Tackling Packaging & Disposable Coffee Cups


The billions of disposable coffee cups that are thrown away every year, mostly ending up in landfill, have been making headlines recently as MPs propose a 25p ‘latte levy’. Plastic waste has also been in the spotlight as alarming statistics surface: Europeans generate 25m tonnes of plastic waste annually, but less than 30% is collected for recycling.

Many Fit for the Future members are already challenging industry norms when it comes to finding practical solutions to the problems of single-use packaging and coffee cups. Here are some of our favourite examples:


Thinking Outside the Takeaway Box


  • The University of Chester’s Hospitality team have focused on inventive ways to tackle the ‘Polystyrene Problem’: approximately 75,000 polystyrene (non-recyclable) food tubs used on campus a year


  • The team has replaced disposable polystyrene takeout boxes with a reusable ‘eco takeout box’, which students can return and exchange, thus preventing thousands of containers from going to landfill


  • The ethos is to enthuse staff, students and visitors about sustainable processes rather than dictate what they should and shouldn’t do. This results in a culture of empowerment, where individuals take control and choose to be green



Cup Culture vs Conservation


  • The National Trust sell over 10 million hot drinks to their visitors each year, and switched to using entirely compostable cups and lids across the board so as not to undermine their conservation aims.


  • At the Trust’s head office in Swindon they have gone a step further: take away cups have been completely removed from the staff café


Matt Hughes, National Trust’s food and beverage development manager explains:


 “The income we generate from the sale of our food and hot drinks helps us look after the places in our care, but this would be in vain if we were causing conservation issues. All of the takeaway cups and lids we now use are low carbon, renewable; completely free from plastic. Just by switching to eco cups, in 15 months we saved over 3.4 tonnes of carbon – the equivalent of 115 flights from London to Paris.We are also exploring how to turn our packaging to compost locally onsite. “



Soup-er Ways to Reduce Use


  • Historic Environment Scotland began by selling reduced price ‘keep cups’ and reusable soup mugs in their head office café, as well as giving the reusable cups away for free at events


  • They also focused on campaigns to raise awareness: a simple sign revealing how many paper cups have been used that week encourages staff to help reduce the number

coffee cups used

Katie Carter, Sustainability Officer at HES explains:

“We have been working closely with our caterers to try and reduce disposable cup usage in our head office. Investing in branded ‘keep cups’ for our staff has been very successful and to date we have sold over 350 cups and given away even more. In the future we hope to ban the use of paper cups entirely.

Our caterers have also worked with us on reducing their packaging, and now they sell cakes no longer wrapped in plastic! It’s a slow process as they don’t want to lose profits, however, we will continue to work closely with them to make positive changes.”


  • Fellow Network members The Church of England have also been making moves to end disposable coffee cup use internally, investing in Keep Cups for their staff in order to lessen the use of disposables.


“We’ve provided Mugs for Life to our Bishops Environment Group (now over 67 members) and our regional environment officers. Each mug is branded with our environmental campaign and a theological question – what does creation mean to you? They are intended as conversation starters and as a way to raise awareness of the damage our unsustainable resource use does to the environment.

We’re hoping to roll these cups out more widely across the organisation this year in addition to increasing the use of ceramics and Vegware.”

Ruth Knight, Environment Policy Manager, Church of England



Fit for the Future members are sharing bright ideas on how to tackle waste challenges like these as part of a dedicated Waste Management group. The group meets throughout the year to discuss challenges, solutions, innovations and successes. To get involved, or to link with the organisations mentioned in this post and find out more about their projects, contact us.