The Curse of Es Kopi Susu

 In Seventh Edition

RINGKASAN:  Menurut GoFood, dalam dua tahun terakhir, ada 16 juta pembelian es kopi susu lewat aplikasi mereka. Itu berarti ada 16 juta plastik sekali pakai yang terbuang sia-sia. Dengan trend es kopi susu yang begitu besar, dampak limbah plastiknya pun juga begitu luar biasa. Di artikel ini, kami berbincang dengan Andre Dananjaya dari Pulau Plastik mengenai tanggung jawab bisnis F&B, termasuk coffee shop, dalam menangani isu plastik. 

Freshly brewed rich Robusta coffee, sweetened and served with milk over ice. For many it may seem like just a simple, convenient drink to enjoy on the way to work, as an afternoon pick-me-up, or a late-night treat. But journalist Dimas Andhika Fikri has called the nation’s unquenchable thirst for es kopi susu “a phenomenon that has changed the face of the Indonesian coffee industry.”

Many aspects have contributed to its immense, sustained popularity, which shows no sign of slowing. In Jakarta it received a mega marketing kick when Jokowi and his family visited Toko Kopi Tuku (considered the pioneer of the trend) in 2015; its ice cold stimulation suits our tropical climate; its milky sweetness appeals to those who might avoid stronger coffee; its quick preparation and packaging make it ideal for delivery; and at roughly Rp.18,000–25,000, it’s more affordable than traditional espresso-based beverages.

This last aspect led Coconuts Jakarta’s Nadia Hamid to muse in a round-up of the capital’s best es kopi chains that, “the es kopi phenomenon might be the thing that makes Indonesia’s third-wave coffee culture distinctive from that of other countries – especially the idea that everyone can have good coffee without having to dig deep into their pockets.” Coconuts Jakarta’s list didn’t mention that es kopi susu is synonymous with single-use plastic – even when it’s consumed in situ it’s still often served in disposable packaging.

Apart from a few essays such as this one, there are dozens of Indonesian and English-language articles frothing about the es kopi susu craze that don’t even hint at its contribution to the nation’s plastic waste crisis. How many of the 115 plastic cups found among the six kilograms of waste in the belly of the sperm whale that washed up in Wakatobi at the end of 2018 once contained es kopi susu? Let’s face it: the plastic cup – a transparent canvas for the outlet’s branding – is deeply ingrained in es kopi susu’s success.

16 million plastic cups… and counting! Credit: Unsplash.com

How many of the 115 plastic cups found among the six kilograms of waste in the belly of the sperm whale that washed up in Wakatobi at the end of 2018 once contained es kopi susu?

So what are the alternatives for producers and consumers? I put the question to Andre Dananjaya, Line Producer of Pulau Plastik (Plastic Island), a collaborative campaign tackling the issue of single-use plastic in Bali and beyond. Pulau Plastik leverages popular culture through social media campaigns, short videos, and a feature-length documentary to increase awareness about the hazards of single-use plastic, change people’s behavior, and advocate for change.

“One of the most effective methods for coffee outlets to reduce waste is to offer incentives to customers who bring their own tumbler,” Andre contends. “But make sure it’s clean so baristas don’t have to do that for you,” he adds. “Another incentive could be a reward for customers who return their plastic cups, which can then be brought to a waste bank or recycling center.”

Andre spoke at length about the necessity to incorporate waste minimisation into an outlet’s marketing strategy. “You can’t just highlight the problem – customers need to be given information and rewarded for being part of the solution. This can become a significant focus of a strategy.

“An outlet could also collaborate with local zero waste brands to produce reusable products such as cups, straws and bags. There are plenty of ways to make it fun and walk the talk, and over time your customers will want to walk with you.” (Check out Pulau Plastik’s collaboration with @bushcraftbali for ideas.)

Andre Dananjaya, line producer of Pulau Plastik. Credit: Ayyiex

You can’t just highlight the problem – customers need to be given information and rewarded for being part of the solution. This can become a significant focus of a strategy.

But what if we don’t want to walk anywhere and order es kopi susu via an app? As stated in this Singalong piece, 16 million coffee orders were placed with GoFood over the last two years. Needless to say, that’s 16 million plastic cups. “If you really want to make an effort, you can send your tumbler to the outlet to be filled and then delivered to you. If you’re a regular, you could even have two tumblers on rotation to make it easier for delivery.”

Even those who’ve begun to reduce their consumption of single-use plastic still slip up. “If you do buy a coffee served in plastic, sort your waste at home or at your workplace. Take it to, or have it collected by, a recycling center such as Eco Bali Recycle, or the plastic waste bank closest to you.”

16 million coffee orders were placed with GoFood over the last two years. Needless to say, that’s 16 million plastic cups.

Since Bali’s provincial government prohibited single-use plastic bags, straws and Styrofoam in July 2018, the island has begun to turn the tide on its plastic waste crisis, which often made international headlines. Photos of surfers encircled by waves of waste and bikini-clad models supine on the sand surrounded by a kaleidoscope of trash have been replaced by good news stories of beach clean ups and bamboo straws.

There is, of course, still a long way to go. According to a recent survey conducted by the Bali Partnership, of the 1.5 million tons of waste produced on the island annually, only 48 percent is managed through recycling or landfill. But Andre is optimistic. “Local initiatives from government, the private sector, and the community have increased. Many restaurants and even mid-scale warung no longer offer plastic bags, and online motorbike taxi drivers now bring their own bag,” he explains.

“We’re also seeing a reduction of the plastic involved in making and transporting Balinese offerings. These local efforts are all evidence of what it takes to make change; the government, private sector, and community all need to contribute. The government makes regulations, the private sector – let’s say coffee outlets for example – need to offer incentives and redesign their products, and the community needs to use their initiative.”

The Pulau Plastik series highlights various organisations, campaigns, businesses and brands each managing waste in their own way. Episode 3 features a trio of F&B businesses, Mangsi Coffee, Warung Be Pasih, and Ijen at Potato Head Beach Club, to demonstrate diverse methods of plastic reduction.

“Now that we’ve started to reduce our consumption of plastic bags and straws, maybe the next item we’ll focus on is plastic cups. Then we’ll all really need to think creatively about what our next es kopi susu will be served in.”

The Pulau Plastik series will be launched on Friday 6 December at Pasar Badung, Denpasar. For more information click over to the website or follow them on Instagram @pulauplastik.

Julia Winterflood

 

 

 

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