Environment

Where there’s popularity there’s plastic: Bubble Cup in Melbourne

Written by Emma Arnold

With no shortage of variety when it comes to the restaurants that line Melbourne’s busiest street, Bubble tea has brought the same level of choice to the beverage division.

Offering a range of fruit and milk teas, the hyper-lapse below shows that even on 12-degree winters day, one store still amasses a queue.

The bubble cup stores that line Swanston Street are rarely without a line, compared to a popular smoothie chain only doors down.

Both stores described their peak hours as between three and five pm. During non-peak trading hours, the stores garnered different results. The smoothie chain turned out 13 drinks in a 20-minute time frame, to the Bubble tea franchise’s 28. 

Of these drinks, 13 customers opted for a plastic carry bag for their drink. Like most bubble cup chains, the straws come with a clear plastic film around them. Hot and cold drinks both come with a cardboard sleeve. The cups iconic plastic lid is sealed over the top, and once the drink is consumed, the packaging is non-recyclable.

Alternatively, the smoothie chain uses a recyclable cup and in the time monitored, only one customer took a plastic carry bag.

Both companies use plastic straws and lids, but with the Bubble cup franchise’s use of bags and straw covers, the store produced 69 additional pieces of plastic with their beverages in 20 minutes, compared to the smoothie chain’s singular plastic bag. 

Bubble cup has the advantage of serving any of their drinks hot or cold. Against a warm beverage chain competitor, another isolated comparison saw Bubble cup on top. In walkway through to Melbourne Central Station where a coffee and Bubble Cup chain are next door neighbours, it was the Bubble cup that drew higher numbers in foot traffic. 

Of the 16 people who walked into the coffee chain, only 11 were customers, while the 20 that walked into the bubble cup store all made a purchase.

Drawing greater numbers in foot traffic and holding a higher conversion rate means that this store is turning out greater amounts of plastic in this instance as well.

The popularity is a good sign, where Melbourne is creating a home for overseas companies whose product is clearly well loved. Yet the need for these companies to pay attention to their use of plastic becomes apparent when Bubble cups are carelessly discarded.

About the author

Emma Arnold