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Gatwick has just become the first airport in the UK to launch a reusable take-away coffee cup trial, in an effort to dramatically reduce the number of paper cups being thrown away by holidaymakers.

The month-long trial, launched on Monday in the airport’s South Terminal, is the result of a partnership between Starbucks and environmental charity Hubbub — and it aims to put 2,000 reusable coffee cups in circulation around the airport. 

The idea is that passengers can buy their coffee, borrow a take-away refillable cup while they’re in the airport, and then drop it off again at one of five designated “Cup Check-In” points before they get on their flight. 

The cups will then be collected, washed, and returned to the store to begin the cycle again. 

According to Starbucks, even if just 250 people opt to use the scheme per day, it would save well over 7,000 cups during the month’s trial. 

The “Cup Cup and Away” trial is part of a number of initiatives funded by the 5p charge on disposable cups launched by Starbucks in July last year, according to a blogpost from Hubbub. All proceeds from the 5p charge are reportedly supporting Hubbub’s research and environmental projects. 

“The ambition behind the trial is to help create a new culture of reuse on-the-go, and explore how customers respond to dropping their cups back off to be washed and used again,” wrote Trewin Restorick, the chief executive and co-founder of Hubbub, in a blogpost. 

“The results will give a unique insight into the challenges of changing behaviour at a busy international airport,” he added. “It will discover whether people’s concern about plastic waste can be translated into practical action if it is made easy and convenient.” 

Restorick said that the learnings from the trial would be openly shared, in the hope that the results can “provide valuable insight into how to deploy a reusable trial in not only other airports but many other environments.” 

Gatwick — the UK’s second largest airport — currently chucks around 7 million paper cups every year, with about 5.3 million being recycled. 

That’s actually quite a high proportion when compared to the rest of the UK. Around 2.5 billion single-use coffee cups are thrown out every year in Britain according to 2011 estimates — but around 99.75% of these don’t get recycled, reported the BBC

It’s because of the mixture of plastic and paper in the inner lining, which only a small number of specialist plants in the UK are able to process.

Most of Britain’s major cafes now offer a range of discounts for customers using reusable cups, but the Gatwick initiative has reportedly been inspired by anecdotal evidence suggesting people don’t bring their reusable cups with them when travelling. 


Defend the Planet

Gatwick Just Launched the UK’s First Airport Reusable Coffee Cup Trial

By Imogen Calderwood