Scotland ditches disposable cups

Scotland is ditching disposable cups! Well, almost. In an effort to slash single-use waste and alter attitudes towards disposable items, more than a dozen cafés in Stirling, Scotland will offer customers the option of reusable cup for to-go drinks in return for a £1 deposit. The deposit can be reclaimed at any café participating in the Ditching Disposables Stirling scheme.

The programme is part of the Ditching Disposables initiative from Zero Waste Scotland, a pilot that ran in Portobello, Edinburgh in 2021, which saw six businesses in Edinburgh cut their use of single-use items by up to 99%. A total of 14 businesses across Stirling will now offer customers a reusable cup for a £1 deposit that can be refunded by returning it to any participating café. The initiative will last for six months, with other cafés able to sign up throughout that period.

Ditching single-use items is one of the most effective actions businesses can take to reduce their contribution to climate change. Much of the carbon emissions that are produced can be attributed to the products that we make, use, and discard — and single-use items are an avoidable contributor. Consumers use an estimated 16 billion disposable coffee cups each year. The single-use cups (along with lids, sleeves and stir sticks) are often made with hard-to-recycle materials like Styrofoam, polyethylene or polypropylene that are sent straight to the landfill. Ditching disposable items can not only help businesses close the gap on their own net zero goals, but they can also save money by negating the need to reorder items that are thrown away after one use.

The Ditching Disposables Stirling trial is being managed and funded by Zero Waste Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government and delivered in conjunction with environmental consultancy Green Gain. Zero Waste Scotland aims to lead Scotland to use products and resources responsibly, focusing on areas that can have the greatest impact on climate change. Its goal “is to inform policy, and motivate individuals and businesses to embrace the environmental, economic, and social benefits of a circular economy.”

Commenting on the initiative, Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said in a statement, “Single-use items are emblematic of our throwaway culture, which it’s vital we change if we’re serious about tackling the climate crisis. Choosing to reuse is one of the best things we can all do for the environment, and the Ditching Disposables initiative has a proven track record of supporting businesses and consumers to live their best sustainable lifestyle.”

One of the cafés participating in the reusable cup scheme is Kings Park Pavilion, whose owner, Craig Wilkie, shared in a statement, “[we] signed up to Ditching Disposables to try and tackle the amount of single use disposable cups we use for takeaway drinks. Our café gets a lot of takeaway trade throughout the year, but particularly in the spring and summer months. We are really keen to monitor the impact of the reusable cups on reducing wasteful single use cups and lids.”

Wilkie said the programme represents a great opportunity to test the reusable cup model and looks forward to sharing the experience with other cafés in Stirling, adding, “we hope to work with our customers to engage them in the scheme and give them a better takeaway experience, whilst reducing waste, and hopefully saving money on disposable cups.”

In addition to Kings Park Pavilion, the 13 other cafés participating in the Ditching Disposables Stirling initiative (as of 3 April) include Luna CBD, Nooch Café, Piece Out (at The Peak Leisure Centre) Stirling Coffee, The Burgh, The Pend, The Smith Café, The Tolbooth, Toasted Stirling (formerly Voseba), Unorthadox Roasters, Victoria’s Coffee Shop and the Village Café (at The Peak Leisure Centre), and beginning in May, The Station Coffee House. (Participating cafés can be located by visiting:

The Ditching Disposables Stirling will run until 5 October, and other local hospitality venues are encouraged to sign up throughout the trial.

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