By Tara Alderson
Our friends at The Cakery asked us what we thought about the the recent announcement of Air New Zealand’s trialing of edible coffee cups on their flights which have created quite the buzz in the environmental scene this past week.
According to the airline, they serve more than eight million cups of coffee each year and are looking to find “innovative ways to meet sustainability challenges.” Made from a recipe of flour, egg, sugar and natural vanilla, local New Zealand company Twiice claims that their edible cups are not only leak proof but also delicious and free from additives and preservatives. They also seem to be quite popular considering they are currently sold out online, even at a whopping $5AUS (about $27HKD) per cup. Twiice is not the first company to market edible dishware, however. Italian coffee company Lavazza developed a similar cookie type mug back in 2012 and Bulgarian brand Cupffee makes a vegan, GMO free one as well.
In a bid to reduce waste to landfill it is not surprising that companies are trying to find an eco-alternative to the billions of disposable coffee cups thrown away each day, of which only 0.3% are recycled. Are edible cups really the answer though? We think not. While this is a great initiative for creating awareness and education around plastic disposables, it may not be a long-term solution.
From a dietary perspective, we definitely do not need to be encouraged to consume the extra calories from refined wheat and sugar given the global health crisis of overweight and obesity, and from an environmental perspective, it is likely that this will only shift the issue from disposable paper and plastic to increased food waste. Yes, these cups are compostable, but that’s only if they are put in a composter. Unless Air New Zealand has set up source separation on their flights to tackle this issue it is likely many will get tossed in the bin. Also note that this specific brand of cup is currently not suitable for vegans, people with gluten sensitivity, or for those who just prefer their coffee sugar free. Furthermore, if edible cups are actually rolled out in cafes, are we really going to choose one for a premium charge every time we get a coffee to truly make a dent in our disposable habits? Probably not. Although a cute novelty for that Instagram shot, it is more likely that we will take a couple of bites and throw the rest in the bin. Considering that about 40% of waste sent to landfill is food waste, we need to be finding ways to address this issue, not contribute more to it.
Our overall verdict? Sit, take a break, and choose a ceramic mug with a nice Fair Trade cuppa if you are sitting in a cafe. For in-flight stick to an environmentally friendly reusable cup. It’s not easy but if you are on the go, then don’t forget your reusable mug. We love the local Hong Kong #NoPlasticMmGoi ECO Cup available at Lion Rock Press and KeepCup available at Live Zero.