No disposable cup day

By Livvy Drake

The 4th October is No Disposable Cup Day. Changing the habit and behaviour from grabbing a disposable cup to carrying a reusable is an area I have read a lot of research on and worked on projects with City to Sea, both for hot and cold drinks.

Personally, I would change the name of this day to ‘Reusable Cup Day’ to reinforce the desired behaviour, not the undesirable one, also! And make it a week or a month so people had a little longer to embed the behaviour.

Here are some insights for hot drinks:

Pre-pandemic buying a coffee was part of a work routine which is where carrying a reusable cup could have become part of a routine.

People make a mental shortcut with coffee cups and assume as they are made from paper and are recyclable in the recycling stream (in fact, they need a specialist separate recycling collection, which is currently made possible because Costa Coffee and other brands subsidise it)

Discounts don’t encourage reuse whereas a 10-25p latte levy does. This is because it activates LOSS AVERSION. And we feel loss twice as much as the equivalent gain or saving.

Zero Waste Scotland identified that a coffee shop could decouple the charge for a coffee cup from the coffee. So reduce their drinks by 10p and then make the charge for a disposable cup or not charge for a reusable.

There is a lot of effort (and risk of soiled bags) associated with carrying a reusable cup vs the convenient drink and drop disposable.

The opportunity to replace the disposable is by creating returnable systems and schemes which are as convenient as the disposable. Which is where the Shrewsbury Cup, CLUBZERØ, Reuser Ltd, RECUP, and WeCup schemes come in.

The principle is that people can use a returnable cup and drop it off at the next coffee shop they pass for it to be washed and reused.

Although from a systems change perspective, surely the root cause of it is to address why people don’t have time to sit down and enjoy a coffee. Disposables are just another mechanism to reinforce the ‘Always Busy, So much to do, No time to stop’ culture that is causing so many environmental challenges.

For event organisers or venues looking at adopting reusable bar cups, check out the guide from City to Sea.

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