Cheap (or Free) Reusables are Creating a Bigger Problem

Cheap (or Free) Reusables are Creating a Bigger Problem
28th March 2023 Team Ecoffee Cup
In Blog Posts

How the endowment effect is lining up an own-goal for the re-use movement.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement towards sustainability, particularly when it comes to reducing waste. One of the most significant culprits of waste is single-use cups; used once and then discarded. To combat this issue, many coffee shops and cafes have started offering reusable cups to their customers. However, there is a problem: many people treat these cups as if they too are disposable, leading to a bigger issue than the one they are trying to solve.

The issue of disposable cups is a significant one. In the United States alone, it is estimated that over 58 billion disposable cups are thrown away each year. These cups are not recyclable due to their plastic lining, meaning that they end up in landfills where they can take hundreds of years to decompose. This is where reusable cups come in. By using a reusable cup, customers can reduce their waste and help the environment.

However, there is a problem when it comes to the way in which people treat many of these cups. Many coffee shops offer free or low-cost reusable cups to their customers, which can lead to them being treated as if they have no inherent value. Customers may use them once and then discard them, defeating the purpose of using a reusable cup in the first place. This phenomenon is known as “greenwashing,” where companies give the illusion of being environmentally friendly without actually making any meaningful change.

The issue of greenwashing is not a new one. Companies have been accused of it for years, and it is something that consumers need to be aware of. When it comes to reusable cups, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that people are getting something for free. When we get something for free, we often do not value it as much as if we had paid for it. This is a psychological phenomenon known as the “endowment effect,” where we place a higher value on something that we own compared with something that we do not.

So, what can we do to combat this issue? The first step is to raise awareness. Customers need to be aware of the problem of greenwashing and the importance of treating reusable cups as if they have value.
Coffee shops and cafes can help by educating their customers about the environmental impact of single-use cups and the benefits of using a reusable cup.

The second step is to make reusable cups more valuable. This could be done by charging customers a small fee for using a reusable cup, or by offering a larger discount for bringing in their own cup. By doing this, customers will be more likely to treat their cups with care and use them multiple times, reducing waste and helping the environmental impact of single-use packagig.
Finally, we need to rethink the way we approach sustainability. Sustainability is not just about reducing waste; it is about creating a culture of respect for the environment. By valuing reusable cups, we can start to shift our mindset towards a more sustainable future.

In conclusion, while the use of reusable cups is an important step towards reducing waste, it is essential that we treat these cups as if they have value. By raising awareness, making reusable cups more valuable, and shifting our mindset towards sustainability, we can combat the issue of greenwashing and make a meaningful impact on the environment. So, next time you visit a coffee shop, not only bring your own cup, but hold on to it and with the respect it deserves.