Waitrose to scrap disposable coffee cups
The chain, which has more than 350 stores across the UK, will be rolling out the scheme to nine supermarkets by the end of April, and then to the rest by the autumn.
Public opinion appears to be supportive of such measures, with growing awareness of the problem posed by single-use cups. Around 2.5 billion single-use coffee cups are thrown away in the UK every year, and the majority of this ends up going to landfill or incineration; the items cannot be collected along with ordinary dry recycling due to their mixed paper and plastic composition, as well as the high possibility of contamination. Moreover, most cups are used on the go and end up in residual waste bins due to a lack of necessary collection infrastructure in public places.
In March, the World Wildlife Fund predicted coffee cup waste would rise by a third by 2030 if current trends continue unchecked, and a number of retailers have taken voluntary steps to cut down on single-use products: Starbucks, for instance, is currently trialling a five pence ‘latte levy’ in 35 of its London stores.
A 25 pence charge for cups was recommended by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) after its inquiry into the problem found that only 0.25 per cent of coffee cups are recycled. The Committee heard evidence that charges are the best way to encourage the uptake of reusable alternatives.
Waitrose’s actions go one step further in that customers will be actively forced to use a reusable cup for hot drinks purchased in store. The popular myWaitrose loyalty scheme, which allows members to get a free tea or coffee from self-service machines, will continue as normal, but customers will only be able to do so if they have a reusable cup.
Tor Harris, head of sustainability at Waitrose, commented: "We realise this is a major change, but we ... are confident the majority of customers will support the environmental benefits."
Responding to the announcement, Sian Sutherland, co-founder of campaign group A Plastic Planet, said: "Waitrose should be applauded for this uncompromising bold step. Plastic-lined coffee cups are a curse on the environment, and it's clear that the move could help to slash more than 52 million cups from Waitrose's annual plastic footprint.
"I call on all Waitrose shoppers to applaud their retailer and support them by bringing a cup. Let’s not moan about convenience when we know what the true price of convenience is - plastic sea and plastic soil.”
A Plastic Planet is behind calls for a plastic-free aisle in supermarkets to reduce the UK’s level of plastic packaging waste, a concept the government said in its 25 Year Environment Plan that it would ‘explore’ with retailers. Sutherland stated: "Plastic has absolutely no place in food and drink retail. Initiatives like the one Waitrose announced today are hugely positive developments but plastic pollution will continue to be a scourge on the environment unless we call a halt to all plastic in grocery retail.
“This means swapping plastic packaging with materials that can easily be dealt with by the environment. Alongside traditional plastic-free materials like paper, aluminium and glass, innovative new compostable biomaterials represent a much smarter way forward.”