Boston Tea Party Become First Coffee Chain To Ban Disposable Coffee Cups

An independently owned coffee chain stands to lose over one million pounds intakeaway coffee sales when it bans all single use coffee cups on 1st June this year.  Takeaway hot drinks are 5.2% of Boston Tea Party’s total turnover of £19.8m.

Boston Tea Party (BTP), which has 21 cafes across the South West and the Midlands, is asking customers to make the move to reusable cups. They can bring their own reusable cups, take advantage of a cup loan scheme or buy a cup in store when disposable cups are banned in all its cafes in just over a month.  

Sam Roberts, owner and MD of BTP says, “Lots of coffee chains are making pledges about how they plan to tackle cup waste in the future.  But theirs is a future which is too far away.  We need to stop right now.  I’d stop tomorrow but I think it’s only fair to give our loyal customers and fantastic team a month to get used to the idea.” 

Only 1 in 400 (0.25%) of the estimated 2.5 billion plastic coated coffee cups*used in the UK each year are recycled.  4%, approximately 500,000, are littered every day. The rest(95.75%) go into landfill.  Many compostable alternatives also end up in landfill as there aren’t enough accessible facilities in the UK to compost them.  The team at BTP believes that the only sustainable option is to reduce and reuse rather than recycle. 

This ground-breaking initiative is a significant risk to the business.  In July 2016, BTP was one of the first coffee chains to offer a 25p discount for customers bringing their own cups.  But this has seen just a 2.8% take up – not enough to make an environmental difference.  In asking all customers to use a reusable cup every time, Roberts and his team are taking a bold stance.  He explains, 

“We want to demonstrate to other operators that to make a difference, big change is needed.  We will make this work and we’ll share details of how we’ve done it with anyone who wants our help to do the same.  We dream of a future where our children marvel at the fact that pre-2018 we would regularly use a cup once and throw it away. The discarded cup could then take centuries to decompose. When you consider it in those terms, it really is senseless.”


Q&A from BTP

Is this a cost cutting exercise?

No. BTP will be selling their reusable cups at cost. For every takeaway hot drink purchased, the 10p cost of a takeaway cup will be donated to local community projects around each BTP café.  

BTP will also be offering a loan cup scheme where a customer can borrow a cup and get a refund on return if they forget theirs. It is hoped that this will encourage customers to embrace the changes and make it easy for them to do so.  

BTP’s takeaway business is valued at just over 1 million pounds per year. In making this change, over 300,000 disposable cups will not begiven out.  

Coffee cups are recyclable though, aren’t they?

Some are recyclable, however, currently only two facilities in the UK have the provision to recycle these cups.This means thatmost either end up in landfill or are they burned for fuel.

Aren’t some coffee cups compostable?

Whilst there are compostable coffee cups available, the process is reliant on users holding onto their cups and taking responsibility to ensure they reach a commercial composting facility. Many of these sites do not accept the cups as they can contaminate food waste. 

Several initiatives by coffee chains have been announced to address recycling cups. Isn’t this enough?

Whilst there is lots of research and investment going into the recycling of such cups, it still is encouraging single use and BTP believes the only truly sustainable option is reuse.  




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