When Tom Schoeb arrived in Manly after a stint in San Fransisco, he was struck not by our beautiful environment, but by our backward approach to protecting it. “I was shocked when I came here that you still have single-use plastic bags. In Austria, where I’m from, we are trying to ban even recycled plastic bags that you have to buy, reusable ones for 40c. I’m 25 and I can’t even remember single-use plastic bags from when I was a kid shopping, we never had them.”
Joining the team at Hemingway’s, he took to surfing before work with his colleagues. “So every time we went to the beach, we just took three pieces. And we saw how many people, like the life guards, reacted and gave us props for it. So we thought, why don’t we organise a beach cleanup from Hemingway’s, so we can try to encourage people to care more about the beach. The beach is our asset, that’s why tourists come. Everyone loves Shelley Beach and Manly Beach in summer, and if we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t have customers.”
'The beach is our asset, that’s why tourists come. Everyone loves Shelley Beach and Manly Beach in summer, and if we wouldn’t have that, we wouldn’t have customers.'
When the team kicked off monthly beach clean ups, they realised that their business was part of the problem. “When we checked the figures of what’s the most found items on the beach, we saw it’s straws and it’s coffee lids. And where do they come from? Cafes and restaurants.” Hence Hemingway’s new mission: to become a plastic-free business, giving customers an alternative to single-use straws and lids.
Now if you get your takeout from Hemingway’s, you won’t get a lid unless you ask for one. “We have signs up there now - “Do you really need a coffee lid?” - because nobody needs a lid really if you don’t drive. We tell them our wish is to reduce lids by 20% by the end of the year, just to give people an idea of what we’re trying to do.” And if you bring your KeepCup you’ll get 30c off the price of your coffee.
“There’s one cafe in Perth that’s stopped doing take away cups completely. We’ve talked about it, but we can't do it. It’s so many tourists here! If it’s a small community and you depend on regular customers then it’s alright, but tourists don’t carry their KeepCup.”
As for the straws, “we brought stainless steel ones in. I think we used around 300 plastic straws a week, so if you count it up times 50 it’s 15,000 saved a year.” A few customers prefer to use the paper alternative because they don’t like the taste of steel, but overall they're are a big hit. “Maybe 30 got stolen in the last month! But even if they stole them, then they’ll reuse them in another bar and they’re going to talk about it.”
As for health, “some people worry about it - about the bacteria, but I say, are you worried about eating with the same fork? We sterilise them always at 70 degrees, we brush them, they’re completely clean.”
You can’t change the world all at the same time, but if you can do what is allowed, you definitely start something
“In the kitchen, we still have plastic containers - we’re trying to reduce it, but we can’t be completely plastic free. There are hygiene rules for NSW about how you have to have the kitchen organised and what kind of containers you can have, and some are not reusable. You can’t change the world all at the same time, but if you can do what is allowed, you definitely start something. Bunnings is a great example - they offer the [recycled] boxes for the product and then don’t have to worry about recycling the cardboard. If Coles would do that, they wouldn’t have to worry about their recycling either! They could have one area behind cashier for the cardboard, and if you want plastic bags, it’s 50c or $1.”
So what’s next? “We have another crazy idea! We ordered edible cutlery for takeaway from India. It was on Kickstarter, and it’s made out of corn and all sorts of different flavours. We’ve got 1000 coming and we’ll see how it goes.”
“There are over 200 cafes in manly doing coffee but it’s always the little details that make the cafe different. We’re surfers, and we all know how important the environment is for us, and I reckon bringing this in makes this place a little bit special for manly.”