Waitrose to ban disposable coffee cups

Date posted: 10 April 2018

Waitrose has today committed to removing all takeaway disposable coffee cups from its branches by autumn 2018, saving more than 52 million cups a year.

Members of the supermarket’s loyalty scheme, myWaitrose, will continue to enjoy a free tea or coffee from their shop’s self serve machine, but in the coming weeks, they will be asked to bring their own reusable cup to use rather than being offered a disposable coffee cup.

Waitrose disposable cup
© Waitrose

Coffee cups are extremely difficult to recycle and are frequently found on our beach cleans. In the last 10 years, we have found the number of coffee cups have doubled on UK beaches.

Dr. Sue Kinsey,
Senior Pollution Policy Officer
Marine Conservation Society

Waitrose will initially remove disposable cups from nine branches from 30th April, to understand how to manage the changeover as smoothly as possible for customers before rolling it out across all stores in a phased programme by autumn. Customers will be informed before the change comes into effect in their local shop.

Carrier bag levy proceeds from Waitrose’s English stores currently support the Marine Conservation Society by helping to fund beach and river cleans across England. Removing the cups further underlines the supermarket’s commitment to reducing its impact on the environment and its use of plastics and packaging. It recently pledged to not sell any own-label food in black plastic beyond 2019 - an earlier date than any other supermarket. It has also committed to make all own-label packaging widely recyclable (using the widely recycled logo), reusable or home compostable by 2025.

Dr Sue Kinsey, MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer says: “We are delighted to see Waitrose taking this positive step to reduce single-use-plastics. Coffee cups are extremely difficult to recycle and are frequently found on our beach cleans. In the last 10 years, we have found the number of coffee cups have doubled on UK beaches. Like all discarded plastics, they will eventually break down into microplastics causing even more harm to the marine environment. Steps like these can only be good for the environment and people can still easily claim their free coffee by bringing along their own reusable cup”

Tor Harris, Head of Sustainability and Responsible Sourcing at Waitrose, says: “We realise this is a major change, but we believe removing all takeaway disposable cups is the right thing to do for our business and are confident the majority of customers will support the environmental benefits. It underlines our commitment to plastic and packaging reduction and our aim is to deliver this as quickly as possible.”

As part of today’s announcement, myWaitrose members will no longer be able to claim their free hot drink in its 180 in-store cafes; this is to avoid customers without a reusable cup (and therefore unable to use the self serve machines) putting increased pressure on its hospitality areas. Instead, myWaitrose members who purchase a tea or coffee in a cafe will be offered a choice of food options to enjoy for free or with a generous discount.

These will vary each month, but for the first month myWaitrose members will be able to choose from either soup, bircher muesli, almond croissant or a loaf cake slice to have for free with their beverage.

Additionally, Waitrose has invested in training 800 Food Service Partners as baristas, to give an even better hospitality service in its cafes. The coffees available in the cafe will also be made using a 100% Arabica coffee bean, which is both Fairtrade and organic, for even better quality.

Do you want to help stop the plastic tide? We are currently calling on UK governments to put a charge on single-use plastic throwaway items.

Actions you can take

  1. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2019
  2. Help stop the plastic tide
  3. Stop fast food chains from giving out plastic

Did you know?…

Globally, plastic litter has reached every part of the world’s oceans

Since the carrier bag charge came in across the UK, the Great British Beach Clean has recorded almost 50% fewer bags on beaches

It’s estimated that one rubbish truck load of plastic litter enters the ocean every minute