Despite experiencing a fall in takeaway coffee sales of £250,000 after its decision to ban single-use coffee cups – reportedly the first coffee shop chain in the UK to do so – Bristol-based Boston Tea Party (BTP) has called on big business to follow suit.
The independent chain, which has 21 shops across England, has reported a drop of 25% in its £1 million takeaway coffee sales since the ban came into force in June 2018, when customers were asked to bring their own reusable cup, buy or rent one from BTP.
“We felt that this was a financial risk we had to take to do the right thing for our planet,” explains BTP CEO and co-owner Sam Roberts. “We understood that not everyone would be motivated by the ban, so we modeled the loss into our costs. As a business we have a responsibility to consider our impact on the world and ensure we have a sustainable future.”
Explaining why the store went this particular route, Roberts adds: “None of the industry initiatives address the fundamental problems. For example, before the ban, BTP offered a 25p reusable cup discount. Only 2.8% of customers used it and we know that this figure is comparable to other coffee businesses.
I have been asked about the impact on the business a lot. We are absolutely happy with our decision. We remain 100% committed and there is no going back. There is no planet B
“Pret A Manger recently reported an improvement from 1.8% to 5% take up in their reusable cup discount scheme when they doubled the discount. This ignores the fact that 95% of their cups still go to landfill or are discarded on the street. This is just not acceptable. We want our experience to be a call to action to other companies. Do more than offer a discount. Ban single use cups across the country, so that using reusable cups becomes the new normal.”
And Roberts doesn’t believe it should be left up to small independents to make a difference. “It’s about big business helping to change behaviour. There are too many huge chains not dealing with the problem, putting profits before the planet. We urge customers to vote with their feet or to demand change to force the chains to take notice.”
Since the ban, BTP has stopped over 125,000 cups going to landfill, sold 40,000 reusable coffee cups, and raised £12,500 for local charities by donating the 10p saving from the cost of each single-use cup.
Roberts concludes: “I have been asked about the impact on the business a lot. We are absolutely happy with our decision. We remain 100% committed and there is no going back. There is no planet B.”
Commenting on BTP’s move, Lucy Gatward, marketing manager of Better Food, which has three cafes across Bristol, says: “I really respect their decision to take a stand. We know we need to do more, and we also know we have to be careful we do something that is manageable for a business our size.
“Currently we add a charity levy to people opting for single-use cups (I prefer this to calling them disposables), which we donate to the Soil Association, and discount hot drinks sold to people bringing their own cups, but we’re never going to save the planet this way. We’re looking at what we can do as a company and city-wide. There are some interesting ideas afoot.
“BTP losing sales isn’t a reason for us all to say ‘ah well, at least they tried’, it’s a rallying call. We need to challenge ourselves and find solutions to these massive ubiquitous problems.”