Dundalk cafe helping the environment, one compostable coffee cup at a time

Environmental Change

Áine Kenny


Áine Kenny



Dundalk cafe helping the environment, one compostable coffee cup at a time

Owners of 23 Seats Ulrike Wangner and Alan Graham

23 Seats, one of Dundalk’s best-loved cafés, is leading the way when it comes to biodegradable and compostable coffee cups, straws, napkins and utensils. The cosy café has been using biodegradable products since June 2017, and many patrons are happy to support an eco-friendly business.

Alan Graham, who owns and runs 23 Seats with his wife Ulrike Wangner, says that businesses using eco-friendly products is very important. “Our takeaway cups are all compostable, as are the straws we use… we also don’t use plastic utensils, our knives, forks and spoons are made from wood,” Alan reveals. “We would go through 500 cups a week, so that would have generated a lot of waste.”

“Even the takeaway cup lids are compostable, they are made from plants,” Alan explains. “I am not sure if you would necessarily be able to eat them though, maybe in some sort of survival situation,” he jokes. “Our cup holders are also biodegradable, even the sugar sachets we have can be broken down by the environment,” he says.

Alan gets all of his eco-friendly food packaging from a sustainable foodservice packaging company called Down2Earth Materials. Down2Earth Materials are based in Co. Cork. The company work alongside VEGWARE, and supply Ireland’s largest range of certified compostable products and packaging.

“In a perfect world, our biodegradable packaging would be put into the brown compost bin,” Alan says. “But I did an experiment, I brought a cup home and left it in my backyard, and it was there for a week or two, and it just turned to mush… therefore I think if you did put it into landfill it would break down.”

Alan says that he has gotten a positive response from customers about the eco products. “One of the girls who works here told me that I should put up a post on Facebook about the compostable products, and I wasn’t sure should I because I didn’t want to be tooting my own horn… but it actually got a very positive response,” Alan says. “It is good publicity, but also the greener everything gets the better.”

“The government were also considering legislation which would put a tax on non-degradable take-away coffee cups, so the incentive is there,” Alan adds. The café owner also says he will offer a small discount to anyone who brings in their own reusable cup, in order to encourage change.