Introducing a fee on disposable cups at our outlets


To support our sustainability commitments we will be introducing a fee on all disposable cups from 11 September to help reduce our landfill waste.

The university is committed to reducing its waste created, and one barrier to our recycling goals is the high levels of disposable hot drink container usage. An average of 250,000 disposable cups are sold at the university outlets per year (pre-covid).

The university has previously had discounts on hot drinks with the use of a reusable cup, but the impact of this has been low – results have shown a low reuse rate, with only 16% reuse rate in 2022.

The university’s Sustainable Development Unit, alongside Grayson’s Catering, launched a reusables project pilot in 2022. This led to findings that a fee on disposable cups instead of a discount for using reusables may be more effective. A cup charge report was completed, and it found a charge results in benefits in behaviour change, reducing our single use cup waste and more people being likely to use a reusable cup.

Why is the fee beneficial?

  • Even with a 20 pence fee, hot drink prices in the university outlets are still cheaper than other local coffee outlets.
  • The initiative supports the university’s corporate and sustainability ambitions.
  • Research found a fee on disposables increases reusable rates whereas discounts had no effect (Poortinga and Whitaker, 2018).
  • Over half of students report they are provided with free reusable coffee cups when they join the university.
  • The reduction in waste by savings of around 5000 bin bags of disposable cups per year will lead to a reduction in landfill waste and therefore a reduction in emissions.

How will the fee be used?

We will collect the fee within the first academic year it is implemented, followed by a vote in September 2024 for students to decide how the money will be used to support sustainability initiatives. The vote will include a list of options to choose from and also include an option to suggest a route for how the money can be used.

Where can I buy reusable cups at the university?

All of our outlets sell reusable cups and water bottles at a range of prices. When you buy a reusable coffee cup in one of our outlets your first hot drink will be free.