Sunday, 8 January 2017

Is My Reusable Cup Illegal?

Yesterday a cafe refused to serve me coffee in my reusable coffee cup. 

The cafe owner said it was illegal for her to serve me for health and safety reasons. I tried questioning her, but she was so adamant that I started believing her (although I found this hard because I've been using my reusable cups for a long time now). 

I was so annoyed and disappointed. I went straight home and did some checking (thanks to those who sent in information). This is what I found…

In Australia, there is NO LAW saying it is illegal to be served in a reusable coffee mug. If you do get refused, go next door - or if you feel like it, politely let them know that there is nothing in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code that prevents business from accepting a clean reusable coffee cup. If the barista or cafe owner still refuses you it’s because they do not have the right information, or they simply don’t feel like doing something different.

The organisation 1 Million Women did a quick search of the US and UK food safety standards ( and found the same information too. 

So legally we’re all good to go. Don’t feel shy and don’t be intimidated. Proudly take your reusable cup in when you want a take-away coffee, or go and enjoy a sit down coffee in washable ceramic mugs.

This is important. Every year, there are 500 billion disposable cups produced and most of them end up in landfill - that's a million a minute! These paper cups are lined with plastic and cannot be recycled - they’re akin to the styrofoam cups really. 

In addition, it's not illegal to use your own containers for a wide range of things. Thanks Jo for directing me to this articleI  This opens up huge waste reduction possibilities!


  1. that was very interesting, i had no idea we could take our own cups, though i've never liked drinking out of 'take away' cups, always prefer to sit & drink from their ceramic cups or mugs, i have sent the odd one back cos it was dirty! have bookmarked the link
    thanx for sharing

  2. Thanks for this Morag an important topic, when I worked in the 'City' I used to feel such despair at the coffee cup mountains in the rubbish bins by the end of the day. It's particularly important with so many coffee places at Farmers Markets etc not even offering ceramic cups for sit down anymore. I take my thermos travel mug with me on my sat trips to our local Farmers Market here in the Southern Fleurieu in South Australia, shout out for a beautiful part of the world :) & not only do they happily except it I get an enormous coffee at the usual price, with a lovely smile & thank you, yeah for good barristas & good coffee :)

  3. I have tried asking for a (very large) cup of boiling water if I pay for a coffee or tea. Some ae OK. I had one who refused to charge me but more often they refuse now. It may be legal but their Public Liability Insurers are refusing them insurance coverage if they do let you BYO cup.

    1. Where have you heard this please Anonymous. It's probably urban myth that's circulating around cafe owners.

  4. I was about to send you Tammy's link too. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I had an online store about 5-10 years ago and sold reusable cups. But my customers were telling me the same thing. They could not get businesses to fill them for health and safety reasons. I get that if the cup is dirty, as in hasn't been washed since the last use. But I tried many places back then and could not get them filled.

    Fast forward to today and I am thrilled to see so many shops now encouraging there use. And also selling the cups themselves.

    Yes, I heard that many were worried about insurance too as Anonymous pointed out. I hope this gets cleared up soon.

  6. Please take this info back to the cafe concerned i.e. that it is not illegal. We desperately need this mentality changed. Reusable cups should earn a discount as they do in many countries, e.g. Taiwan. I look forward to the day disposables are illegal! I will not have a coffee at a cafe where ceramic coffees are not available. I will either walk out or tell them why I am going elsewhere.
    If the cafe in question still does not want to sell you a coffee, then post their name online and let customers go elsewhere to businesses that care more for the environment.
    Ultimately, it's far better to make your own coffee at home - then you can use organic/fairtrade coffee and milk. On a hot day, having a cool coffee from a thermos is great anyway!

  7. And yet there are now people marketing "smart" reusable cups - that have a microchip in the bottom which records your order and charges your account, able to be used in cafes which have installed the technology. Reusable cups are here to stay!

  8. Thanks for sharing your story. Some rules, that are supposed to "protect" us are just ridiculous and are dulling our own senses. Good, that you checked if she was even right.
    I feel like a café with great customer service would offer you to quickly wash your cup. That's what I would do if I owned a coffee shop. Maybe some people would do that for you if you ask polite.

  9. I use a re-usable cup at my local and find they don't fill it to the top. I asked the barista a while back for the reason and she suggested that the re-usable cups are 'bigger than the disposable' so they are losing money..... Her words not mine. I have measured both cups and they are the same so I think it is just a mindset that needs changing. Maybe this is why the coffee shops prefer disposables????

  10. Seriously, purchasing disposable cups must be a huge expense for these businesses, so you'd think they'd welcome customers with re-usables!