Coffee chain Starbucks is trialling a free reusable cup programme at Gatwick airport in an effort to cut back on the use of disposable alternatives.

Throughout June, the chain’s branch in the South Terminal will offer customers a free reusable cup instead of a traditional paper one. Before boarding, passengers can return the cups at one of five “Cup Check-In” points located throughout the terminal or at the Starbucks store.

Cups will then be collected by Gatwick’s waste management team to be washed, sterilised and returned to the shop to be offered to another customer.

Customers who choose to use a disposable paper cup will still have to pay the 5p charge introduced by Starbucks in 2018 to promote reusable alternatives.

The company is working in partnership with environmental charity Hubbub, with proceeds from the sale of disposable cups going toward the charity’s projects and research.

According to Starbucks, 7 million paper cups are used at Gatwick each year, with more than 5.3 million of those being recycled. The company says recycling depends on customers putting their cups into the appropriate bins and that the latest initiative could provide opportunities to limit the number of cups used in travel hubs.

The trial aims to put 2,000 reusable cups into circulation throughout the South Terminal, with more than 300 given out on the first day.

Jaz Rabadia MBE, UK senior manager of energy and sustainability at Starbucks, commented: “The purpose of working with Hubbub and Gatwick is to help create a new culture of reuse on the go by giving customers the option of a reusable cup instead of paper for free. We are optimistic that the ‘Cup Check-In’ points around the airport will provide enough places for customers to return their cups on the way to their gate, but also recognise this might not [be] for everyone. Our goal is to save 7,000 disposable cups over the course of the month to find out the best ways to drive reuse where it is typically harder to do so – such as airports.”

Gatwick’s sustainability lead, Rachel Thompson, said: “There is strong public support for measures to reduce waste and we are delighted to support one of our retailers with an innovation that can help travellers do that. We are looking forward to seeing how the trial grows and what we can learn to improve the solution.”

Trewin Restorick, CEO and co-founder of Hubbub, added: “We know that people care about waste, but it’s often hard to ‘do the right thing’ when travelling. We want to find out whether people will get on board with reusing cups if we make it easy and convenient. The airport is the ideal environment to trial a reusable cup scheme, as it is a closed loop environment and has the potential to reduce large volumes of paper cup waste. What we learn here will provide valuable insight into how to deploy a reusable trial in not only other airports but many other environments.”

starbucks.co.uk; hubbub.org.uk; gatwickairport.com

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