Local councils waste thousands on disposable cups yearly

Companies urged to take action as mountains of coffee cups pile up

Cork City Council spent €700 a month on disposable cups.

Cork City Council spent €700 a month on disposable cups.


Local authorities are wasting thousands of euro a year on disposable coffee cups according to Cork City Council which this week banned single use coffee cups from their canteen and offices resulting in significant yearly cost savings.

Environmental officer Mary Walsh said the local authority spent €700 a month on disposable coffee cups prior to their decision to give staff reusable keep mugs.

The issue came to the fore last year when they got rid of individual desk bins and had a centralised bin which was often full to the brim with single use cups.

“We did a waste audit and we had bags full of disposable cups. We have a green team and we started looking at how much we spend on disposable cups and it is about €700 a month and it is an awful lot of money.

500 staff

“There is about 500 staff so to purchase a cup for all of those would be about €3,500. So it makes a lot of economic sense. The €700 a month only involves what it costs to buy them it doesn’t involve disposal. What is pushing us is prevention of waste. It is cost saving, it is environment changing and it is habit changing.”

Disposable cups are now completely withdrawn from the Cork City Council canteen, kitchenettes and from use at meetings onsite.

Mary says area coffee shops have contacted the local authority offering them discounts if they present their keep cups when making purchases.

“There is a willingness to engage and there is momentum going. We have to lead by example. We have had two employers on to us this week asking how we did it.

“We are disposing of two million disposable cups every day in Ireland. It is crazy. If every large employer did it there would be a lot of keep cups going out to coffee shops.”

City council employee Aisling Walsh said the initiative has made her aware of how many disposable cups she used to go through on a weekly basis.

“You could use three cups a day and if all the staff are doing that it adds up. ”

Employee James Goulding says the initiative is “simple and logical and makes financial and environmental sense.”

Large canteen

“If one of us make an effort it doesn’t matter that much but if every local authority did this it would make a massive difference. I would ask any employer with a large canteen to do this.”

Meanwhile, Meath County Council replaced disposable cups for all staff in 2015.

A spokeswoman for the local authority said the reduction in waste was “60,000 units per annum, stretching as high as Mont Blanc.”

“Staff were issued with one reusable cup, these are not replaced, no disposable cups are available, if you lose/break your cup, you are required to replace at your own cost – if you with to avail of tea/coffee facilities.”

We expected some negativity towards this scheme and were delighted to see that it was fully embraced by staff from the get go, with no teething issues. Any business thinking of getting rid of disposable cups, in my opinion, should ban purchase of same – when there is no plan B, it is easy to remember your cup – if you wish to avail of tea and coffee facilities.”

In 2016 the local authority did a second campaign on the back of the success of the in-house campaign and distributed 1,250 to the public though coffee shops and garage forecourts.