Georgia Beard
IN Noosa Magazine


Plastic Free Noosa is reducing the waste in our community one single-use item at a time. Georgia Beard from IN Noosa Magazine reveals how their Choose to Reuse campaign transforms our lifestyles from plastic-bound to plastic-free.

When Plastic Free July breezed into Peregian Beach Village this year, small wooden crates stacked with multicoloured mugs began to appear on café counters as part of Noosa’s first Mug Library initiative.

Beachgoers, morning joggers and families still picked up their daily coffee orders, but the idea was to swap takeaway cups with handcrafted takeaway mugs, borrowed from a café and brought back the same day or the next.

Peregian Beach Hotel, Outer Square, Skål Coffee, Raw Energy, Hand of Fatima and Peregian Pantry introduced these Mug Libraries after a visit from Plastic Free Noosa and as part of a Pilot Program for Plastic Free July.

Campaigning for a Plastic Free community, the group helps Noosa’s businesses, locals and visitors eliminate single-use plastics from everyday life.

Over the counters in Peregian Beach, the Plastic Free Noosa team sparked conversations with café owners about the not-so-sustainable realities of takeaway coffee cups.

According to Program Manager Peita Otterbach, compostable cups seem like a promising replacement for plastic-lined cups, but there’s no composting plant in the Noosa Shire to receive them.

“The closest commercial compost facility is in Palmwoods, which is quite a distance,” she said. “We also don’t have any bins dedicated to compost or organics of any kind. At the moment, it’s all just going to landfill.”

After this rude awakening, cafés embraced the Mug Library concept with enthusiasm and joined Plastic Free Noosa and Pottery For The Planet’s #ChoosetoReuse campaign.

“We approached Pottery For The Planet, a local ceramic manufacturer who is also equally passionate about reusables and creating the mentality of zero waste,” Peita said.

“They supplied close to 2000 samples, which have the slightest imperfections.

“The idea is, if someone comes into a café and forgets their reusable cup, instead of getting a takeaway coffee cup they can borrow one of the Pottery For The Planet mugs and bring it back.”

With a cluster of Mug Libraries in one location, customers are able to return their Pottery For The Planet mugs to any café, creating a closed loop – and believe it or not, customers do return them!

Outer Square owner Mitch Dunn said his team has always been conscious and passionate about their waste management, even making single-use lids optional for coffee orders. When he brought in the Mug Library, Mitch saw customer habits transform.

“It’s actually woken people up a little bit,” he said. “It’s even turned a few of the hardcore traditionalists who like to have their coffee in a takeaway cup, even when they dine in.”

With such a positive response, Peita said most café owners wanted to continue the Mug Library program well beyond Plastic Free July!

Takeaway coffee cups aren’t the only single-use products piling up in our environments and overcrowding landfill.

To launch #ChoosetoReuse, Plastic Free Noosa hosted a Beach Clean-Up on

The idea is, if someone comes into a café and forgets their reusable, instead of getting a takeaway coffee cup they can borrow one of the Pottery For The Planet mugs and bring it back.

Peregian Beach with more than 45 volunteers of all ages collecting more than 130kgs of waste.

“Even little kids were willing to get their hands dirty,” Peita said. “They’re really interested, and they ask questions, because we try to educate when we sort the waste.”

As the community organised rubbish into piles, everyday consumables surfaced. Plastic water bottles were the most common offenders, often partially decomposed and missing lids, rings and labels. Next came the takeaway coffee cups and lids, cans, food packaging, Styrofoam, clothing and footwear, fishing gear; even a slow cooker.

The conversation continued with Ocean Vibes, a Pop-Up Sustainable Market and Village Flicks screening Polution Solution.

We’ve grown dismissive of our waste, allowing microplastics and toxic chemicals into our waterways, our soil and our own stomachs. Tackling this global, manmade crisis feels understandably intimidating, but local community clean-ups such as these are vital starting points.

Another solution? Avoiding single-use products all together. If environmental damage isn’t enough impetus, the Queensland Government is preparing to ban disposable coffee cups and lids in the next five years, among other plastics.

Peita knows lifestyle changes can be overwhelming, so she urges us to limit plastic waste one product at a time.

Swap plastic bin liners for compostable bags or newspaper. Rather than buying plastic water bottles, fill a reusable before you leave home.

On the shopping run, drop off your soft plastics in the collection bins at Woolworths and Coles. Sunshine Plaza in Maroochydore has also started collecting takeaway coffee cups with Closed Loop’s Simply Cups recycling program.

Peita encourages hospitality businesses to reduce and repurpose their materials too. Becoming members of Plastic Free Noosa is free and the team works with you to focus on the elimination of six major plastic items – takeaway containers, coffee cups, foodware, water bottles, straws and bags.

Alba By Kuruvita, Embassy XO and VanillaFood have all removed plastics and other waste from their operations. Others are getting inventive with their strategies such as Jungle & Co who transform their milk cartons into takeaway trays, fertilise gardens with their coffee grounds and give their leftover juice pulp to a local farm.

Meanwhile, Steamed Bun Co. recently replaced single-use containers with ceramic plates and bottled sauces, while inviting customers to bring their own reusable takeaway packaging.

Outstanding Businesses become Plastic Free Noosa Champions, examining their energy and water consumption and carbon footprint. Heads of Noosa Taproom installed 300 solar panels on their brewery roof to cover 60% of their power with renewable energy.

These changes to single-use consumption have a profound flow-on effect – and it only starts with a mug.

Next time you stop for takeaway coffee, borrow and bring it back. Better still, leave home with your ceramic Travel Cup from Pottery For The Planet or Takeaway Cup from Kim Wallace Ceramics. Soon enough, the only cups in our hands will be the ones we keep!

Stay up to date on all-things Noosa and flick through the online version of The SPRING Edition (Issue 33) of the IN Noosa Magazine.

Thank you IN Noosa Magazine for your commitment to plastic-free operations!

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