The Strategist

Pay if you don't care about nature: New environmental trends in the UK

07/16/2018 - 08:20

The Starbucks coffee house has introduced a £ 0.05 charge per serving sold in a disposable paper or plastic cup in all of its cafes in the UK. The company won’t make money on this, but sellers of pottery have chances to increase their profits.

2.5 billion disposable cups are annually used in the UK, and only 0.25% of them are recycled. The UK Starbucks decided to widely introduce charges for disposable tableware after an experiment conducted jointly with the environmental organization Hubbub. Within its framework, visitors to 35 coffee shops in different parts of London were charged £ 0.05 more for each drink in disposable cups. The buyers had an alternative: to buy a brand-new reusable cup for just £ 1 right in the coffee house.

And there is a more interesting option: since 1998 Starbucks has been offering a discount for those who come with their cups. During these years, the discount for such customers varied from £ 0.1 to £ 0.5, and now it is £ 0.25.
Starbucks is not the first chain to offer such a discount. This is also practiced by Costa Coffee, Greggs, Paul and Pret a Manger (where the discount reaches £ 0.5). But Starbucks was the first to try to assess the strategic implications of introducing an additional charge. Employees of Hubbub followed the course of the experiment. According to their calculations, the use of reusable dishes for three months increased by 126% in those coffee houses that participated in the experiment.

According to Martin Brok, President of Starbucks for the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East and Africa), the findings are "inspiring", and the company is particularly pleased with the "positive reaction of employees and consumers to this." He hopes that the additional charge will help consumers "reconsider their attitude to disposable plastic, as they have already done with plastic bags."

Since October 2015, large retail chains and stores (with more than 250 employees) in England are required to charge £ 0.05 for each disposable plastic bag sold. In less than a year, this measure has reduced the use of plastic by 85%. Buyers quietly switched to conventional bags or paper bags.

Now, Starbucks intends to expand the positive outcome of the London experiment to the whole of the UK, where the corporation has 950 coffee houses. Hubbub will continue to cooperate with the coffee houses chain. All collected funds will be sent to environmentalists to support innovative campaigns to reduce the plastic pollution and construction of processing plants.

Besides, Starbucks promises to stop using plastic straws by 2020 in all 28 thousand of its coffee houses. Visitors will be offered either paper straws or special lids that allow drinking coffee without straws.

Starbucks is not the first to introduce such an initiative. A similar decision was previously taken by McDonald's, and before that, by JD Wetherspoon, Burger King, Costa Coffee. The latter also promises to ensure processing of as much disposable cups as sold.

Not only the catering industry is among those who pledged to reduce plastic waste. In May 2018, Alaska Airlines, in partnership with the environmental organization Lonely Whale, laucnhed an initiative to stop using plastic sticks for stirring beverages and fruit skewers on all domestic and international flights from July 16, 2018. The airline believes that this step will reduce the amount of garbage left after the flight by 70% before 2020.

The UK public is well-aware of the private initiatives, as well as of the 25-year plan for improving the environment presented by the British government in January of this year. Judging by comments of locals in social networks, it is now trendy to care about nature. Already, there are new communities, for example, people are deliberately refusing to use plastic straws or propagating benefits of paper straws.
The main beneficiaries of the new trend are dishware manufacturers and retailers, who report a record increase in the sales of reusable cups of various kinds and models, hot mugs, metal and paper tubes, bamboo sticks for stirring beverages, skewers and everything that until recently was produced mostly from plastic. After the publication of the government's environmental protection plan, Argos retailer reported a 537 percent increase in the sales of reusable cups. Sales of the British network of products for the kitchen Lakeland rose by 100% in general, the manufacturer of home furnishings Robert Dyas - by 50%. And the Australian manufacturer of coffee glasses KeepCup hardly could satisfy demand for production - orders for it soared by 690%.