Identifying the levers to increase reusable cup usage

By Livvy Drake

Are you looking for ways to reduce the barriers to reuse behaviours and decrease the use of single-use plastics? 

I have been working with City to Sea on their Refill campaigns since 2015, increasing the alternative solutions to single-use plastics. 

In 2021, Head of Marketing and Campaigns Jo Morley was talking to me about how as an organisation we could increase the adoption of reusable bar cups especially at smaller events which were using a lot of compostable plastics (which were not addressing their waste issues and costing them more money).  

We took a behavioural science approach to the challenge firstly, carrying out interviews and research to understand what the barriers were. 

Using the COM-B model we looked at what the barriers were and where we and our stakeholders could influence change. 

Psychological capability

Many events didn’t know about the hiring of cups assuming they had to buy branded cups and wash them onsite. All of these assumptions are incorrect and there are lots of reasons why these approaches are not the most ideal for event organisers or the environment. 

Education – We developed a guide for event organisers and councils detailing all the aspects to consider in developing a cup scheme from hiring to washing and what to charge. 

Education – We also have developed an online hub that has segmented content for event organsiers, councils, individuals and refill schemes so each stakeholder has the most relevant information to them. 

Training – We have hosted many training sessions including with LAOEG.

Persuasion – The guide has been shared by the events sector and added to many council websites as part of their event registration process.

Persuasion – And have asked the local Refill schemes to share with their local events and councils.

Physical opportunity

Generally there are no bans or restrictions on single-use serveware on event sites. 

And for many smaller events they can’t meet the minimum number of cups required to hire them. 

To restructure the environment that events operate in we looked at where or other stakeholders could have influence.

City to Sea has a great network of Councils running Refill campaigns we are asking to:  

Restrictions – Ban single-use plastics on their event sites, like Cambridge Council

Enablement and environmental restructuring – Buy a stock of bar cups for events to hire as per Manchester City Council 

Enablement – There are also posters available making it easy for people to get the comms for a scheme sorted.

Social opportunity

Seeing bins full of single-use cups is a cue that these are the social norm in the events world. 

Persuasion – Using other trusted messengers such as event bodies to spread the guide we are 

Modelling – By focusing on the change in the outdoor events sector, gathering case studies from event organisers and councils who have adopted reusable cup schemes we were focusing on modelling the ideal behaviours.

Reflective motivations

We know that event organisers are busy and it’s easy to follow a formula for their event delivery, with a lot of concerns about the financial risks of doing something new. 

In the guide we provided: 

Influence reusable cup take up in your region

Can you share the guide with people in your region or networks? Head to the online hub and find the resources most useful to you and read the case studies from club nights to sea shanty festivals who are adopting reusable cups and sharing their insights. 

Link to download the guide

If you have an environmental behavioural challenge you are working on and think you could benefit from a behavioural science insight, sign up for a discovery call. 

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