Resource Use

Campaign urges reopening cafes to accept reusable cups

Cafes, restaurants and bars are being encouraged to accept customer reusable cups when they reopen by a new campaign.

The #Contactlesscoffee campaign, launched by Bristol-based plastic pollution campaign group City to Sea, aims to drive the uptake of reusable cups as food outlets begin to reopen after the Covid-19 pandemic and to stop a surge in single-use disposables.

City to Sea has shared a video demonstrating the best practice for serving customers coffee in reusable cups. Government guidelines leave the decision of whether to accept reusable cups and containers up to businesses.

City to Sea’s video highlights the best practice guidance:

  1. Customer places their clean reusable cup (lid off) on a designated tray and steps back two metres.
  2. The barista takes the tray with the customer's cup over to the coffee machine, extracts the coffee into a normal crockery cup or espresso cup and steams the milk, as required.
  3. Without touching the customer’s reusable cup, the attendant pours the coffee and milk into the customer’s cup, takes the tray back to the till and steps back two metres.
  4. Customer enjoys coffee in their favourite reusable coffee cup and reduces single-use cups.

Last week, a joint pilot for the campaign was run at Bristol wholefoods cafe Better Food where the video was filmed. Since the launch, South West coffee shop chain Boston Tea Party, which previously banned all single-use plastic cups in their stores in 2018, has signed up for a trial with plans to roll out the scheme to all 23 outlets by early July. Costa Coffee has also confirmed it will be accepting resusables from Thursday this week (5 June).

Whilst the campaign is Bristol-based, CEO Rebecca Burgess hopes the video advice for best practice will encourage food and drinks outlets across the country to make reusables a part of their reopening plans in time for Plastic Free July.

In December 2017, the government reported that 2.5 billion coffee cups are used and thrown away each year in the UK – enough to stretch around the world roughly five and a half times, driving organisations like City to Sea to tackle ‘throwaway’ culture.

City to Sea will be collaborating with the Sustainable Restaurant Association, Business in the Community, Costa Coffee and Zero Waste Scotland to ensure safety is a “number one priority.”

Rebecca Burgess, CEO of City to Sea, commented: “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.

She added: “I am saddened to see the plastics industry feeding on people’s fear to push its own agenda. Despite what the plastic industry wants us to believe, single-use plastic is no safer. While coronavirus doesn’t care which we use, when it comes to the planet, there is a big difference between single-use and reusable.

“Safety is quite rightly the number one priority for all of us right now and, if you’re starting to think about reopening, we totally understand why you may be considering offering single-use coffee cups only. However, no one material is guaranteed to stop the virus. That's why the World Health Organization and other health authorities continue to emphasise that washing our hands and sanitizing surfaces are still the best things we can be doing.

“So, whether it’s single use or reusable, coronavirus doesn't care – but our planet does. If there was ever a time to question the veracity of the plastics industry’s claims, it's now, when it is desperately trying to hold on to the market while the sky is falling in its boardrooms.”

City to Sea also organises the Refill campaign which aims to prevent plastic pollution by making it easier to reuse and refill water bottles on the go, avoiding the purchase of single-use plastic bottles. In November last year, Refill extended the scheme to coffee, launching a three-month pilot of an app showing consumers where they can refill their coffee cups and lunch boxes in Oxford and Bristol in collaboration with retailers including Costa Coffee, Morrisons and LEON.

You can read more about City to Sea on its website.