UoB students are organising a reusable cup scheme trial

Plastic cups will be provided to students and can be dropped off to be cleaned and reused

PhD Energy student Laurie Duncan is campaigning for UoB to start a reusable cup scheme in cafes across campus.

Laurie was an undergrad at the University of Warwick and engaged with a reusable cup scheme there, with a group of students concerned about the university’s sustainability.

The scheme at UoB plans to provide a plastic cup to students which can then be dropped off at one of the collection bins around campus to be washed and reused.

Almost 900,000 single-use coffee cups are sold on UoB’s campus, and 2.5 billion are used in Britain each year. Each disposable cup will take 30 years to decompose, and shockingly, only one in 400 cups end up being recycled.

The Corretto™ plastic cups used by Warwick Cup

Laurie told the Birmingham Tab that he started presenting the idea at the Student Sustainability Symposium, run by Plastic-Free UoB and Birmingham Energy Society.

He then ran a survey and got an overwhelmingly positive 485 responses within five days, and has gained help from one of the founders of Shrewsbury cup, a similar scheme.

“The feedback highlighted the most important elements – things like demonstrating a positive environmental impact, and lots of collection points widely spread across campus”, Laurie told The Birmingham Tab.

So how does it work? You’ll get your drink in a plastic cup, then when you’re done with it, you can drop it off in one of several collection bins across campus. Student volunteers with then take the cups to be washed in commercial dishwashers to be returned to cafes.

They can go through this cycle one thousand times, and their polypropylene basis allows them to be easily recycled.

Laurie has now met with the University’s Head of Sustainability, with representatives from Catering, Retail and Environmental Services. After positive feedback, they are meeting again in February to discuss details of a trial.

“Their priority is trying to get reusable cups allowed in cafes on campus again, after concerns around COVID-19 led to all drinks being served in disposable cups. I  fully support this, however before the pandemic only one third of drinks were served in reusable cups – a cup return scheme can work alongside reusables to completely eradicate single-use coffee cups from the University of Birmingham”.

Laurie says that he is “very grateful for all of the help and advice I’ve had so far, from Warwick Cup, Plastic-Free UoB, and everyone that completed the survey. Hopefully in early 2021 I’ll be able to recruit some volunteers to help run the trial. Watch this space!”

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