On the Run in Glenunga. Picture: Brenton Edwards/AAP
On the Run in Glenunga. Picture: Brenton Edwards/AAP

Chain’s ‘ridiculous’ coffee cup ban

ADELAIDE petrol station chain On the Run has come under fire on World Environment Day for banning environmentally friendly reusable coffee cups due to the "food safety risk".

In an internal memo, On the Run told staff that if a customer brought a reusable cup they should "politely explain that we are required to use our disposable cups and disposable packaging for food safety reasons".

"We cannot control contaminants (bacteria, mould, viruses, foreign objects, etc.) which might be present," the memo said. "Foreign containers present a high risk of cross-contamination when they come into contact with food preparation areas and equipment."

Environmental campaigner Jon Dee from the DoSomething Foundation said the Adelaide service station, which has more than 100 locations, was the first chain in the country to ban environmentally friendly coffee cups.

"Australians use an estimated 1.2 billion disposable coffee cups every year," he said. "Most of those end up as litter or landfill. Reducing that problem is the key reason why On the Run should reverse their ban on refillable cups."

He said the move was "surprising" as many service stations and cafes were moving away from disposable coffee cups. "They're going strongly against the tide of what the rest of the industry is doing," he said.

Many cafes now offer discounts of up to 50 cents to customers who bring their own cup, and Mr Dee said one coffee chain had reduced its use of disposable cups by 46 per cent as a result.

"SA Health has confirmed that it has no policy or regulation that impacts on reusable cups," he said. "Plus there are no health authorities anywhere in Australia that have a policy or regulation that tells companies not to use reusable cups. OTR's claim that they are doing this for food safety reasons does not stack up."

 

Petrol retailer On the Run’s memo to staff.
Petrol retailer On the Run’s memo to staff.

Mr Dee said what made the decision "even more bizarre" was that OTR had been selling reusable cups until recently. "The question has to be asked whether the people who bought those refillable cups will be getting a refund from OTR," he said.

"South Australia is the state that's known for doing the right thing by the environment.

With this ban, OTR are not just doing the wrong thing by the environment. They're doing the wrong thing by South Australia as well."

A spokesman for OTR said the company had been researched reusable cups "for many years". "We've had entire projects searching for the best reusable coffee flasks, and have sold them in store," he said. "As we - along with many of our customers - have become aware of the problem of disposable coffee cups on the environment.

"We care about this problem, so it was not easy to decide that our food-grade (but disposable) coffee cups were the only ones we feel sure about serving our coffee and tea in.

"We have had many incidents of customers bringing in dirty, unhygienic, contaminated cups, more recently we had an incident where a customer brought a cup in that was contaminated with a heavy metal.

"We realised that there are other more common potential health risks in us serving coffee into cups that we can't guarantee are clean and ready to use.

"Some people are particularly sensitive to this kind of risk, and they are our customers too. It is difficult for us to accommodate washing cups. There are bound to be solutions to this, but for now we have decided to serve coffee in our cups only.

"It's heartening that so many people feel strongly about this. We will continue investigating better solutions to a sustainable, high-quality offer."


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