Why Waitrose removing disposable cups from free coffee might just start a revolution...


By Stuart Cleak

Okay so the title of this passle sounds grand but bear with me.  One of the issues I am often considering is how we change consumer behaviour. There is clear evidence that a certain percentage of the population (sadly a small one) is pro-recycling, pro-change and proactive in taking action to help preserve the planet.  The number of “switchers” on websites to green tariffs remains fairly constant each year.  The problem is that it is a minority - consumer patterns are not changing sufficiently to make as big an impact as required.  

It would seem the carrot approach is not going to save the day so what else might assist.  Do we need to use the proverbial stick or perhaps it comes down to leaving the consumer with no choice but to  be part of the revolution.  Putting aside whether you think Waitrose customers are or aren’t planet conscious (the fact that 52 millions cup would be saved would suggest they aren't) the fact that there will not be a disposable cup will force those customers to make a choice either bring a cup (if they really enjoy their coffee walking round shopping) or forego their coffee.  

This has a two-fold benefit. Firstly, 52 million cups a year won’t be thrown away or need recycling which is a good step but secondly (and the one I am more excited about) is that it has the potential to change behavioural patterns.  If an individual wants coffee they will have to remember to bring a cup.  If they are like me they will forget to bring a cup initially so to ensure they remember they will pack a cup with them almost wherever they go.  They are much more likely to then have their cup and use it when at other coffee shops meaning another disposable cup goes unused and unrequired.  If they are not like me and always remember without the need to carry a cup round constantly who is to say that they won’t be inspired to remember to bring a cup when they go out for coffee or head to work.  One small change can have a big impact which reminds me of a favourite story of mine...

It’s fascinating to see what encourages, cajoles or forces people to take action that benefits the planet.  Sometimes it’s the carrot, sometimes the stick and sometimes it's just making it the only option.  Similar really to the global position on climate change!

The removal of disposable cups will initially take place in nine branches from 30 April before a full rollout by the autumn. It is estimated that the move will save more than 52 million cups a year. Members of the myWaitrose loyalty scheme will be asked to bring their own reusable cup in order to continue receiving the option of a free tea or coffee from their store’s self-serve machine
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