Video reporting LUNA ERICA
Filming by LINJIE PU
Article by DINITHI PERERA
Monash University Student Cindy Yuan has created BubCup, a reusable bubble tea cup, in the hope students will embrace the eco-friendly alternative.
Over the past year, both Sharetea and Gong Cha have opened their doors at the Monash Clayton and Caulfield campuses respectively.
The stores have proved enormously popular and students have used social media to raise their concerns of the environmental impact selling hundreds of plastic single-use cups is having.
Ms Yuan said she created the product to combat the plastic waste problem produced by bubble tea consumption.
“I felt like there was a lack of good, standardised options for reusable bubble tea cups,” Ms Yuan said.
“The drink is spiralling in popularity, you see more bubble tea stores than coffee shops nowadays, but there is so much waste with no solution available,” Ms Yuan said.
Bubble tea sold at Sharetea and Gong Cha is typically sold in single-use plastic cups, sealed with a plastic lid and a plastic straw, also wrapped in plastic.
Single-use plastic bags are also commonly used by bubble tea customers to carry their drinks.
Ms Yuan said her product BubCup, which launched in May, has since sold 1000 cups.
BubCup is accepted at both Sharetea at Clayton campus and Gong Cha at Caulfield campus, along with 16 other bubble tea stores in Melbourne.
However Gong Cha initially refused students the option to use reusable cups, Ms Yuan said.
“We posted a post on our Instagram talking about our experience getting rejected, and they've since welcomed [BubCup],” she said.
“I think the resistance at first was due to the fact that reusable cups for bubble tea were relatively unheard of, and that's what we've been trying to change.”
Ms Yuan said tackling the issue of plastic waste was important, as climate change was the defining issue of her generation.
“The longer we leave it, the harder it is to solve,” Ms Yuan said.
“It's important that I try to do my part mitigating the problem, and help other people to do so too.”
Sharetea sells an average of 600 to 700 drinks a day according to ShareTea’s Clayton campus store manager.
Sharetea Clayton manager Casper Fan said a small portion of students bring their own reusable cups, and a larger number of students bring metal straws.
“I’m more than happy for people to bring their own keep cups,” Mr Fan said.
Mr Fan said Sharetea will be swapping its single-use plastic bags for recycled plastic when a state-wide plastic bag ban goes into effect in November.
“Sharetea is definitely more than aware of our plastic, and we’re looking at cutting it down.”
Monash University sustainability coordinator Ruth Oliver said the university was aware of concern for plastic waste generated by Sharetea and has contacted the Sharetea head office to discuss solutions.
“We’re looking at more opportunities for reusable cups, like keep-cups…so it would be about promoting that on campus to the students,” Ms Oliver said.
Ms Oliver said she does predict Sharetea will be added to the existing Monash Borrow Cup program, which allows students to use and return recycled plastic cups at participating cafes on campus.
“I don’t really see [Sharetea] being incorporated into Borrow Cup as it is,” she said.
Although both Sharetea and Gongcha welcome students to bring their own cups and straws, the option has not been advertised by either store.
Monash student Olivia-Savannah Roach said she chose to stop drinking bubble tea for environmental reasons.
Ms Roach said Sharetea should promote their acceptance of reusable cups.
“I think they need to start promoting the fact that you can do that,” Ms Roach said.
“I have seen loads of things about Borrow Cup in the cafes, but I haven’t seen anything about that option for bubble tea.”
Monash Student Lea Pehnt said Sharetea’s coexistence with the many cafes that use borrow cups on campus contradicts the university’s commitment to sustainability.
“I’ve seen posters around campus where Monash tries to present itself as this environmentally-friendly university,” Ms Pehnt said.
“Then I see students just walking around with this massive plastic cup and I’m like, ‘really?’,” she said.
According to the Monash Foodies Instagram page Gong Cha is looking for an alternative to replace its plastic cups.