You’ve probably got a few questions about how our ban on single-use coffee cups works. We had plenty ourselves. We’ve answered as many as we can below, but if there’s something we’ve missed, drop us a line


About the change:

What did you do?
On 1st of June 2018, we banned single-use coffee cups because of the impact they have on the environment. We ask customers to use a reusable cup instead.

Why did you do this?
Because we believe it is the only truly sustainable option.

How many single-use cups did you give away?
Before the ban, we were selling approx. 340,000 takeaway hot drinks a year which is just over £1 million in sales value, 5% of BTP’s turnover.

Why don’t you just recycle them?
Because the nature of a takeaway cup is that it leaves the café and we have no control over where it goes, so often they end up in a general street bin which ends up in landfill.
We believe that recycling single use items is not the answer, we should be aiming to reduce and reuse where possible. The Guardian have put together a great article on the difficulties around recycling.

Coffee cups are recyclable though, aren’t they?
Some are recyclable, however, currently, only two facilities in the UK have the provision to recycle these cups. This means that most either end up in landfill or are they burned for fuel. More are coming but we don’t believe promoting single-use is the answer.

Several initiatives by coffee chains have been announced to address recycling cups. Isn’t this enough?
Whilst there is lots of research and investment going into the recycling of such cups, it still is encouraging single use and we believe the only truly sustainable option is reuse.

Why haven’t you chosen to switch to compostable cups?
Whilst there are compostable coffee cups available, the process is reliant on users holding onto their cups and taking responsibility to ensure they reach a commercial composting facility. Many of these sites do not accept the cups as they can contaminate food waste so will ultimately end up in landfill too. A good article here explains in more detail some of the difficulties.

Which cafe does this apply to?
All 22 BTP Cafes.

What has been the impact since you made the change?
The latest figures can be found here


What if I don’t have a reusable cup with me?
You can use our refundable loan scheme to borrow one or you can buy one.

What cups can I buy? How much?
Ecoffee Cups are available to buy for the following prices:
• Small – £4.25
• Medium – £4.50
• Large – £4.75
These are priced with both BTP and Ecoffee Cups subsidising the cost. They are non-profit-making items.
We also have a medium sized glass Keep Cup available at £15.

What about takeaway cold drinks?
We have decided to use a plant-based cold cup as it uses 79% less carbon than the plastic alternative. Long-term we will look for a reusable option.

What about takeaway soup/porridge?
These are still able to be taken away, but a reusable mug will be needed.

Why don’t you offer a discount for bringing a reusable cup?
This change will mean that all takeaway hot drinks will need to be served in a reusable cup, so therefore we removed our incentive discount. We had been offering 25p off when you brought your own cup, but only 4% of our customers took us up on this. We needed to be bolder to make this change happen so therefore need to remove the discount.

What do you hope to achieve?
To create genuine behaviour change while reducing our environmental impact. To demonstrate that to solve this issue bold steps are needed. We have taken that decision and want to show others it is possible. We’re very keen for others to make the change too (Costa/Nero/Starbucks we’re looking at you) and are happy to share best practice on the change too.

How will the baristas know which is my cup?
Our till systems allow a note to be typed onto the order, the cup description is added to the ticket so the barista knows which is which.

Loan cup scheme:

How will you ensure the loan cups are clean?
The loan cups are treated as per our other crockery, so once returned it is put through the dishwasher and then ready for another use.

Do I have to take my loan cup back to the café I got it from?
You can return them to any BTP for your money back.

Will you clean my cup for me if I bring it in dirty?
Yes, we will give them a quick clean so they are ready to use and make sure your drink is at its best.


What happens to your food waste?
It gets recycled in 20 of our 22 cafes, the other two are in shared buildings where we don’t have the facilities as yet, but we are in talks to make this happen. In Bristol is goes to the clever folk at Geneco who have built the Bio bee (a vehicle powered by food waste).

Do you recycle?
Yes! Everything we can, paper, cardboard, food, metal, plastic, glass, oil.

What about plastic straws?
We got rid of our final ones back in January 2018, we only have paper straws and only give them out when someone asks for one or really needs one (super thick smoothies).

How can you claim to reduce plastic use when still using cling film etc?
We are on a journey; we have reduced what we can, but still have further to go.
We use reusable tubs for all our prep and pots and lids rather than Clingfilm whenever we can. We will tackle this one point and then move onto the next. We recycle all the plastic we use in house, which is a bare minimum.

What about milk cartons?
Every Boston Tea Party cafe now has a milk dispenser that saves 6 bottles for one bag of milk.

What about paper – menus / till receipts / tickets / napkins – what do you do about that?
We recycle all paper in our cafes and our office. We have a dream to become a paperless office, but one step at a time.

If I order a lot of cups, do I get a discount?
Afraid not. We sell reusable cups at the cost we paid plus VAT. If you wanted to place a bulk order, we will offer each recipient their first coffee for free and give you a shout out on social media for making the change too. If you’re interested, send us an email.

Is this a cost cutting exercise?
No. We sell reusable cups at the cost we paid plus VAT. For every takeaway hot drink purchased, the 10p cost of a takeaway cup will be donated to local community projects around each BTP café.

If your question isn’t covered above and there’s something we’ve missed, drop us a line