Incentives could curb disposable coffee cup use by 300 million
The consumption of single use coffee cups could be reduced by up to 300 million a year through financial incentives, providing re-usable alternatives and clear messaging of the environmental impact, finds a new study.
It’s estimated 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are used in the UK each year, creating around 25,000 tonnes of waste. The study by Cardiff University on behalf of coffee and tea company, Bewley’s, tested a range of measures that could encourage the use of re-usable coffee cups.
The research found that financial incentives, re-usable alternatives, and clear messaging reminding customers of the environmental impact of single use coffee cups all had a direct impact on consumer behaviour.
The study found that a charge on disposable cups increased the use of re-usable coffee cups by 3.4%, environmental messaging in cafes increased the use of re-usable coffee cups by 2.3%, the availability of re-usable cups led to an increase of 2.5%, and the distribution of free re-usable cups led to a further increase of 4.3%.
Professor Wouter Poortinga, from the Welsh School of Architecture, and author of the report said: “While the increases for individual measures were modest, the greatest behavioural change was when the measures were combined”.
The study found that the provision of free re-usable alternatives combined with clear environmental messaging and a charge on disposable cups increased the use of reusable cups from 5.1% to 17.4%.
Poortinga said: “Our results show that, on average, the use of reusable coffee cups could be increased by up to 12.5% with a combination of measures. With this in mind, the UK’s usage of an estimated 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups each year could be cut by up to 300 million coffee cups”.
Another notable finding was that, while a charge on disposable cups increased the use of re-usable coffee cups, a discount on re-usable coffee cups had no impact on their usage. Poortinga said there is an important nuance when it comes to financial incentives: “People are far more sensitive to losses than to gains when making decisions – so if we really want to change a customer’s behaviour then a charge on a disposable cup is more likely to be effective”.
Louise Whitaker, head of marketing at Bewley’s UK, said: “The research is a really useful step forward in knowing how best to steer people towards bringing their own cups”.