Working towards a sustainable environment

The UK’s first airport reusable coffee cup trial gets under way this week at Gatwick, offering passengers the opportunity to borrow and return refillable cups in a bid to help cut waste and tackle “throwaway” culture.

Communications around the airport will encourage customers to return their cups to "check-in points" across the facility before they board 

Communications around the airport will encourage customers to return their cups to “check-in points” across the facility before they board 

Customers buying hot takeaway drinks from Starbucks will have the option to borrow a free reusable cup instead of using a paper cup, which they can then drop off at a designated point before boarding their flight.

The trial – starting today (10 June) in Gatwick’s South Terminal – will help customers reduce their disposable cup usage in a manageable “closed loop” environment that could be used in any travel hub. The scheme is being launched by Starbucks in partnership with the environmental charity Hubbub with support from Gatwick, the UK’s second largest airport.


The use of reusable cups in all coffee chains has increased in the UK – thanks to incentives such as discounts – but anecdotal evidence suggests consumers tend not to bring the cups with them when they’re going on holiday.

The aim of the trial is to put 2,000 reusable Starbucks cups in circulation throughout Gatwick’s South Terminal, which could drastically reduce the number of paper cups being used each day. If only 250 customers opted for a reusable cup each day, for example, more than 7,000 paper cups could be saved in one month.

“We know people care about waste, but it’s often hard to do the right thing when travelling,” Hubbub co-founder and chief executive Trewin Restorick said. 

“We want to find out whether people will get onboard with reusing cups if we make it easy and convenient. The airport is the ideal environment to trial a reusable cup scheme as it has the potential to reduce large volumes of paper cup waste.”

An estimated 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are used in the UK each year, a large proportion ending up in landfill. At Gatwick, more than 5.3 million of the 7 million paper cups used each year are already being recycled but Starbucks and Hubbub have identified the potential to increase reusable cup options as well to limit the number of cups used in travel hubs where on-the-go packaging is prevalent

Gatwick’s sustainability lead Rachel Thompson said: “There is strong public support for measures to reduce waste and we are delighted to support a retailer with an innovation that can help travellers do that.”

The test is part of Starbucks’ and Hubbub’s ongoing commitment to reducing paper cup waste. In July last year, the coffee company became the first to introduce a 5p charge on paper cups to encourage reuse, with all proceeds going to Hubbub to carry out environmental projects and research, such as the Gatwick trial.

Rebecca Smithers 

This article first appeared on the Guardian

edie is part of the Guardian Environment Network