Waitrose plans to remove all disposable coffee cups from its shops by this autumn as part of efforts to reduce plastic and packaging waste and stop millions going into landfill.
Customers who belong to the myWaitrose loyalty scheme will still be able to get free tea or coffee from the stores’ self-service machines but will be instead be asked to use a refillable cup, the company said.
The removal of disposable cups will initially take place in nine stores from 30 April as a trial for managing the changeover before the scheme is rolled out nationwide in a phased programme.
The grocery chain said the move would save more than 52 million cups a year across the UK.
According to a recent report from the parliamentary environmental audit committee, the UK throws away 2.5bn disposable coffee cups a year. They cannot be recycled by normal systems because they are made from cardboard with a tightly bonded polyethylene liner, which is difficult to remove. As a result, just one in 400 cups are recycled.
“We realise this is a major change, but we believe removing all takeaway disposable cups is the right thing to do for our business and are confident the majority of customers will support the environmental benefits,” said Tor Harris, head of sustainability and responsible sourcing at Waitrose. “It underlines our commitment to plastic and packaging reduction, and our aim is to deliver this as quickly as possible.”
Trewin Restorick of the environmental charity Hubbub said: “This is a bold move by Waitrose that should be applauded. It is great to see a major retailer taking decisive action to cut waste in such a high profile part of their business.”
The changes mean myWaitrose members will not be able to claim their free hot drink in the chain’s 180 in-store cafes, to avoid customers without a reusable cup who cannot use the self-service machines putting increased pressure on the catering areas.
Instead, myWaitrose members who purchase a tea or coffee in a cafe will get a choice of food options free or with a significant discount.
The shops in the trial are in Banbury, Billericay, Ipswich, Newmarket, Norwich, Sudbury, Wymondham, Upminster in London, and Fitzroy Street in Cambridge.