How do retailers feel about getting customers to stop using paper cups?  Regardless of recycled material, compostables, corn plastic, or any of those materials, wouldn't it be better just to keep all to-go cups out of the trash?

What do you think would happen if retailers offered this type of incentive.  Instead of offering a discount to customers with travel mugs, as is traditional in many coffee shops, charge a premium for to-go cups. If you add 10 or 15 cents for a paper or plastic cup, do you think you would have a positive effect on consumer attitudes?  Or are you afraid you would just loose business?

Similarly, does anyone offer their customers reusable hot sleeves?

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My first reaction... Great idea to charge extra - sounds very similar to some supermarkets charging for plastic bags (instead of the customer bringing in reusable bags).

Second reaction... Many of the travel cups/mugs are huge. My regular travel coffee mug holds 24 ounces. How do you deal with the customer who orders a small (frequently 12oz) brewed coffee? It kind of gets lost in a large travel mug.

Some of the convenience stores charge a (substantially) discounted price for refills in a travel mug. One that is nearby charges $.99 for any size mug refill, while their regular prices are $1.29/$1.49/$1.69/$1.89 for 12/16/20/24 oz coffee in regular paper cups. I am surprised to observe that only a tiny percentage of their customers bring in their own mugs. While not everyone has a convenience store almost next door (like I do), driving customers are very much aware of their pricing.

You also have to consider that you will spend a substantial amount of time washing out your customers mugs, who drank their last cup of coffee a few days ago and now have a science experiment growing in the cup.

Ron, the Country Guy
Reusable travel mugs are a nice idea, but I'm really not concerned about paper products. They're recyclable, sustainable and convenient for everyone all the way around.

A premium could be a way to go, but 10-15 cents is pretty minor. You want it to sting a bit so that the customer remembers to bring their mug. Twenty-five cents at the minimum - better yet: Fifty Cents. The travel mug pays for itself after 24 visits.
I think it is a good idea to encourage travel mug use.

We offered a 16oz one with our logo, but have since discontinued it since we couldn't find one that held up under reasonable use. Will maybe re-introduce it if we find a decent one.

Ours is a price break incentive. Will fill any reasonably-sized one for the price of a small. The vast, vast majority that we see come in are 12-16 oz ish, so this works for us. The majority also come in very clean, requiring only a hot-water "preheat" rinse.

I know someone in this community went to a "cup charge" a couple of months ago, but don't remember who. Hopefully they'll chime in with some long-term data on how the change went.

We sold re-usable hot sleeves over the holidays and they were surprisingly popular. Not necessary with our cups (perfect touch), so it was all about the look - the ones we sold were fabric with sports teams or pretty patterns, made by someone in the community.
keep cup

hopefully this will make some inroads in the states soon. genius idea.
These are the kinds of ideas I hoping to find out form retailers; the theories of why this would or wouldn't work. It feels to me like there would be many reasons thrown up as blockers to this in theory. I believe many of them don't pass some basic policy handling on the part of the coffee shop, or simple logic busting.

Mug size- you would be under no obligation to fill a giant mug, the idea is to discourage the use of paper, not to run an "all you can drink" policy. You can cap it at your largest ceramic cup size.

Refills- you don't have to offer any refill discount at all. Again, I don't see it as a give away policy. As far as comparing prices to convenient stores, I don't see that Outback Steak house considers itself in direct competition with Denny's in the steak market, and you don't have to feel like you need compete with 89cents anysize coffee (if you don't want to).

Dirty mugs- a cup that has recently held coffee should be good to go with quick 200 degree F rinse. You are normally filling ceramic mugs with hot water to pre-heat anyway, are you not? You can refuse to fill any mug based on severe lack of cleanliness, just as you can turn away people with no shoes.

