If you’ve ever felt remorse while sipping hot coffee from a disposable cup, you’re not alone.
While reusable cups have been available for some time, data indicates that many Australians continue to favour disposable cups.
Sustainability Victoria estimates that Australians consume 2,7 million coffee cups per day, the vast majority of which end up in landfills.
Therefore, Melbourne engineer Yanni Bouras has been experimenting with ways to repurpose used coffee cups.
“As a structural engineer, my two greatest passions are coffee and concrete,” he said.
The engineering lecturer at Victoria University (VU) and his colleagues have investigated various waste materials that can be incorporated into concrete.
“We were having coffee in the VU cafe one day when we noticed the coffee cups and decided to give it a try,” he explained.
The cups are ground and mixed in as a replacement for a portion of the sand that is typically added to concrete. So far, testing has revealed that the material is weaker than conventional concrete, but has superior thermal performance.
This indicates that it could be utilised for non-structural purposes, such as footpaths or insulation.
If 10% of sand was replaced with disposable coffee cups, one cubic metre of concrete could contain up to 700 disposable coffee cups.
“We do need to find ways to build greener and more sustainably, so this is an important solution,” Dr. Bouras stated.