The number of hot drinks sold to people using their own mugs on campus has doubled, the University of Sussex has said.

The University says this is due to “a well-publicised pricing strategy promoting sustainable behaviour and deterring the use of paper cups.”

The University sets the reusable-mug price as the default price on menus, with a paper cups costing 30p extra.

The University said that since September, the standard prices of hot drinks in university outlets have been for customers using their own mugs and have been reduced to encourage the more sustainable option.

This difference in presenting disposable cup use as a charge rather than a discount is said to have massive impacts on consumer behaviour.

Dr Ruxandra Luca, a lecturer in marketing at the University of Sussex, said: “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.”

SussexFood, the company that run on-campus food and drinks services, in partnership between the University and Chartwells, gave away 4,000 reusable cups to encourage take-up of the new scheme.

The University and SussexFood signed up to the UK’s paper-cup recycling scheme to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. Simply Cups sends cups to fibre-recovery facilities in the UK where the plastic film is recycled and the paper gets turned into reprocessed fibre. This is then used for packaging or turned into new products like decking or outdoor furniture.

David Chick, Catering Services Manager at SussexFood, said “We want to thank students, staff and visitors to the University for getting on board with this initiative and seriously reducing the amount of non-recyclable waste we produce.”

First-year law student at the University of Sussex, Alexandra Dobney, 18, said “People have their hearts in the right place on environmental issues but sometimes they might need a little help to act.

“If you wanted a medium to get people thinking about being more sustainable, then coffee at a university is a pretty good way to go especially when you’ve got a lecture at 9am or 10am in the morning.”

Image: Jessica Hubbard

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