Paper as sustainable- The idea that cups are recyclable and sustainable is, if we are honest, almost laughable. Paper and plastic cups that are called compostable do not break down in landfill conditions, and nobody is really throwing them in their back yard compost pile nearly as much as they are throwing them in the garbage. "Sustainable" is not an either/or thing. There are degrees of sustainability. A hybrid car may use less gas than a conventional one but is still dependent on fossil fuel. Here in Pennsylvania the coal industry markets itself as the best "green energy" solution available. I believe positioning yourself as sustainable, when in fact there may be much greener solutions available is called "Green Washing". The energy that goes into producing and maintaining reusable mugs is less than the energy and environmental repercussions that goes with producing and throwing out one-use cups over and over.

Feel the sting- I think the idea that I am proposing is to see the customer feel the sting. If it takes 25-50 cents before they feel it, I'm all for it, but it still would depend on whether or not all or many of the other coffee shops were charging for the to-go cups too. So in essence, the more you can charge for paper, the better. There will be a tipping point at which it is worth if for the customer to go somewhere else. So it is one of those "what will the market bare" situations.

Selling travel mugs- You don't have to sell you own travel mugs to implement this type of policy, although you can certainly take advantage of the retail possibility. You need only be willing to put the cup charge key on the register, and be willing to enforce it.

Anyway, I interested in anymore ideas on the subject, thanks.
Paper as Sustainable as Laughable
I think we'll have to disagree here a bit, Phil. If we take degrees of sustainability as a premise, then I postulate that paper cups are certainly "more sustainable" than plastic or metal travel mugs. The former readily breaks down in a compost pile or landfill (though packaging our garbage in plastic bags certainly inhibits this) while the latter does not break down as readily.

For me, it's still much of a "six of one, half dozen of the other" kind of equation. The travel mug solution certainly feels more environmentally friendly, but how many people really remember to bring their mug with them everyday? And once they start to forget to bring it, it's very easy to stick with the convenience of not bringing it with them.

I'm not claiming to have the answers and while I certainly am open to this discussion, I'm not sure how I feel about charging my customers unnecessarily for the "convenience" of paper cups. Perhaps its better to simply not offer paper cups at all? And force everyone to drink according to the paradigm of "ceramic, in-house only"?
I've been thinking about this a lot recently. I'd like to have a menu where there are separate prices for "here" and "to go", probably a $.25 difference.

The most frustrating thing for me is when folks have drinks in the cafe in paper or plastic. I feel like asking them if they ask for a paper plate when they go out for dinner.

It is going to be a long, tough struggle to encourage people to become mindful of the amount of waste they produce.
While our shop hasn't been open for very long, thus far I don't like it when a customer brings in their own travel mug. I've identified at least five problems I have with them.

1. It takes me more time. About a third of the mugs so far were dirty, and some of them were not quick to wash. I don't like taking time out to wash a dirty mug while customers are waiting, even if it were to take a mere 30 seconds, as I'm sure the customer who is waiting for me to wash someone else's mug doesn't appreciate this extra time they have to spend not being served their delicious coffee.

Even if the inside of the mug looks clean, the outside isn't - it was just handed to me by a customer. Now, I have to wash my hands after every time I touch the darned thing. The paper and ceramic mugs I have are clean and sanitary. I can place a completed drink in one of those out for a customer, and then continue with making the next customer's drink, without washing my hands, again.

2. It puts a kink in the regular process. To date, the only serving mistake I've made was putting the wrong drink in one of the travel mugs from a group of women that brought in multiple travel mugs, during a busy serving time.

3. Plastic is not yummy. I don't enjoy drinking hot beverages from plastic containers, and experiencing the aromas and flavors of plastic. I don't expect a discerning customer likes it either, even if they haven't yet conscientiously identified the problem.

4. What size is it? The mugs often appear to be between 12 and 16 ounces, but I cannot tell. So, how much should I charge. What size drink should I make?

