Until quite recently I didn’t really think about the effect my caffeine hit was having on the environment. I pretended not to know that my supposedly recyclable takeaway cup was actually lined with non-recyclable plastic. And ignored the fact that the plastic lid of my morning cup of Joe was going to remain at the bottom of an ocean for a few hundred years.
Then the Maharashtra government’s proposed ban on all single use plastic made me sit up and really take notice. I became a fact junkie. From facts about how the plastic industry was slowly killing most marine life to my personally being responsible for creating hundreds of kilos un-recyclable waste each year, I began to understand the impact my daily coffee indulgence was having on the planet. It is irresponsible of me to wait for a solution from heaven, or the government. It was time for me to make #JustOneChange.
This World Environment Day I have committed to giving up takeaway coffee cups. Armed with my personal mug I visited five coffee shops in Mumbai to see if they will still serve me my morning cappuccino; and asked them what they plan to do about their non-recyclable, plastic coffee lids come June 23rd when the State’s plastic bag comes into full effect.
The Delhi-origin chain of cafes and roastery may have set up shop in Mumbai only two years ago, but they are already on top of most coffee fanatics lists. They recently expanded their Mahalaxmi roastery which meant the café is now just a tiny square of tables, chairs and waiters toppling over each other. I hardly ever sit in there and almost always take away a coffee. My request for a cappuccino in my own mug was met with some hesitation and a lot of milk. The barista usually has his own cup to measure the drink and didn’t seem to know what to do with my mug. When I asked them about the fate of their plastic lids they assured me that they were being sent back to the factory, but had not yet found a cost-effective alternative. They’re confident that they will, though.
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
The baristas at the busy Phoenix Mills café had never been asked to make a coffee in anything other than their own cups before. A fairly milky coffee and several blank stares later I walked away none the wiser about the fate of their plastic coffee lids. All attempts at calling their head office too came to naught.
The barista didn’t show any surprise at my request for a coffee in my own mug. She said that several customers now come with their own mugs and the chain even offers a Rs. 10 discount to them. Just as at the previous two cafes, my coffee ended up more latte than cappuccino as the barista didn’t have the standard cup to measure out the milk. Come June 23rd they’ve been told an alternative to the plastic lid is coming but that’s all they know.
A McCafe coffee tastes better than most high street chains in India. The company has a surprisingly good barista programme and the service is always excellent. While everyone was a bit tight-lipped about what would happen once the plastic ban is fully enforced, McDonald’s has already begun with baby steps. I was only their second customer ever to walk in with a mug and while she filled it with my order the barista explained that they don’t use the plastic lids for any takeaway customers anymore. That said, you will see plastic straws on almost every table at the café.
Kala Ghoda Cafe
I have visited KGC almost every single day since moving back to India in 2016. The cafe and deli has it all. From 8am each day you can get your fill of treats from akuri to chilli cheese toast for breakfast, to sandwiches and gluten-free pizza for the rest of the day. And of course, some of the best coffee around. The affable owner Farhad Bomanjee is one of the most conscientious restauranteurs I know. His produce is fresh, locally sources and as sustainable as he can afford. I was certain he would have a solution to the plastic pollutants. But alas, not yet. They’re working for the environment on other fronts though. Plastic straws have made way for paper ones and in a bold, yet much welcomed move, they will soon stop offering plastic bottled water to their customers.
I wish the results of my little survey were less predictable. This is yet another example of how a government’s perplexing aversion to planning is causing more than a little inconvenience for a great many people. By raising awareness early and setting into motion the right mechanism for recycling and waste management the Government could have pave the way for a policy that prevents the use of all non-recyclable products. But here we are…
The next time you reach for that takeaway cup of coffee think about the fact that a tree needed to be cut down to produce a product that only lasts as long as your coffee does. It was time to change my coffee habit for the better. What’s your change?