At the end of the November Coventry University published a press release which included some of my research based around the issue of disposable coffee cups and plastic waste. The release came out just after the Chancellor Phillip Hammond announced in the budget that there would be an investigation into how the tax system and charges on plastic items could reduce waste. The issue of the ‘plastic tax’ obviously goes far beyond just coffee cups, but it is one element. Plastic waste as a broader issue on a global scale needs addressing as has been explored in the recent Blue Planet documentary and a number of other channels – the BBC recently reported how the UN recently stated there is a planetary crisis being caused by the rise of plastic waste.
The press release which can be viewed here, highlighted how many consumers find resuable cups ‘inconvenient’, and while discounts from retailers may change the behaviour of some, there needs to be wide scale behaviour change around the frequency of takeaway coffee cups for the issue to be addressed sufficiently.
Recently the CEO of Pret-a-manger, took to social media to ask customers for their thoughts on rising the discount on drinks for bringing a reusable cup. The call received a a positive response, and the company has now announced that from the first week of 2018 it will be doubling its discount for customers who bring their own reusable cup to 50p- which would make a cup of their filter coffee 49p. I haven’t seen any other chains that offer this much of a discount, although a few independent coffee shops I have been to, have done. It will be interesting to see the imapct it has on consumer habits.
The coffee cup issue goes beyond coffee shops too, it extends to office meetings where disposable cups are used, conferences and many other locations in which the use of disposable cups is still the norm. While a takeaway coffee cup here and there to some people may seem like a small issue, the cups soon mount up, and it is an every growing problem.
It’s the festive season and many coffee shops have their ‘festive cup’ range, which in many ways encourages more use of disposable cups – lots of consumer despite sitting in, still want the disposable cup. But many of the coffee shops, such as Costa Coffee, have a festive reusable range too. A tweet from BeanThinking on Twitter this morning summed it up nicely ‘Could we say ‘a reusable cup is for life, not just for Christmas’?
Next year I have new project starting on sustainability in the coffee shop industry, looking not just at reusable cups but at behaviours and innovations that can make the coffee shop industry more sustainable, with case studies in the UK and Germany.