January 31, 2020

Byron's cafes are leading the way in the fight against single use plastic, with over half a million single-use plastic takeaway items, such as straws, cutlery and coffee cups, having been eliminated by Plastic Free Byron’s ‘Make the Switch’ program. 

The program, a partnership between Plastic Free Byron, Boomerang Alliance and Byron Shire Council,  promotes a community-led switch away from plastics by working with cafés, food outlets and markets to assist them to switch to reusable or 100% compostable alternatives.

‘The key to our success has been personal engagement. We work directly with businesses, as well as Council, suppliers, manufacturers, and waste operators to deliver real solutions to businesses. Itisn’t enough to just ask them to remove plastic – what they change to, where they get it and where that product ends up is important as well’’ said Clare Sullivan, Project Coordinator. 


For businesses, the free program asks them to work towards eliminating six key plastic items, selected due to their impact on the environment and the availability of suitable alternatives. 

Reusables alternatives are always preferred, with many program members offering discounts and loyalty cards for customers supplying their own cup, jar, bottle or container. Local reuse network Kuppa Cups is also gaining a lot of traction by providing ‘swap and go’ takeaway cups amongst participating venues. The number of people choosing to ‘BYO’ is growing more and more each year’, said Clare. ‘Our members are telling us they are ordering significantly less disposable coffee cups than they did previously. Byron locals are responding to the BYO message and working with the cafes to reduce waste. It’s a win-win for the community. 

As part of the push for reusables, the program is also about to roll out a water refill network so that locals and visitors can easily find places to refill their bottles. The network includes council water points and participating businesses, and will be available next month through the ‘find TAP’ app. To complement the network, Byron Shire Council will be supplying free reusable drink bottles to member cafes throughout the Byron Bay CBD as part of a trial aimed at the tourist market to see if they act as a viable alternative to the purchase of single use plastic water bottles. The trial is set to be rolled out in early February, catching the tail end of the busy summer tourist season. 

‘We have shown that by working together, a community can change its plastic habits’ said Clare.