City council decides days are numbered for single-use cups

Photo: Getty Images
Single-use coffee cups will be phased out of all DCC-owned venues by the end of the year. Photo: Getty Images
A Dunedin city councillor has been successful in his bid to make council-owned venues free of single-use coffee cups.

At yesterday’s council meeting, Cr Kevin Gilbert put forward the motion to direct the council chief executive to make the Civic Centre, Dunedin City Library, Dunedin Public Art Gallery and Toitū Otago Settlers Museum free of single-use cups by the end of this year.

Dunedin Venues Management would be notified the cups should be gone from its venues from the end of next year.

The motion was passed by 12 votes to two, with Crs Bill Acklin and Brent Weatherall voting against it.

Cr Marie Laufiso was absent.

Cr Gilbert said in terms of addressing waste management and emissions issues, banning single-use cups was the "low-hanging fruit".

It would be a "real good signal for the city" if Dunedin led the way, he said.

"While we wait for government to catch up, the logical process is to follow on what we can change."

Cr Sophie Barker agreed with Cr Gilbert.

She said the Toroa Cafe at the Royal Albatross Centre phased out single-use cups in 2018, and it had benefited environmentally and economically.

"It was totally immoral for us to sell plastic products," she said, referring to the fact albatrosses could ingest plastic waste.

"I go back to Dunedin’s status as the wildlife capital of New Zealand. We should be doing no harm."

Cr Brent Weatherall said the moves should be led by the hospitality industry, not the council, and it was a matter of "personal choice".

Kevin Gilbert
Kevin Gilbert
Cr David Benson-Pope said this was not about freedom of choice, but "good environmental policy and good, sensible, public policy".

"Single-use cups are an absurd addition to the waste system we could do without," he said.

Cr Cherry Lucas, who helps run the Otago Farmers Market by the Dunedin Railway Station, said it was time to "take the community lead" on this subject.

She also said the Farmers Market would be phasing out single-use coffee cups, which were its biggest cause of waste.

Cr Jim O’Malley saw it as the beginning of something bigger.

"It is a relatively narrow motion— it effectively focuses on our activities as a council. But hopefully others will follow once they see it is not the end of the world."

Cr Carmen Houlahan supported the idea in principle, but said she would also like answers to questions such as how it would be policed, and what sort of financial impact it would have.

"There are quite a few steps that need to be taken. I would like to see an impact statement on this."

Cr Bill Acklin also said he would like to see more information, but supported the idea in principle.

Cr Andrew Whiley confessed to having been "one of the biggest users of single-use cups in this room", but said "there is a process and pathway to go through with this."

Many of the councillors said the government needed to be lobbied on the issue.

All of the councillors bar Cr Weatherall agreed to the part of the motion saying the council should write to the government seeking legislative change.

Cr Mandy Mayhem said it was time for New Zealanders to remove the "toxic nightmare" of single-use plastic cups.

"New Zealand is one of the world’s most wasteful countries— and this is affordable waste we can easily address."

Cr Christine Garey called the situation a "crisis and an opportunity".

But Cr Steve Walker and Cr Benson-Pope said they were not overly optimistic the government would listen.

"We’re looking at a government that has dismantled much of the environmental scaffolding," Cr Walker said.

Mayor Jules Radich closed the debate by supporting the motions.

"This has a lot of feel-good factor about it."