Biodegradable? What a load of rubbish!

The Gallery Café, Wine & Tapas Bar in Westport, now only sells ‘take-away’ coffee in either recycled (jam) jars or ceramic mugs (if suited). I have read several articles over the course of this last year that have spurred me to make this move. I believe that we are the first café / wine bar / coffee shop to do so in Ireland!

Le me explain. Headlines such as ‘guilt free coffee’ or ‘environmentally friendly coffee’, just because a company or organisation has started using biodegradable takeaway cups, are quite simple, untrue and equally misleading.

How can a single use product, that uses the earth’s resources, be deemed ‘environmentally friendly’?

This is pure irony. Any product that has a toll, no matter how small on the planet, by definition, can only be referred to as ‘Less Environmentally Damaging’ (a term I coined over ten years ago). Even a biodegradable cup has to be manufactured and transported in the first place! It makes zero sense.



Take away coffee, the clue is in the phrase! The Gallery sells LED products, so if you’d like a Cosmic5 in a take away cup, please, bring your own, or feel free to get one in a super stylish, and LED, (without the flashing lights) up-cycled jam jar!

La Tour Cycle Café in Britain that is doing this same thing using ceramic mugs and cups donated by local people to use as their take away vessels.

Click here for an older post about biodegradable plastics. It’s from 2010 and let’s hope that tech has moved on since then to manufacture better quality and more widely and effective biodegradable products, still, less is more, just don’t create the need for a take away cup in the first place!

The coffee company BTP (Boston Tea Party) has removed take away cups from their menu! Have a look here for more info over on



Here is a great piece by Lloyd Alter, found here on

“Back in the day, if you wanted a coffee, you sat down in a diner or restaurant and you had a coffee. You got it in a china cup and you drank it right there. It was called a coffee break for a reason: you were taking a break. You were having a coffee. You weren’t driving and drinking coffee or walking and drinking coffee. When you were done, your cup was washed and then used again in the same location. It was nice and circular.

Disposable cups created a whole new system, where the people who sold the coffee were no longer responsible for cleaning and reusing, and the customer didn’t have to actually ever stop moving. No wonder it was so profitable; instead of having to pay for real estate for people to sit and drink, and equipment to wash and store the cups, we drink our coffee on city sidewalks or in our cars, and the taxpayer gets the burden of picking up the waste and taking it to the dump. It is a nice, neat, subsidized linear process from coffee vendor to landfill.

The radical solution proposed by the Vessel stainless steel cup, or the RFID chipped CupClub that I liked so much, is trying to make a circle out of this linear process; but it is complicated and awkward because it is a much larger circle than the one from counter to dishwasher. They are all trying to give us the ability to do what we do with a paper cup, which will never be easy. But the problem isn’t the cup, it’s us.”

The simple answer, it seems, to close the circle then, is quite simply, use pre-existing drinking vessels or make the time to sit and drink your drink in the café / shop / bar etc.

If you are in Westport, please call in to me at The Gallery, for a cup of Cosmic5, a blend of five different beans, expertly roasted by Aron of Bean West Coffee Roasters, Westport – CHEERS!



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