Did you know that we dispose of an estimated 200 MILLION coffee cups in Ireland each year?! And that contrary to popular belief, these cups are not recyclable.

Not content to sit back and ignore this issue, a group of passionate volunteers have recently launched the Conscious Cup Campaign in Ireland. PurposeHub spoke to Declan Breen of the campaign to learn more. 

PH: First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Declan: My name is Declan Breen. I work for the Eastern Midlands Regional Waste Management Office (EMRWMO) and am based in Dublin. The majority of my work is concerned with waste and the “greening” of business. However there is one particular area that has always concerned me and where I saw potential to make an easy and dramatic change – disposable coffee/tea cups.

In 2016, during EMRWMO’s first National Reuse Month, I created a small network of cafés who would accept and reward people for using reusable cups. Participating cafés displayed a poster and let customers know they were taking part through social media. While time was limited, there was a hugely positive response so I knew there was potential for this concept to go even further.

I then spotted on the Zero Waste Ireland Facebook page that a group of people had a similar idea and were getting together to form the Conscious Cup Campaign [CCC]. Given my passion for this issue I joined the main committee. It’s been great to work with other like minded people who are willing to give up so much free time in order to see the campaign become a success. Even though we are in a very early stage, there has already been great momentum with both cafés and the public getting on board.


PH: What is the Conscious Cup Campaign all about?

Declan: We estimate that we dispose of a staggering 200 million disposable cups each year in Ireland. These cups are made using virgin (non-recycled) paper and currently cannot be recycled in Ireland meaning they end up in landfill or incineration.

While we realise that eliminating disposable cups will not be an easy task, we have decided to begin to tackle the issue by launching the campaign and inviting cafés to take part. The Conscious Cup Campaign is inspired by similar initiatives around the world, and aims to reduce and hopefully (eventually) eliminate the use of disposable cups in Ireland.

The main committee is made up of 9 members from various backgrounds and disciplines but we all have a common goal. We also have the support of the environmental charity VOICE and The Eastern Midlands Regional Waste Management Office.

PH: Why are disposable cups such a problem?

Declan: The main issue is that the disposable cups we use in Ireland are not currently recyclable. While they are made of paper, they are also coated with a fine film of plastic making them water resistant. This means that they cannot be processed in the same way as paper.

Due to the popular belief that these cups can be recycled, they end up in our recycle bins which can lead to the whole bin being contaminated and ending up in either landfill or going for thermal recovery.

These disposable cups are also made from virgin paper pulp, meaning they can have negative environmental effects all through their life cycle.

PH: Where do you see the Conscious Cup Campaign in five years’ time?

Declan: Ideally we would like to see our logo in the window of every café in the country and that the Campaign would have expanded to tackle other unnecessary single use items – watch this space!

PH: How can we get involved? 

Declan: There are lots of ways to get involved! The first step is to visit our website and go to the ‘Take Action’ tab.

If you are a coffee drinker:

  • Invest in a reusable cup and make sure to carry it with you at all times – keep one in the car or at your desk in work.
  • Ask your local café to reward you for bringing your own cup.
  • Go old-school and enjoy your drink in the café in a ceramic mug or cup.

If you are a café:

  • Encourage the use of reusable cups by providing an incentive – either a monetary discount or some sort of reward.
  • Become supporters of the Conscious Cup Campaign and let the public know by placing the sticker in your window. Cafés who want to take part can contact us directly on social media or by email info@consciouscup.ie.

PH: Finally, where can we keep up to date with the Campaign?

Declan: There are several social media platforms where you can keep up to date with the campaign:

We would love people to get in contact if they have any suggestions and to share images of their reusable cups and where they use them using the hashtags #cccampaign #consciouscup #showusyourcups.