Saving Plastic Waste with Deposit Return Schemes

30th October 2018

Our Zero Waste Cup scheme attracted the attention of event organisers, conference producers, and businesses large and small at the National Exhibition Centre for the NEC’s Resources and Waste Management conference on the 12th and 13th September 2018.

We set up the Zero Waste Cup scheme in partnership with the NEC’s catering arm Amadeus where all cafes and catering outlets in the NEC offered a 25p discount to customers buying hot drinks who presented a reusable cup. The consultancy also provided reusable cups for all attendees in exchange for a £1 deposit – negating the need for single-use cups – and meaning those that hadn’t brought their own cup to the event could still take part. When coffee drinkers no longer needed their Zero Waste Cup, they either returned the cup and reclaimed the deposit, or kept the cup to use again.

Of the Zero Waste Cups picked up at the show an estimated 20% were returned and refunded and 80% were kept by attendees to use again. We estimate that the Zero Waste Cups took an 11% market share of hot drinks consumed at the event, with the cups that attendees took home with them having the potential to avoid an additional 275,000 single use cups in future.

Saving Plastic Waste

Former UK Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett visited our Zero Waste Cup stand, where she discussed the impact deposit return schemes could have elsewhere. Ms Bennett later said that she hoped to see more coffee cup deposit systems running at events such as RWM.

Saving Plastic Waste    Saving Plastic Waste

Other high-profile attendees who engaged with the scheme included snooker legend Steve Davis, Chief Executive of the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association Charlotte Morton, Steve Lee, former Chief Executive of CIWM, environmental campaigner Natalie Fee, and Ray Georgeson, Chief Executive of Resource Association, as well as event organisers and conference producers interested in setting up similar schemes. There was also interest from independent coffee shops and those who manage local authority facilities and buildings.

Saving Plastic Waste   Saving Plastic Waste

The Zero Waste Cups were supplied by Greentech start-up Bockatech in partnership with Borealis, — a leading provider of innovative solutions in the fields of polyolefins, base chemicals and fertilizers. The cups feature Bockatech’s new EcoCore™ technology — that reduces the material and energy needed to create insulated super-rigid reusable packaging — and easy to recycle polypropylene from Borealis.

Unclaimed deposits from our Zero Waste Cup scheme at RWM are being donated to Marine Conservation Philippines, an NGO that the consultancy has worked with, to go towards replacing existing styrofoam buoys that currently shed microplastics with durable but more expensive polyform replacements.

Joe Papineschi, Director at Eunomia who led the new scheme said:

“We’re extremely pleased with the outcomes of the first trial of a deposit return scheme on coffee cups at a national conference. Not only did we provide hundreds of RWM attendees with the means to rent a reusable cup, but we also raised awareness of DRS and the huge waste-saving potential of coffee cup reuse.”

“All of the feedback we received was very positive, with widespread interest from public and private sector in implementing their own systems in different contexts. The Zero Waste Cup scheme proved that there is real appetite to facilitate change in the amount of waste resulting from single use plastic.”

Bockatech’s Chris Bocking said:

“Reaction to the Zero Waste Cup was great and everyone we spoke to was extremely positive. It was also fantastic to see high street coffee chains, including Subway and Starbucks, supporting the scheme.”

“Now we want everyone to continue to use the cups in place of standard paper or compostable cups. If they do, they’ll have cut packaging CO2 greenhouse gas — needed for their daily coffee — by 94% by the time the next show comes around.”