Disposable coffee cups

Field trial and evidence review of disposable cup charges

Many lifecycle assessments (LCA) have been done over the last two decades to compare environmental impacts of various disposable and reusable cups. While exact results vary, the overall conclusions do not; reusable cups have a lower environmental impact than disposable cups, provided they are reused enough times.

This report summarises the key findings from a trial conducted by Zero Waste Scotland in partnership with two public sector organisations. 

The research concludes that by simply replacing existing reusable cup discounts with an equivalent, cost-neutral disposable coffee cup charge, retailers can significantly increase reusable cup use without impacting sales, and with no cost increase to consumers.

Key Findings

Existing research on disposable coffee cup charges:

  • Reusable cups are environmentally preferred to disposable coffee cups if used enough times.
  • Numerous studies show disposable coffee cup charges are more effective than discounts at increasing reusable cup use.

Zero Waste Scotland’s cost-neutral charge trial:

  • Existing £0.05 and £0.10 reusable cups replaced with ‘cost-neutral’ disposable cup charges at 4 café retail sites
  • Reuse rates increased across all sites (avg. 185%)
  • Drink sales were unaffected by charge
  • Customer survey found strong consumer support for DCC charge at national scale