How To Reduce Single Use Plastic For A Sustainable World

by Kate Stewart

Awareness of single use plastic is a powerful thing. We use single use plastic bags when we go shopping, disposable coffee cups for our morning coffee fix, disposable cup holders to carry our drinks, disposable straws and drink bottles.

Single use culture has been embedded in Australian society (and the world) and annual waste statistics have scared me for a long time. What will be the future for our planet?

In Australia, 21 million tonnes of waste is disposed to landfill every year. Equal to the weight of 3 million elephants!

There is some good news though, since reusable coffee cups first hit the scene, we’ve diverted more than 4 billion disposable cups from landfill. Now there are sustainable, Australian made, recycled plastic drink trays to go with them. Stay tray.

Stay tray Reducing Single Use Products

The Problem

Aussies produce 2.2 million tonnes of plastic waste and 5 million tonnes of paper waste each year, 30% which isn’t recycled and ends up in landfill.

I have always found these statistics so overwhelming, too large for me personally to make a real difference.

It got me thinking, do you feel the same way? What can you personally do to make a real difference?

I use reusable bags at the supermarket, a reusable coffee cup for my daily coffee and a reusable straw when I need a smoothie pick me up. But the numbers are just too large! How could I make a difference?  

In fact, every piece of plastic ever manufactured anywhere in the world still exists today. It’s scary to think about that.

Plastic was first produced in 1907, and yes that plastic still exists today! It fills our landfills, litters our parks and beaches and pollutes our oceans. Being a mother of two small children I worry about the future of our planet. What I am leaving for them? What will it be like when my kids are my age?  What sort of planet will they inherit?  

The Idea

One day in late 2018, I was on my way to get my morning coffee hit with a friend. Something we did every morning. Today it was our turn to walk to the Café nearby and get six coffee’s for the office. On the way, we were just managing to juggle our six empty reusable cups. 

Reusable Coffee Cups exploded onto the Melbourne coffee scene in 2009 with KeepCup. In 2017, reusable cups had a huge boost when the ABC’s War on Waste filled Melbourne Trams with disposable coffee cups to illustrate just how many were being disposed to landfilll each year. A mind bending 1 billion coffee cups in Australia alone, 92% of which are buried in landfills.  

So there we were, getting our morning coffee hit. We now had our six reusable cups full of piping hot coffee and started to worry about how we could safely get them back to the office. It was at this point the barista said ‘Would you like a cup holder?’. 

It felt painfully ironic. There we were, using reusable coffee cups but carrying them in a disposable single use cup holder. Something that would be discarded at the end of the coffee run, or at best it would consume energy and water in the recycling process. 

It was really at this point that I had my ah ha moment and Stay tray was born.

There simply wasn’t a sustainable, versatile recycled plastic cup holder to be found anywhere.

Those people, like us, who were responsibly / sustainably minded, were using disposable cup holders again and again. However, given they were disposable they did not last very long. Thousands of people everyday are consciously using their KeepCups and UpperCups, but are faced with only single use / disposable alternatives to transport more than two coffees.

This is really where my Stay tray journey began. Right there in that Café nearby. I had a great idea for a business that didn’t exist. A business that could literally make a difference to the future of our planet. But I also had a really secure corporate job where I had been for 17 years. I really didn’t know anything else. I had two small children and was terrified by the uncertainly leaving my job would create. 

Over the years I have had several business ideas, some much better than others. I longed for something I could do for myself. Setting my own hours and managing my own deadlines.  But I never had the courage to walk away from my career and the security it provided for myself and my young family. 

So I made myself an agreement. I would leave the security of my 17-year role if I could:

  • Make Stay tray from 100% recycled plastic. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just making another product from virgin plastic and adding to the plastic waste problem across the globe. So I found a reliable, clean source of recycled plastic that would enable Stay tray to rehome Australia’s plastic waste. It was really important to me to be able to use this material and give it a second life! 
  • Use Australian Industrial Designers to design Stay tray.  I wanted to obviously solve the single use problem in terms of disposable cup holders, but I needed to develop a great alternative. One that would be sustainable, stylish and would also compliment the reusable movement and behavioural shift happening across the city. 
  • Use only Australian engineers and manufactures to develop and produce a fantastic product right here in Australia. Ensuring Stay tray is 100% Australian made and owned. 

It would have been half the price to engineer and manufacture overseas. However, it was really important to me to support the incredibly talented designers, engineers and manufactures right here in Australia. In fact, I have managed to keep all design, engineering and manufacture within a 60km radius of my home on the Mornington Peninsula. 

Stay tray is the world’s first recycled plastic cup holder. Stay tray was made to be used everyday. It was designed to be used again, and again and again. Stay tray is the solution to reduce the millions of disposable drink trays that are used and discarded across the world every day.  

Sustainable Recycled Plastic Cup Holder

The Mission

The last few years have been a roller coaster of highs and lows, late nights and more work than I thought was humanly possible to be done in three years. Even though it's been a tough slog I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

I started Stay tray to make a real difference, to support Australian designers, engineers and manufactures and to reduce single use.

Stay tray’s mission is to encourage the use of recycled plastic cup holders. We deliver sustainable products that challenge the culture of single use and provide a new home for the world’s plastic waste.

I truly do believe that when it comes to environmental sustainability, the little bit we do everyday matters, because we are doing it together. I am determined to make better use of single use waste products using them to create Stay trays.