Ditching the disposables

Boston Tea Party took a bold leap last month and introduced a blanket ban on single use cups at its 22 cafes across the South West.

Inspired by the team’s sustainable ballsyness and curious about the impact on the business, we got the low-down, six weeks in, from brand director Anita Atkins

So you’ve banned single use cups. What’s the deal with takeaway coffee?

We’ve completely removed single use cups from all 22 of our coffee shops, so customers now have three options if they want their drink to go: bring their own reusable cup from home, buy a reusable cup from us at market price, or loan a cup from the shop.

How does the loan-a-cup scheme work?

Customers can loan a cup from any Boston Tea Party for £4.50, use it and then return it to any BTP cafe and get a full refund.

It’s a pretty bold move, what inspired you to make the change?

Sustainability has always been high on our agenda. We introduced a reusable cup scheme years ago but too few customers were taking up the offer so we knew we had to do something else. Recyclable and compostable cups were an option, but once that cup leaves the store you have no control over how the customer disposes of it and currently only around 4% of cups are recycled. Everyone laughed at the idea of a blanket ban when it was first suggested, but the more we talked about it, the more we realised it was the right thing to do.

What was the initial reaction like?

We have over 500 staff at our cafes and the way they got behind the scheme was amazing. A surprising by-product of the ban was the way all of our staff got together to support the same goal.

The response from the customers has been great too. Of course we’ve had the occasional niggle from people who don’t want to get on board, but 99.9% of our customers understand why we’re doing it and have supported the project. We’ve seen customers leaving the shop with a spring in their step as they know they’ve done their little bit for the environment.

How has it impacted your takeaway sales?

In the first five weeks, we’re currently looking at a 24% reduction in takeaway sales. However, we’re in the midst of a four week heat wave and would expect that kind of figure from the weather alone. We’ll have to see what happens over the next couple of months and we’ll have a much clearer view at the end of the year, but I’m pretty positive that the number will reduce.

How many cups have you saved from landfill?

So far we’ve saved just over 18,500 cups – that’s enough to fill a transit van. If we keep to this level of sales, by the end of the year we’ll have saved enough single use disposables to fill a swimming pool. A single use cup cost us 10p, so we’re also donating that 10p saved from each sale to charity. By the end of the year, we should have raised around £36,000 for a good cause.

What’s next?

The point of the project was to impact change in the industry, so we’d love to help other cafes make a positive change. We’re not trying to be preach but show other businesses that it’s possible. We’re running a workshop for other cafe owners from our head office on Bristol’s Park Street on July 31 which booked up so fast that we’re adding another on August 6.


Find out more info on the next event here.

Want to know where else to grab a cracking coffee in the South West? Find over 170 first-class recommendations here.



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