We see so many development proposals - all pretended as the best solutions- that it is difficult to make a choice. Basically, we have 3 main opportunities:
1-REUSE : Since a couple of years, many food service chains , offer discount to customers who bring their own coffee cup (eg. Pret a manger, Paul, Starbucks , Costa etc.) But, in June 2018 - South Australian service station bans reusable coffee cups — including its own - On The Run said "We have had many incidents of customers bringing in dirty, unhygienic, contaminated cups”
Potential contamination is a risk that business would need to take. Having that said, reusable cups are not a bad idea- for instance, most of the millennials In Sydney when they go to parties, have a BBQ on the beach, picnic etc.. take their own reusable cups. This is still a good initiative in a “private environment” and maybe not yet for company /industry which should favoring health & safety and could be responsible in case of contamination.
2- RECYCLE : Paper cup are today recyclable but the question is more about the used cups collection. Does it make sense to have a separate specific waste stream for one item? At the end of the day, the cups made with paper+PE can be recycled in the same stream as beverage cartons and this waste stream is already well managed in EU. The paper fibres used to make a cup have very high quality, and so, it is worth recovering it as a raw material.
3-COMPOST : if the matter is to fight against waste on the street , beaches, sea … the cups would need Home Compost or water degradation certifications – Today, it is quite difficult to have at the same time home compostable and recyclable cups . So companies would need to make a choice or develop new materials- Composting cups may be perceived as disappointing due to the high quality of the raw material which will be lost.
Special case of air catering ; Most of the airline companies have to incinerate their waste from country regulation point of view. At the same time, space and weight are the major issue in the cabin. In this case, standard paper cup or plastic cup made with renewable raw material will remain the best sustainable solution.
In conclusion, there is no worldwide unique solution. The best sustainable solutions will consist in flexibility depending on the place of consumption, and risk.
Could we have 2 types of cups for cold drinks in food service: eat-in and take-out?
This could increase operation complexity as for menu preparation (eat in or take away)- but this coudl be the price to pay...