How do we keep our coffee habit but kick our plastic addiction?

Alice Beese
By Alice Beese

Every year, Greece produces around 1,000 tons of wasted single-use plastic cups. That’s about the same weight as 8 ½ blue whales.

Last year, the European Parliament voted to ban a range of single-use plastics by 2021 – most of which are commonly found on beaches (including straws, bags, bottles, take away food containers and coffee cups), and all of which are used by tourists.

In our Clean Blue Guidelines, we lay out exactly how tourist-facing businesses can identify their plastic challenge and then implement solutions. Here, for example, is our four-step plan for reducing the use of single-use coffee cups.

  1. Kick off by incentivising customers to use reusable cups.
  2. Maintain loyalty to reuse schemes by offering discounts or free coffee on, for example, the tenth refill.
  3. Improve recycling behaviours, ensuring any remaining plastic is washed and put into the right bin.
  4. Champion ambassadors for reuse by providing staff with a reusable cup.

These steps focus on behaviour change and the adoption of disruptive business models. Excitingly, there are lots of innovative businesses and organisations stepping up to help solve the plastics challenge – here are a few of our favourites.

Reusable cups - Huskup is made using rice husk, the outer shell of a grain of rice, so it’s a natural by-product of rice milling. It’s strong and has short tough fibres that are naturally resistant to moisture (which means it doesn’t have to be mixed with other ‘plasticisers’ to work).


Closed loop reuse systemsCupclub provides an innovative solution to plastic cup recycling streams. Using RFID technology, it allows coffee cups to be used and disposed of by customers, collected and washed by CupClub and then reused by the original retailer. Each cup can be used 132 times before it is recycled.

Improving existing recycling streams – In the UK, far too many paper drinking cups (with a pesky plastic layer) end up in landfill or waste-to-energy generators because they end up in the wrong waste stream. Simply Cups solves this problem by bypassing the traditional ‘mixed recycling route’ – instead, collecting, bulking and then sending the materials directly to the correct re-processors.

Related Stories

Sign up to our newsletter to learn more about our upcoming programmes

academy icon arrow-down icon arrow-left icon arrow-next icon arrow-right icon black-arrow icon clean-blue-alliance icon close icon download icon drawdown icon facebook icon heart icon human-health icon instagram icon letter icon link icon linkedin icon logo-circle-only icon mail icon play icon reset icon search icon strapline icon tick icon translate icon twitter icon youtube icon