A West Australian cafe has been praised online for its environmentally friendly cup-exchange program.
Emu Point Cafe in Albany, in the south of the state, has gone viral for becoming one of the first places in Western Australia to embrace the clever scheme.
Speaking to news.com.au, Emu Point Cafe's owner Kate Marwick said the coffee shop implemented the program in the hopes of "a brighter and cleaner future".
"We have always been focused on conducting our business in an eco-friendly manner and recently we began a cup exchange program," Ms Marwick said.
Coffee cups are the second most disposed of item in Australia with 2.6 billion paper cups thrown into the rubbish each year — a figure Ms Marwick hopes will decrease as the country embraces eco-friendly innovations like mug walls and keep cups.
In New Zealand, we are throwing away 295 million takeaway coffee cups each year, according to 2018 data from the Packaging Forum.
Each single-use coffee cup that gets dumped in landfill takes about 50 years to decompose, thanks to the plastic lining inside the cup.
"A couple of customers had also suggested the idea and offered to donate the first 10 mugs, so our little cup exchange idea grew. We first called it the 'Boomerang Takeaway Cups' hoping they would be returned but this is not necessarily the case," she said.
Ms Marwick said the Albany community had embraced the program —where customers take a mug then bring it back the next time they visit — and Emu Point was in the process of encouraging other local cafe owners to run a similar scheme.
"Our community has been really receptive, many cups and mugs have been donated, many have been taken and some have been returned. At first we got second hand mugs from the local op-shop but now donations of unwanted cups are streaming in," Ms Marwick said.
"We have not banned single-use cups from our venue, as we believe in the freedom of choice, this is a great alternative if you happen to forget your reusable cup."
News of the cafe's program went viral earlier this week after Melissa Joan Hart, star of Sabrina The Teenage Witch, shared a photo of their exchange program.
"OK OK, calm the farm! @melissajoanhart reposted this photo of our 'Boomerang Mug Basket'," Emu Point wrote.
In an Instagram post, Hart shared the cafe's photo and wrote, "I LOVE this idea to reduce single-use plastic waste! Let's #stopsucking … on straws and make a move away from plastics that aren't reusable this #PlasticFreeJuly. Start with the straw in July and see if you can start new habits that will stick".
"We hope this simple environmental movement will be adopted all around Australia and the world," Ms Marwick said.
In an attempt to get Aussies to drop takeaway coffee cups in exchange for more eco-friendly options, thousands of cafes now offer discounts to people that bring their own mug.
Many other cafes are slowly embracing the boomerang cup program.
Anna Warren, a local government Communications Officer from Sydney, is also calling for disposable coffee cups to be plastered with warnings similar to the ones we find on cigarette packets.
Ms Warren told news.com.au too few people knew coffee cups were not recyclable and she was trying to break the "ingrained and insidious" habit of grabbing a flat white and then throwing away the drained paper cup.
Graphic warnings would serve to remind drinkers that their morning latte container was not sustainable and nudge them into shifting to refillable plastic cups, she said.