5. The "it could be better" dilemma.

I used to live very close to a shop that made the most delicious tacos. The regular price for a taco was $2, but on Tuesday they were only $1. I would often crave those tacos everyday of the week, and I'm sure I went there everyday of some weeks, but sometimes I would hear a nagging voice telling me that I shouldn't go today because it's not Tuesday, and if I just wait a little while, I can get the same delicious food for less. Sometimes, I followed the advice of that voice.

If a regular customer is driving by my shop, but has forgotten their earth-friendly-tree-hugging-hippie mug, I don't want them to hear a nagging voice in their head telling them to not stop by and get a delicious cup of coffee, just because they think their carbon footprint could be infinitesimally smaller if they just wait until someday when they've remembered their dirty, smelly, odd-sized mug.

I would like to see coffee Shops using the advertising on the side of the cup to promote using travel mugs. The paper cup will sit on some ones desk for 15-20 minutes, and the consumer will
most likely read any message that is printed on the cup. I think if a discount
is offered for using a reusable cup, this would also help. Let’s make people
feel guilty about using paper cups, and increase the use of reusable’s. For
more information visit Printed Paper Cups

Keep cups are fantastic, and are a similar size to paper to-go cups, I can't rave enough about them. While it took us a week or two to figure out how to make an effective process for dealing with them (cleaning, pre-heating, recipe alterations) we now have it down to a fine art and crank out the keep cup coffees at the same pace as ceramic or paper to-go cups.

 

We also have a customer who has a short macchiato and she brings in a teeny weeny ceramic cup (smaller than a demitasse) for her drink, so she can take it away. We offer a 30c discount for those bringing in their own cups. We've had one customer say she doesn't like the taste of the coffee from a keep cup, but the vast majority are super happy with their keep cups.

 

And in relation to sustainability and paper/plastic to-go cups: I read on Twitter that the Department of Conservation HQ in Wellington here in New Zealand had an initiative where they collected old paper to-go cups to plant seedlings in. Sadly, they're not doing it here in Christchurch but I'm keeping my ear to the ground on that one, as DOC is around the corner from one of our shops. It's no hassle to rinse and stack as opposed to rinse and bin our used to-go cups, and I always feel gutted when I chuck them out as I know there's got to be a use for dirty to-go cups! 

Recyling paper cups is very important, and as Laura says, if they can be used for planting tomatoes, it would be great, but it is dificult to find users who so many pots, the next best thing would be to recover the fibres, some research will need to be done, as the scghemes are limited, but are growing all the time, for svchemes in Europe see paper cup recycling the next option after that is composting, this is slightly better than landfill. Ideally cups should be shredded to aid the composting process. When composting paper cups, the PE coating will not break down, but this is a very thin film, less than 5% by weight, and does not stop the cups being composted. Creating resposible users should be the aim, and getting them to realise that using there own mug is best, if not, find ways to recycle.

Laura Campbell said:

Keep cups are fantastic, and are a similar size to paper to-go cups, I can't rave enough about them. While it took us a week or two to figure out how to make an effective process for dealing with them (cleaning, pre-heating, recipe alterations) we now have it down to a fine art and crank out the keep cup coffees at the same pace as ceramic or paper to-go cups.

 

We also have a customer who has a short macchiato and she brings in a teeny weeny ceramic cup (smaller than a demitasse) for her drink, so she can take it away. We offer a 30c discount for those bringing in their own cups. We've had one customer say she doesn't like the taste of the coffee from a keep cup, but the vast majority are super happy with their keep cups.

 

And in relation to sustainability and paper/plastic to-go cups: I read on Twitter that the Department of Conservation HQ in Wellington here in New Zealand had an initiative where they collected old paper to-go cups to plant seedlings in. Sadly, they're not doing it here in Christchurch but I'm keeping my ear to the ground on that one, as DOC is around the corner from one of our shops. It's no hassle to rinse and stack as opposed to rinse and bin our used to-go cups, and I always feel gutted when I chuck them out as I know there's got to be a use for dirty to-go cups! 

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