IRISH Rail claims to have switched to 100% recyclable tea and coffee cups but have admitted the cups cannot be recycled in Ireland following a Twitter exchange with a Cork activist.
The debate over cups used by the rail company was sparked after an individual contacted Irish Rail to complain about their disposable teacup, having been refused tea in their own ‘Keep Cup’, which Irish Rail says is due to health and safety issues.
The Iarnrod Éireann Twitter account responded to say that their teacups are 100% recyclable.
However, Cork activist Robert O’Sullivan questioned Irish Rail’s policy, querying whether they meant to say compostable, because disposable cups are not currently recyclable in this country.
“We are ready for when recycling becomes available,” Irish Rail responded.
Not satisfied with this response, Robert asked them to clarify.
“Coffee cups are not currently recyclable in Ireland, but we are ready for when they are,” the Irish Rail spokesperson responded.
Speaking to The Echo about the exchange, Mr O’Sullivan said he was disappointed to see the company misinforming the public.
“I know a lot of people are confused about disposable coffee cups, either presuming that they're recyclable or not considering the difference between compostable and recyclable. But those are individual people, not an official account of a semi-state company,” he said.
“I can understand their reasoning behind not allowing people to use reusable coffee cups (KeepCups), but I think it's pretty flawed thinking.
"Lot's of businesses, big and small, have been encouraging people to use reusable cups for years, and there haven't been any reported incidents – or any cases of litigation, which I'd presume is their main fear,” Robert said.
“Having seen the cups they use, I'm 99% sure they're not recyclable, nor will they ever be, so I'm still very confused as to where we'll be ready when they can" comes from. They're also not the compostable variety as far as I know, so by using these cups and stopping people from using their own reusable ones, they've gone for the environmentally worst option with an air of 'greenwashing',” Robert concluded.
Green Party Councillor Lorna Bogue said that non-recyclable, single-use items such as disposable cups should not be going into production in the first place, as it’s part of a bigger issue - with many single-use items unable to be recycled in Ireland.
A specific Keep Cup is being trialed on one of Iarnrod Éireann’s services, and people who purchase and use this cup receive a discount on their drinks.
Cllr Bogue said that a cynic may question whether the company is looking to make money, as her sense from what she’s seen online is that most Keep Cups are similar in size.
A spokesperson for Irish Rail told RTÉ radio’s Today with Séan O’Rourke show that Keep Cups come in different sizes and may not fit correctly under the spout on the catering trolley, while different cups also have different closing mechanisms.