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Trial at Gatwick Airport to reduce paper cup waste

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Gatwick Airport in Sussex is leading the way with a new trial of returnable sustainable coffee cups. The airport’s Starbucks is offering customers the chance to borrow and then return refillable cups in a bid to reduce waste and to directly challenge the UK’s growing ‘throwaway’ culture.

This is a first for a British airport, although it has been trialled in airports elsewhere in the world. Put simply customers buying a hot takeaway drink will have the option of using a free reusable cup instead of a traditional paper one and once they have drunk their drink drop off the reusable cup in a designated collection point for cleaning and then subsequent reuse.


A sign will remind passengers to return their cup before they board a flight
A sign will remind passengers to return their cup before they board a flight

The trial which started today in the South Terminal is being coordinated by the environmental charity Hubbub, Starbucks and Gatwick Airport, the UK’s second largest airport.

On the positive side use of reusable coffee cups is on the rise across the United Kingdom, but somewhat paradoxically not at airports where it is suspected that passengers leave their reusable cups at home when travelling abroad.

The trial has the aim of putting 2,000 reusable Starbucks cups into circulation at the airport. The statistics behind the campaign are staggering; if only 250 customers switched each day, 7000 paper cups could be saved in one month alone.

“We know people care about waste, but it’s often hard to do the right thing when travelling” said Trewin Restorick, the chief executive and co-founder of Hubbub. “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 has the potential to reduce large volumes of paper cup waste.”

2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are used in the UK each year with the vast majority ending in landfill sites and taking many decades to decompose. At Gatwick Airport passengers waiting for flights use 7 million cups a year; but 5.3 million of these are successfully being recycled.

Rachel Thompson, the sustainability lead at Gatwick, said: “There is strong public support for measures to reduce waste and we are delighted to support a retailer with an innovation that can help travellers do that.”



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