It has been found that consumers around the UK throw away around 2.5 billion coffee cups every year. Out of this figure it has been discovered that less than 1% of these cups are recycled. This is because there are a small number of facilities that can handle the plastic coating applied as a lining to the cardboard cups that then allows them to hold the hot beverage.
It is thought that the retailers and quick service restaurants and live events that usually serve drinks in these types of coffee cups have long believed that reusable coffee cups are significantly better for the environment than the single use cups, this is even when the cardboard coffee cups can be recycled. However, the main challenge that faces this industry is trying to get more people to adopt reusable cups among their customers.
No one has been able to figure out a solution to this challenge and now there is more and more pressure from different associations, environmental bodies and the Government. Some coffee shop chains do offer discounts when purchasing a drink in a reusable cup, but the uptake for these schemes is slow. In order to tackle this problem, Mark Anderson has published a short paper looking at the possible solutions.
Mark found that there is a scheme in Germany called Refill It! As part of this, customers can obtain a reusable cup for a deposit of €1.50, but the innovation in this scheme comes from the opportunity for the customer to keep their reusable cup and use it in other participating coffee shops or returning it and receiving their deposit back. If the cup is returned it is then cleaned and offer it to another customer. This scheme could help tackle the usage of single use cups because it removes the need for customers to carry a reusable cup in order to use it, and also the need to carry it home in order to wash it after each use.