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Waste Free Drinks On The Go

Getting takeaway drinks on the go can derail your efforts to be eco-friendly and leave you with a pile of unwanted trash. Discover how to get your drinks waste free including coffee, smoothies, water, slushies and more.

There are lots of options for avoiding waste and even going zero waste without giving up on convenience.

Waste Free Drinks On-The-Go : Zero Waste Challenge

This topic in the War on Waste Challenge series will help you deal with the most common takeaway drinks and will provide some simple ideas and tips on how to go zero waste (or low waste). Before we get into the details, here is the aim of this week's challenge, so you can keep it in mind as you read through:

>Identify ONE thing that you could adjust to reduce the waste in your life

>Choose a method that works for you to deal with it, be realistic

>Do that thing at the next opportunity, and if it works, keep doing it


I absolutely love my coffee and I’m also occasionally tempted by takeaway food, and not always quite organised enough to avoid it completely.

The past year, I have flatly refused to buy coffee in a disposable cup and probably tortured myself a little too much over this one item. I made a rule for myself that if I forgot my keep cup or couldn't drink in store then I'd go without.... and it's probably only happened 10 times and been a great motivator to remember my cup!

I hope NOT to make any of you feel any guilt and I don’t want to deprive you of your favourite beverages BUT I do want you to consider possible options and strategies if it’s leading to rubbish in your life. Again, pick an area that will make a difference to you – if you have a coffee every day, work on that. If you’re always grabbing straws with your drinks, then make a change to that.

Originally, I planned to cover both drinks and takeaway food in the one post, but as I started writing, the topic became so long!

This post will cover the common items we encounter, show you some options and tips to be more ecofriendly, and let me know if you want some more ideas! And, we'll tackle takeaway food and waste next week.


Takeaway Coffee and Hot Drinks without Trash

Last year, I went to a morning kid’s party at McDonald’s and I seriously needed a good shot of coffee to get through it. I noticed everyone doing the same, but although we were drinking in McDonald's, ALL the drinks were in takeaway cups!!

I happened to notice they did in fact have china and glassware, so I requested a proper cup and then interrupted as they almost forgot during preparation and went to grab a disposable cup. Heaps of parents then asked me how come they weren’t allowed to have a proper cup, so I explained that it is probably just the default option and unless you ask, you don’t get. IF you have the option to drink it in a café, simply request a REAL CUP. Most places will provide real cups if asked, although some will try to refuse you as there seems to be a thing about avoiding dirty dishes these days. If you’re a regular on the go coffee drinker, and don’t yet have a reusable cup, this is one action you should seriously consider taking!

You don’t need to buy a fancy one, personally I bought mine from an opshop and I’ve heard of people using jam jars with a cosy to protect from the heat and yes, you can just bring an ordinary coffee mug without a lid. If you're interested, here is a comparison between disposable vs. reusable cups here.

Reusable cups are available in many different sizes and made from glass, stainless steel and other materials, plus you only need to use them 15 times to be ecofriendly. If you are looking to get yourself a keep cup, Biome Eco Stores have some beautiful ones to pick from.

I just bought two like this for my mum and I to take on an overseas trip, it's small (177mls), leak proof and will fit in a handbag so it will be great on the plane and getting out and about. These are actually on sale at the moment for under $10.

Small Keep cup 177mls

Did you know some cafes offer a DISCOUNT on your coffee if you bring your own cup? This one action can help you save money. Search for a responsible café near you here to locate a participating store and see what your discount is.

Takeaway coffee cups have become notorious for their recycling complexities and we only use them for such a short time. But Guess what? In Australia we can now recycle coffee cups, provided they are collected in a single stream head to this post here to find out how and where to recycle them. The problem with this however is that most people don't drink their takeaway coffee at the location the bin is and most still end up in landfill. So, save them up and deposit them when you can. There are also a few councils around Australia that will accept them in the curb side recycling program - double check first, as most don't.

For a super frugal option, I usually just make a coffee at home, just the way I like it ,and take it with me in a reusable cup - this saves time and money! And most of us can spare 10 minutes to take a little time out of our day and drink our coffee in the café while we catch up on social media.

If you do find yourself caught out, ask for no lid and be sure to recycle your cup responsibly.

Go Zero Waste with Bottled Water

Purchasing bottled water and drinks is pretty easy to avoid, simply bring your own or keep your eye out for public water fountains. Lately I've spotted more water fountains that have been designed to refill water bottles too, making it much easier to do. I am yet to find a café or pub that doesn't have fresh un-bottled water available for free that you can either drink or refill your own bottle. Even Copenhagen have filtered water taps available, and you can be cheeky and come for water and just leave.

