How to encourage reusable cup use

If your organisation is looking to invest in reusable coffee cups, whether to give away to staff or customers or to offer for sale, of course you want people to use them. But what’s the best way to encourage them to do so?

Here in the UK several major coffee chains now offer discounts of up to 50p to customers who bring their own cups. This has had a positive impact on the use of reusable cups, and the higher the discount, the more difference it seems to make.

Consumer feedback appears to back up the wisdom of this approach. A recent World Coffee Portal survey found that 36% of UK consumers think that giving a discount on coffee is the best way to encourage people to use reusable cups.

A study carried out at Cardiff University in 2016, based on actual consumer behaviour, found that the best approach was to combine a number of measures. Interestingly charging extra for using a disposable cup had more impact than offering a discount on drinks purchased in a reusable cup.

This was backed up by the results of a recent Starbucks trial, where they charged for disposable cups at selected branches . Six weeks after introducing the 5p charge last February, in combination with their existing 25p discount on coffee served in a reusable cup, reusable cup use was up by a staggering 156.6%!

Here’s a quick summary of some of the things you might like to consider incorporating into your reusable cup strategy:

• Order branded cups. This helps to drive brand loyalty and means that wherever people use your cups they’re increasing positive perception of your brand.

• Consider giving away at least some of your branded cups. Perhaps not surprisingly the Cardiff study found that this was the most powerful single way to encourage reusable cup use.

• Incorporate clear environmental messaging into your marketing and point of sale materials. For example: ‘Each year 2.5 billion cups are thrown away after a single use. We’re working to stem the tide of plastic waste with our reusable cups’.

• Allow people who have one of your branded cups to swap their used one for a clean one each time they use it.

• If you’re offering the cups for sale in a café or canteen, make sure they’re displayed in a prominent position.

• Make a small extra charge for drinks ordered in disposable cups.

• Offer a discount for drinks ordered in reusable cups.

Of course it’s down to each organisation to decide on the right approach. But whatever strategy you opt for, we would definitely recommend supporting it with a strong environmental message.

It’s worth noting that since the Cardiff study was conducted, consumer awareness of the issues surrounding plastic pollution has increased dramatically, largely thanks to Blue Planet II . This has given people extra motivation to make changes to minimise their impact. In fact 88% of people who watched Blue Planet II say it has motivated them to change their lifestyle. It makes sense to capitalise on this and leverage the increased sense of personal responsibility to encourage people to carry and use your reusable cups.

Please get in touch to share your experiences of encouraging reusable cup use. We’d love to hear what has and hasn’t worked for you.