Coffee shops sign up to post-lockdown reusable cup platform

Coffee shops from the likes of Costa and Boston Tea Party that are reopening across the UK are signing up to a new best-practice trial on accepting reusable coffee cups in a safe manner.

The best-practice steps are designed to promote reusable cups in a safe manner

The best-practice steps are designed to promote reusable cups in a safe manner

Co-ordinated by sustainable behaviour change firm City to Sea, the new initiative will encourage coffee shops that are reopening as lockdown eases to accept reusable coffee cups from customers in a manner that is safe and won’t contribute to the potential spread of the coronavirus.

Around 2.5 billion coffee cups are used and thrown away each year in the UK, and the UK Government’s current guidance leaves it up to the retailer to “decide whether they allow the use of reusable cups or containers” during the pandemic. The likes of Starbucks temporarily banned the use of reusables in the build-up to the lockdown.

The main concern with using reusables is one of health, with retailers concerned about the spread of the virus. However, City to Sea, in a working partnership with the Sustainable Restaurant Association, Business in the Community and Zero Waste Scotland, will issue guides to enable retailers to promote reusable coffee cups in the safest way.

Already, City to the Sea – winner of edie's Consumer Engagement/Marketing Campaign of the Year – has worked with Bristol-based retailer and café Better Food and has shared a short video highlighting the latest best practice. Other highstreet retailers including Costa Coffee and Boston Tea Party – which eliminated single-use coffee cups in 2018 – have confirmed involvements in accepting reusables.

City to Sea’s chief executive Rebecca Burgess commented: “Bristol is a trailblazer in the green movement, so it is the perfect city to launch our pilot. As Coronavirus hit the UK it became clear that there has been a surge in single-use plastics and as we come out the other side, we are keen to not only support coffee chains, local independents and restaurants, but also not let the great strides towards reusables slip.”

Burgess recently appeared on edie’s new #SustyTalk video series discussing consumer attitudes towards single-use plastics during lockdown. Watch the interview here.

The best practice guidance suggests that customers place clean reusable cups with the lid off onto designated trays before stepping back two metres. Baristas will then make the drink in a normal crockery cup before pouring into the reusable cup without touching it. Customers are then able to take the reusable cup and place a lid on it.

Plastic push

The initiative is timely, with some plastic producers using the coronavirus pandemic to push for relaxation on the phase-out of single-use plastics.

Greenpeace claims that the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Manhattan Institute, and American Energy Alliance have all been circulating new PR and studies that “explicitly warn anxious consumers that reusable grocery bags could be spreading coronavirus” and are therefore calling for single-use bags to be prioritised. The campaigners claim that those companies have “been known to work with” think tanks funded by fossil fuel companies.

On the shopping front, consumers are now starting to pivot on their approach to plastic-wrapped fresh produce. For the last two years, plastics have been public enemy number one, but a new BloombergNEF report found that “concerns around food hygiene due to Covid-19 could increase plastic packaging intensity, undoing some of the early progress made by companies”.

edie has explored whether the pandemic will allow for the re-emergence of single-use plastics. Read the feature here.

Matt Mace



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