, and only for people who are too lazy, ignorant or apathetic to bring their own re-usable cups.

Disposable coffee cups are causing enormous damage to the environment because of the plastic lining and the frequency with which they are used. Furthermore, surely its better to put zero cups into landfill than to put a largely biodegradable cup into landfill.

So why give disposable cups to people who don’t need them?

According to Cafe Bambini, in Townsville, Queensland, which offered me the disposable cup, take away cups are given because…

“A percentage of customers order TA cups when dining in. They believe (sic) stays warmer longer or they want to take it away as they will not finish it on time. So only if requested by the customer.”

Keppel Bay Sailing Club, in Yeppoon, Queensland, only gives disposable cups to customers who dine in. According to the club, 

“…our cafe is designed in a ‘grab and go’ style so we find the disposable cups to be the most useful option for our patrons. Breakages in china cups and mugs (more than normal due to through traffic and the concrete floor) was proving costly and wasteful so we found the bio-degradable, compostable BioPak cups the better option all round.”

The BioPak website claims its products are

“The most sustainable coffee cup solution after reusables…” and that the cups are

“…Lined with Ingeo™ bioplastic – made from plants, not plastic. Certified commercially compostable to AS4736. Designed to be part of the circular economy.”

Thus, there are many reasons why cafes give disposable coffee cups to customers who dine in. Customers can choose the ceramic mug, and take responsibility for the impact they are having on the environment. Or, in the case of venues such as Keppel Bay Sailing Club, they may have to take their own reusable cup when dining in at a cafe.