Marketers and the convenience industry have sold us the idea that careless consumption is the justifiable consequence of a busy and upwardly mobile life. Want to communicate successful career woman? Put a disposable cup in her hand. Engaged and creative workforce? Place some disposable cups around the boardroom table.
Half of the plastic produced in the world today goes into single use items – products are used only once. It is estimated that globally over one million disposable cups are used and discarded every minute. Even if they were recyclable, their volume is untenable.
In terms of the total waste and climate crisis, it’s a small problem, but one that points sharply at the catastrophic consequences of convenience culture. Is a reduction in our living conditions worth a plastic bag, timber chopsticks, a disposable cup?
All too slowly, measures are being taken by governments to deter and eradicate the use of single use items, the proposed disposable cup tax, bans on disposable cutlery and cups in France by 2020. Marketers and businesses have an opportunity to engage employees around sustainable behaviour, engage their teams, and significantly reduce the operational costs of waste collection.
Companies like the Bank of England, Rolls Royce and EY have been extremely successful in rolling out reuse campaigns and creative, positive pathways for sustainable behaviour. Done with sincerity, implementing a reuse programme in the workplace is a great way to foster employee engagement, galvanise teams and build brand.
KeepCup started in Australia, where the disposable cup really stands out in the waste landscape. It is a simple product that works behind the machine as well as for the customer by replicating disposable cup volumes, being easy to clean and carry. We believe good actions create good habits, and that we are all driven by a common desire to act mindfully and positively. KeepCup is a bottom up consumer driven brand.
Recently, coffee chains in the UK have been accused of making false claims about how many paper cups they recycle. About 2.5bn paper coffee cups are used in Britain each year but less than three million were recycled last year, according to Simply Cups, which operates Britain’s only paper cup recycling service. Disposable cups require a dedicated waste stream and specialist recycling facilities where the polyethylene used to laminate the paper is removed. Materially, drinking from a disposable cup is like drinking from a plastic bag.
Reuse rates in high street chains are less than two per cent, yet 20 per cent of sales are dine in. Reusables must become the norm in all “have in” environments, including organisations.
Marketers and media have sold us convenience culture. It’s time to make reuse the new normal and promote a mindful existence as the driver of status and wellbeing. The busy executive? She’s carrying a reusable cup.
Since 2009, KeepCup reusers have diverted an estimated 5bn disposable cups from landfill. We believe that many small acts make a phenomenal difference.
The best reusable is the one you use.
Abigail Forsyth, Founder, KeepCup.
Tel: +44(0)20 7042 3305