My daughter was totally shocked when I told her that when I was a kid, we didn't take water every where, we just used drinking fountains and occasionally had a flask in our lunch box. We had a drink before we went somewhere, or after we got home and we never came close to dying of dehydration. These days, it's become the norm to carry water or buy water.

I bet you have a few reusable bottles sitting in a drawer or cupboard in your kitchen and you can repurpose jars and glass bottles you already have.

If you think bottled water is safer, free from fluoride and better for you, then you really need to catch season 2 of ABC's war on waste where they prove this isn't really the case and some contain more fluoride and have a pH level that isn't favourable for our teeth.

There are so many types of reusable drink bottles available, so find one that is the right size, shape and material for you. Good quality brands like Kleen Kanteen will also sell replaceable parts too, so check it will be long lasting before you buy.

Plastic free reusable water bottles

Avoiding Waste with Other Bottled Drinks

Just like water, we can bring our own with us when we leave the house and avoid nipping into a convenience store and over priced and over packaged beverages. Whether it is juice, chocolate milk or even soft drink, use a flask or reusable bottle and bring it from home.

You can even buy a Drink in the Box which is designed to look like a fruit box which is leak proof and has a silicone straw and kids love it. This means you can buy just one bottle of juice and refill it, making far less waste than single serve disposable drink containers. You can take this a step further and make your own fresh fruit or veggie juice at home for refills.

waste free option for juice on the go

Have you got a soda stream? This is ideal for making your own bubbly drinks and taking them with you. I don't know just how environmentally friendly they are overall, but if it replaces constant disposables it seems like a fabulous step in the right direction. On their website, it says that one can of bubbles replaces 40 bottles or 180 aluminium cans, just imagine the impact of less drink miles, packaging. We don't really drink soft drink, so I have no clue how they work and how good they are, BUT what I do know is lots of people have them and aren't using them, so you can probably get them cheaply second hand too.

Waste Free Smoothies, Milk Shakes, Juices and Big Cup Drinks

Heading to Boost Juice or your favourite smoothie or fresh juice shop? Well, just like with coffee, there are options for reusable cups that will be the right size, come with a reusable straw and many are insulated to keep it cool like these gorgeous stainless steel smoothie cups pictured below. If you already have a large keep cup for coffee, why not make it multiuse!

Waste Free Insulated Tumbler for smoothies and fresh juice

If you already have a collection of mason jars, get yourself a straw drinking lid you can screw on.

Simply ask in store, or contact your favourite places before you go to see if they happily accept reusable cups.

If you're planning on staying where you purchase your drink then request a non-disposable cup.


Ok, you are probably sick of hearing about straws, they seem to be flavour of the month or year. They are certainly damaging to the environment and sea life, but they probably aren't the worst thing happening to the environment. The big issue is that they are used for such a short time and last forever, and often we don't even want one.

The simplest option is just say no and request no straws!

If you're feeling very passionate about the cause, get involved with the Straw No More campaign. You can encourage your local pub, café or school to go

I get that some people really need straws and this includes people with a disability, difficulty drinking or like my friend, has super sensitive teeth. If possible, opt for a paper straw which will break down easily.

There really are a lot of different reusable straws you can get, ranging from bamboo, glass, stainless steel (including rose gold) and silicone. You can find all different widths, lengths, straight ones or bent ones, plus it is easy to find straw cleaners. (If you're only using it for water, you probably don't even need a straw cleaner)

Before you actually head out and buy one, please check your drawers at home for reusable ones you may already have.

Does your reusable water bottle or smoothie cup have a straw? Most detach for easy cleaning and these can be easily used for any drink you happen to be having, with the added benefit that you wont have to remember to bring it if you're already in the habit of taking your own water everywhere.

We have some curly novelty straws that are reusable, so in a pinch, these can be taken with you too and I guarantee your kids will want to use them. (maybe steer clear of the milk shakes as they can be tricky to clean out of all those loops)

Getting a Slushie? For drinks that typically come with a straw/spoon this has been a challenge, but Ecococoon make reusable straw spoon version that is suited to drinks and deserts.

Straw spoons for waste free slushies

This post contains some affiliate links. This means the price is the same to you but I may receive a small commission, which helps keep the website up and running.


What are you planning to tackle to reduce your waste with drinks on the go?

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