Want to become more sustainable and save money? You’re in the right place! Welcome to the second in this series of blogs focusing on sustainability by Business, Economics and Finance student, Debbie Andrews:
This time I am going to challenge you to change the way you consume hot drinks and water, while you are out and about, whether that be on campus or in town. A couple of easy steps can make a big difference.
It is estimated that in the UK we use a massive 2.5 billion takeaway hot drink cup every year. But this is nothing compared with the 13 billion plastic bottles!
Plastic bottles are easily recycled through the council green bins, but takeaway cups sold by the likes of McDonalds, Costa and Starbucks are harder to recycle. The problem lies in the way the cups are made from bonded plastic and paper. In the UK we have several sites capable of processing and recycling them the issue is getting the cups to the processors.
A scheme does exist to solve the problem, but it is under used. Retailers of takeaway hot drinks have ‘banks’ in their stores for customers to deposit their cups in. But here is the problem, they are takeaway drinks. Why are customers going to hang around drinking their hot drink by the outlet just to be able to recycle the cup? Only 1 in 400 cups is collected for recycling. In Worcester you can deposit your cups in banks at all branches of McDonalds, Costa and Starbucks, if you are passing or want to collect some together at home and take them back next time you visit a store.
Despite the ease of recycling plastic bottles, we still only manage to recycle about 50% of the 13 billion used each year. This is a lot better than the hot drink cup figure but where do the rest go? Even if we did recycle all the bottles, the greenhouse gases used in the production cannot be undone. 5% of all greenhouse gas is created in plastic production, 40% of which, like the bottles is single use plastic.
Friends of the Earth believe that we can all be part of the solution and here at the University of Worcester we are already making a start:
Water fountains are cited on all campuses to allow Student’s access to free drinking water. With a small bottle of water costing £1.55 in the St Johns Campus café, you have a big incentive to use the water fountains. The sites of the fountains are on these maps.
In campus cafes and SU shop, take away drinks are sold in ‘100% compostable’ cups. Furthermore prior to the pandemic, there was a big push to encourage customers to use their own cups. With a 20p extra charge for customers not doing this, amazingly approximately 50% of all sales were in a customer’s own cup. However, this has had to stop since the pandemic, but it is intended to start again as soon as Health and Safety allow.
In town Costa, Café Nero and Starbucks all offer 25p and Greggs 20p, discount for customers using their own cups. Additionally, if you want some water, 55 places in Worcester City Centre, including the Hive, will allow you to refill a water bottle for free. You can locate these on the Refill App.
So, I set you a challenge get yourself a travel cup, a water bottle or even both. There are loads to choose from, whether insulation, tactile grips, anti-spill technology or increased aroma, motivational markings or just plain leak proof is your thing and you can start being part of the solution.