Coffee [Convenience] Culture

It can be a bit overwhelming lunching outside on a sunny day in central London, watching the quantity of takeaway drinks and food consumed multiple times a day due to the increasingly crazy demand for convenience. This month’s article celebrates some of the awesome ideas that are emerging to counter this lifestyle.

As a bit of a coffee snob and proud New Zealander, when not off on an adventure making coffee with ‘Pete the percolator’, I am partial to a hipster café and a delicious flat white. Our number 1 top tip and new goal is eat in wherever possible – it’s a win/win – meet some quirky locals and enjoy some people watching, while slowing down the pace of your day for a few minutes. But if that is not possible or you just want to take your coffee down to the beach or for a walk along the canal side, we have put together a few ideas to give you a range of other planet-friendly options. 

It might not be news to you but many people are unaware that most recyclable coffee cups head straight to the landfill. Those that are recycled need to go to the right recycling place as they are lined with a plastic called polyethylene – this means they might not be recycled even when put in the right bin. The plastic lining cannot be removed by most recycling facilities, the paper is usually contaminated by the contents and there is no UK or European market for contaminated paper food packaging. Even the compostable cups require commercial composting to biodegrade.

Here are some shocking stats:

In the whole world:

  • Over 500 billion disposable cups are manufactured globally every year – these could wrap around the world 1360 times!

In the UK alone:

  • 1 in 5 people visit a coffee shop each day and over half of their coffees are taken in disposable cups.
  • 2.5 billion cups are thrown away every year.
  • This would stretch around the world 5.5 times.
  • Less than 1 in 400 cups are recycled! Although 90% of people in the UK put their coffee cup in recycling bins, only 0.25% are recycled due to inadequate bins. 
  • 500,000 cups are littered every day – the waste of coffee cups from a year would fill London’s Royal Albert Hall!

In New Zealand:

  • We are bit short on hard stats, but nearly 300 million coffee cups go to the landfill each year! Quite a lot for a small population of flat white loving humans.

Although a lot of coffee retailers will offer a 25p (or NZ50c) discount if customers bring their own cups, the evidence is that consumers are more likely to respond to a charge. There has been talk in the UK of introducing the “latte levy”, charging 25p for a disposable cup, which could be used to invest in facilities to make sure the remaining cups are recycled. There is no news of this being introduced yet but we hope NZ is going to keep pace and maybe even take over the lead with this initiative.

Despite these shockers, we like to try and think positive and so have been reading up on all the awesome businesses doing good out there - here are some sweet stats and ideas that give us some hope:


The well-known market leader in reusable cups, which come from Aussie in the city of coffee culture, Melbourne, have an aim of creating a global brand to help kick start the demise of the disposable and we absolutely love this. Now spread all over the wold, keep cup have removed over 4 million disposable cups from circulation this year. If you haven’t already got one, get online and design your own to look extra fab at your desk or on your morning commute and check out their website to calculate your impact and some mind blowing facts – we have listed a few below:

  • There is enough plastic in 28 disposable cups and lids to make a small keep cup
  • Over 4 million disposable cups have been removed from circulation so far this year.
  • Over a year, keep cups use half the carbon, one third the water and half the energy compared with disposables


Cupclub has recently received funding and launched in London in April 2018, looking to partner with pioneering London cafes in the reduction of plastic waste. Cupclub uses the idea of the Boris bike in London to shift from the idea of owning a bike to paying per ride, covering cost of the bike and maintenance, rather than owning a bike. In the context of coffee, this shifts the idea of owning a cup to paying per drink to cover the cost of the cup and the maintenance. Cupclub sells reusable coffee cups to retailers and their customers use them, and drop them off at convenient drop points where cupclub collect them, wash them and deliver them back to cafes. They are starting with coffee cups but their website also highlights the opportunities in food and drinks packaging ….

A pilot scheme at the Royal College of Art in London reduced single use plastics by 40 percent in 9 weeks, while increasing sales! Highlighting that this is not just good for the planet but good for your business as well. Why not mention this idea to your local spot next time you pop in and tell them you would love it if they did something like this too.

Use Your Own Cup (UYOC)

New Zealand has a really handy guide called Use Your Own Cup ( UYOC ), which lists the cafes near you that welcome reusable cups. This is also great for a quick check for good coffee and delicious food in your area, including healthy, vegan and vegetarian options. Super useful when you are off on a roady and need a good pull over point or a morning coffee recommendation near your next air bnb.


New Zealand is also leading the way with Cupcycling, based down in beautiful Motueka which, as of January 2018, had 9 cafes participating and more lined up to join the movement to make Motueka free of takeaway coffee cups. This works using reusable coffee cup, made by ideal cup, which people pay NZ$10 at one of the participating cafes for the ongoing use of a cup which they can take back to a cupcycling outlet once they are finished.

Awesome stats:

  • Approximately 11,000 cups are diverted per year in café celcius coffee (which set up the concept)
  • If all 27 cafes in Motueka participated, in the future it could stop more than 200,000 takeaway cups a year.

We think this is awesome and shows that cafes are taking real initiative and responsibility for the products and wastage they produce. Rumour has it that the Councils in NZ are interested!

These are just a smidgen of the awesome ideas that are emerging around the world, focusing on reducing and reusing before recycling that give us hope that these statistics can change. Be encouraged to take your next flat white in a café that that is following this trend so that you are voting with your wallet and pushing the big guys to change too. We will leave you with some inspirational shots of coffee in good old fashioned mug from the cupboard or camping bag, best enjoyed at sunrise or sunset.