Single-use cup free cafés in New Zealand

Photo by Ilyuza Mingazova on Unsplash

Forty-three! It’s the age of Benedict Cumberbatch, and the number of seconds it took the world’s faster elevator to go 95 floors back in 2014. But most importantly, this figure represents the cafés that are single-use cup free in Aotearoa New Zealand as of the 13th of July 2020.

If you enter one of these caring cafes, waltz towards the till and order a coffee to-go, you will not be presented with a single-use cup. Because in the words of Ali Kirkpatrick from Hopper Cafe, “Takeaway cups suck. There are enough cups in the world already. We don’t need to make disposable ones.”

Don’t worry, you can still have your cuppa! You will be warmly welcomed and offered one or more of these planet and people-friendly options:

  • Pass the barista your own mug
  • Borrow a mug from the cafe’s mug library
  • Utilise a mug from one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s reuse schemes (which work on the idea of a bond or deposit)
  • Feel encouraged to sit in and enjoy the cosy atmosphere

Every day in Aotearoa New Zealand, 800,000 disposable cups are used for a few moments and then thrown in the bin to live in landfill – forever.

Or worse, the cups roll around our streets and end up in oceans and waterways.

The 43 cafés who have chosen not to be a part of this statistic are changing mindsets and truly demonstrating honour for papatūānuku and the people of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Thankfully, going single-use cup free isn’t as unfathomable or outlandish as it used to be. More frequently, cafes are taking single-use coffee cups off their expense list, and just like the plastic bag ban debacle of 2019, customers are quickly getting used to it.

For Wellington based single-use cup free cafe, Arobake, going single-use cup free simply means ‘less waste’. Meanwhile, another single-use cup free cafe in Mangaweka, The Dukes Roadhouse, knows that coffee “just tastes better out of a real cup.”

Even though Aotearoa New Zealand is welcoming the move from single-use cups and totally ready for this positive change in cafe culture, all pioneering initiatives have their challenges.

“The challenge for us is that the convenience factor of a SUC (single-use cup) is still right on the doorstep – something I’m sure many operators in high density areas will feel,” says James from Fantail & Turtle.

“We see this movement as a marathon and not a sprint, and we’re in the early days, so hopefully we’ll see more and more operators come on board and lead as kaitiaki.”

Moving on from the obvious environmental advantages of removing single-use cups from the equation, it’s important we understand that taking single-use cups off the menu is not solely a planet protecting decision; it is a sign of appreciation to other human beings and respect for society. It is a decision that says “hey, we acknowledge your existence and understand that you inhabit and enjoy this earth. Therefore, we are not going to trash it.”

Laura, owner of The Dukes Roadhouse, further explains, “It’s also about using our position of power for good. To try and encourage people to slow down, take a break and turn their coffee drinking into more of a ritual than a quick fix to keep you going with your crazy busy life that society has built.”

It’s clear that coffee culture has moved from a community oriented experience, to a necessary fuel that encourages people to do a million things, every second of the day – made possible only when caffeinated. This busyness is unsustainable on all levels. Cafes who make single-use cups unavailable, are combatting this unviable societal norm and encouraging an environmentally and socially healthy community.

These 43 leaders in the Aotearoa New Zealand hospitality industry, don’t use compostable single-use cups either. Why?

Generally, compostable coffee cups can only break down in commercial composting conditions; a waste stream that most customers do not have access to. Therefore, the cup still goes to the landfill, and can still contribute to Aotearoa New Zealand’s litter issue. The problems with the concept of single-use are still attached to compostable cups too. Single-use takes the responsibility away from the individual. It allows us to continue with the same make, take, use, and throw away mindset. While we’re living on an earth with finite resources, this mindset is harmful. When single-use can be avoided, regardless of the material, it’s important to go for the reusable option.

Single-use is becoming a concept of the past, especially when it comes to takeaway cups. With so many alternatives available, and cafes nationwide continuing to stop serving them, it won’t be surprising when single-use cups become extinct! Aotearoa New Zealand has been a world leader in so many ways in the past few years, and we have the power to shift the cultural norm away from single-use and influence the global climate in this area too.

Because in Aotearoa, we choose to reuse.

If you’re looking for a throwaway-cup-free spot to grab a brew, find the 43 leaders below. Keep a lookout on the UYO Responsible Cafe Directory for more cafes popping up every week.


Max Mex The Base: Hamilton

Max Mex New Plymouth: New Plymouth

Little & Wild: Taupo

Melting Pot Cafe: Rotorua

The Duke’s Roadhouse: Mangaweka

Treat Cakes & Pastries: Whangarei


Fantail & Turtle

Mad Mex Sylvia Park

Mad Mex Wynyard Quarter

Mad Mex Fort Street

Mad Mex St Lukes

Mad Mex Victoria Street

Max Mex Albany

Mad Mex New Market

New Leaf Kombucha

Daily Daily Co.


Vic Books & Cafe Kiosk

Mad Mex Lambton Square

Mad Mex Northcity Mall

Hopper Cafe

Sweet Release Cakes and Treats



The Mussel Inn: Onekaka

Bloom Cafe Motueka: Motueka

Federal Diner: Wanaka

Fedeli: Wanaka

Moa Bakery, Cakery: Omaru

The Fat Duck: Te Anau

Gatherer: Hokitika

Pembroke Patisserie: Albert Town

Muskets and Moonshine: Queenstown


Level One Craft Beer & Coffee Bar

Sign of the Kiwi

The Lincoln Pantry

Mad Mex Northlands


Te Matiti

Eden Cafe

RDC Espresso Bar

Royal Albatross Centre

Staff Club Cafe

St David Cafe

Roastery Door

The Daily Coffee Co

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