Zero Waste Scotland trials selling disposable coffee cups

1 October 2019 (Last Updated October 1st, 2019 15:17)

A new study conducted by Zero Waste Scotland has identified that selling disposable cups can make more people choose the option of a sustainable drink than offering reusables discounts.

Zero Waste Scotland trials selling disposable coffee cups
The scheme is supported and funded by the Scottish Government and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and will see areas of Scotland including Glasgow and Edinburgh testing alternatives to single-use products. Credit: Zero Waste Scotland.

A new study conducted by Zero Waste Scotland has identified that selling disposable cups can make more people choose the option of a sustainable drink than offering reusables discounts.

Through various trials, noted that customers switched to reusables for on-the-go coffee and tea options when cafés introduced equivalent charges for disposable cups replacing discounts for reusable cups.

Zero Waste Scotland conducted the trial in collaboration with the public sector.

The study saw four public sector cafés in the country stop offering discounts for reusable cups, and instead offered drinks in disposable cups by reducing the discount offered on reusables on the total price of a drink.

This move allowed the four companies to keep overall price of a hot drink at the same price, as well as increase the number of customers switching from disposable to reusable cups by 50%.

Zero Waste Scotland environmental policy advisor Michael Lenaghan said: “We have shown that it isn’t necessary to charge people more for their coffee to persuade them to ditch a disposable cup in favour of a reusable one. You just need to put a clear price on the cup and let consumers decide if it is a price worth paying every time they buy a drink.

“Single-use packaging has an environmental and a financial cost, but that financial cost is usually hidden from view, so consumers don’t have all the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions.

“Behavioural science has shown that people will make more effort to avoid a cost, such as a 25p charge on single-use cups than they will to obtain a gain of equal value, like a 25p reusable cup discount.”

He also noted that this move to reduce cost is being implemented in the country’s carrier bag charging scheme, and will be introduced in the forthcoming deposit return scheme.

Zero Waste Scotland launched a £1m fund to encourage businesses to contribute ideas to mitigate the menace of single-use packaging.