Over 20,000 Disposable Cups Already Saved at UCL Thanks to New 15p Surcharge

Over 20,000 Disposable Cups Already Saved at UCL Thanks to New 15p Surcharge

The ‘Ditch the Disposable’ campaign launched at the start of the academic year has recorded a significant reduction in single-use cups. 

17.3% of hot drinks at UCL cafes were sold in reusable cups in October, equating to 21,316 fewer disposable cups used, after the introduction of a 15p surcharge. Last year, only 5% of hot drinks were sold in reusable cups, but since the introduction of the ‘Ditch the Disposable’ initiative the percentage has already more than trebled.

For the 2017/18 academic year, the university adopted a discount approach where students would save up to 15p if they brought their own mugs. The effect wasn’t significant, as around one million single-use cups were still disposed over the course of the year.

The ‘Ditch the Disposable’ campaign aims to address this problem. The 15p surcharge was introduced following research showing that a charge on disposable cups is more effective than a discount. Last year, academics at Cardiff University found that people are ‘far more sensitive to losses than to gains when making decisions’, and claimed that the UK could save up to 300 million single-use coffee cups through implementing surcharges.

The campaign also reflects the recent recommendations from Parliament’s Environmental Committee, which called on the government to introduce a 25p ‘latte levy’ on disposable coffee cups.

Speaking to Pi News, GreenUCL said that they worked with the SU and other UCL catering providers to settle on the 15p price level, taking into account the charges at other institutions as well as the likely impact of the campaign.

UCL have set an initial target of 30% of hot drinks to be served in reusable cups. The target is based on the results from Winchester University, which introduced a 25p charge in 2016. In a bid to achieve this, various reusable flasks and cups are now available on a not-for-profit basis at UCL cafes and in the SU shop.

Image Credit: Estelle Ciesla