NUS Coffee Cups Campaign

This year, sponsored by our VP Society and Citizenship Rob Young, NUS will be asking your institution to join our campaign and commit to making reusable cups the norm across UK campuses.

NUS Coffee Cups campaign image of coffee cup with statistic of 7 million coffee cups used in the UK every day.

Why do we care?

There are 2.5bn disposal coffee cups used in the UK each year, and only 1 in 400 being recycled. Why? Most normal recycling plants can’t process the cups, because of the difficulty in removing the waterproof plastic lining inside from the paper outside.

This means that even if you are recycling your cups, they’ll probably all end up in the same place: a landfill. The thin plastic polyethylene skin in cups supplied by coffee chains is resistant to degradation and could take around 30 years to break down.If they don’t reach landfill, then they end up as litter on our streets, or in the marine environment! 

In the marine environment the plastic lining can be ingested by birds, fish, turtles and other creatures, sometimes with fatal results. Alarmingly, a 2016 World Economic Forum report said that the world was on track to have more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.

Bringing your own reusable cup for your morning brew helps to cut unnecessary waste, and saves resources. With 150 million of these being used across higher and further education institutions, we have the opportunity to make a bold statement and make a move to a more sustainable future!

How is NUS going to help?

We will be supporting by piloting various approaches to increase reusable cups at institutions across the UK – from ‘Rent-a-cup’ schemes to reward based apps. 

We’ll then share our learning to support institutions across the UK that join the campaign. 

At each insitution the pilot will begin with a working session to understand the behavourial choice to use a disposable cup. To do this we are using a behavourial change tool called – Individual, Social and Material (ISM), developed by Southerton et al's (2011). 

How can you get involved?

Get your organisation involved

Engage stakeholders in your outlet or organisation and sign them up to our campaign pledge to set a significant reduction in disposable coffee cup use.

  1. Conduct a working session with stakeholders at your institution to identify what interventions will work best for your organisation and set your target. For support please contact the NUS Sustainability Team on

For intervention ideas see our case studies here.

  1. Make reusable cups available in your organisation shops. If you a SU staff member, see the range of reusable cups available through the NUS Consortium here.
  2. Download and display the free campaign assets


Take a personal step

If you don’t represent an organisation you can still make a personal pledge to stop using disposals and communicate the issues to friends and family. Ideas include:

  1. Take the extra time to enjoy your coffee in the shop 
  2. Pick your own stylish and reusable alternative to the paper cup
  3. Download and share the free campaign assets
  4. Share our campaign on social media
  5. Ask you institution or union to set a disposable cup reduction target!