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University of Sussex reduces paper cup use with strategic pricing

From: Packaging News

The University of Sussex has successfully introduced a pricing strategy promoting sustainable behaviour and deterring the use of paper cups.

Rather than following the big coffee chains and offering a discount for using a reusable mug, the University instead has set the reusable-mug price as the default price on the menu, with a paper cup a chargeable extra.

The university is also working with Simply Cups’ paper-cup recycling scheme.

Customers needing their drink in disposable cups are charged a 30p surcharge.

Staff, students and visitors have been increasingly using their own mugs, up 25% since September – a significant increase from October 2017 when just 2% of hot drinks were in reusable mugs.

This subtle difference in presenting this as a charge rather than a discount can have massive impacts on consumer behaviour, said Ruxandra Luca, a lecturer in marketing at the University of Sussex.

“While many consumers publicly acknowledge using recycling cups is a desirable behaviour, there is a discord between these explicit attitudes and other underlying processes.

“Our implicit attitudes, those which we are not aware of, might tell us that this is too burdensome. We have good intentions but we don’t always translate our thoughts into action. This scheme is successful because it taps into the nudging literature, reflecting the idea that consumers are not always rational and need behavioural nudges to change their behaviour.

“In this case, offering financial incentives, and making it a visible initiative through social proof, where customers see that others are doing this as well, has helped reduce waste.”

Tim Westlake, the University’s chief operating officer, said: “This is a fantastic illustration of us living by our values and leading by example as a University community. We have ambitious targets for our carbon reductions but this proves that relatively simple interventions can have quite profound results.”

Simply Cups sends discarded cups to specialist fibre-recovery facilities in the UK where the plastic film is removed and recycled, and the paper gets turned into reprocessed fibre.

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