Wednesday, August 4News For London

Is there a sustainable future for reusable coffee cups?

Young Londoners are divided about the future of reusable coffee cups.

Coffee cup waste. Image by: Shutterstock

As you roam the streets of central London, it is not hard to spot that there are now four times as many takeaway coffee shops in the UK as there were 20 years ago. In most London coffee shops, only paper cups are sold which cannot be recycled. This is due to the inner polyethylene linings, which is water and heatproof. 

According to a January 2018 report, the Parliament Environmental Audit Committee revealed that around seven million disposable coffee cups are used every day in the UK. This equates to nine single-use cups of coffee per person and 2.5 billion coffee cups annually, creating 25,000 tonnes of waste

We ventured through busy London streets and asked pedestrians for their opinion on the reusable cup movement and its impact. Many appeared to be misinformed about the eco-friendly alternatives available despite drinking an average of two to five coffees per day. 

Although young Londoners hate being fined, they rarely go out of their way to save a few cents as the “discount is very low” and “people don’t care to pay a little more” (in reference to the single use cup fine). 

Some of the issues that were listed include: the inconvenience of carrying around a reusable cup, single use cups are handed to you automatically, and “because I don’t have just one [coffee]”.

One pedestrian stated that they don’t use reusable cups due to the “inconvenience”, while another Londoner added: “You have got to get the cup and carry it”.

The general consensus was that it was “just easier” to grab a coffee, handed to you in a paper cup, and go. 

As public pressure has grown against single-use plastic, with single-use even being named 2018’s ‘Word of the Year’, consumer giants have tried to find an environmentally friendly alternative. Starbucks also sells a £1 reusable cup, as well as a range of stylish tumblers in their stores.

There is also a 5p charge in all of stores with aim to reduce customers choosing a single-use paper cups over a reusable one.

Despite losing £25,000 in profits, some coffee chains like the Boston Tea Party, have gone the extra mile and banned disposable cups.

In an attempt of green revolution, AMT Coffee launched bio-compostable cups manufactured from sugarcane.

Many felt that the government could increase promotion of reusable cups. While one university student proposed larger discounts for reusable cup users than the standard Starbucks 25p reduction and Pret’s 50p.

Another suggested “more posters and social media promoting reusable cup use” giving as an example the use of Instagram posts. There was also the recommendation of financial benefit for companies by introducing levies. 

Despite what appears to be a lack of awareness there is confidence that London will achieve a sustainable future through government and societal action with the help of tax, social media campaigns and adverts.